Srinagar, Sep 18 (IANS) The levels of violence may be down, but beautiful Kashmir Valley is far from regaining its old glory as the dream destination of movie producers.
Not only were some of the famous Bollywood blockbusters of 1970s and 1980s like 'Junglee', 'Kashmir Ki Kali' and 'Andaz' filmed on locations in the valley but Hollywood director David Lean also shot scenes for the cinematic adaptation of E.M. Forster's 'A Passage to India' in the old city of summer capital Srinagar.
And Kashmiris cannot stop talking about those good old times.
'I remember that in 1983 appeals were made by David Lean through the local media to the people of old Srinagar to bring down their rooftop television antennae.
'We had those long aluminium TV antennae for terrestrial reception those days. And people gladly obliged David because he was filming the old city as it existed in the 1920s,' said Mohiuddin Mir, 52, a resident.
Mohiuddin vividly recalled the mass enthusiasm when David Lean's film was shot.
'I was overawed to see the director. He had directed classic Hollywood movies like 'Lawrence of Arabia' and 'Dr. Zhivago'. My friends and I moved with the film unit through the lanes and bylanes of the old city for days. Man, that was fun!' Mir said, walking down memory lane.
Most movie lovers in Kashmir feel nostalgic about the film shooting days.
'We used to queue for tickets on the first day of a good movie. To see a movie first day, first show was a craze among college students those days,' said Muhammad Shafi, 48, a businessman.
Added Shabir Ahmad Bhat, 43, a schoolteacher: 'I spent 10 days at the Sonamarg hill resort simply to watch Raj Kapoor direct his film 'Ram Teri Ganga Maili'. Raj Sahib was not in the best of his health those days.
'At the high altitude of Sonamarg he would often feel short of breath, but the fire within the showman was still alive.'
All the cinema halls in the valley were closed with the outbreak of separatist violence in 1990. Guerrillas banned theatres, video shops, beauty parlours, wine shops and clubs as part of their campaign to establish an Islamic society.
The Jammu and Kashmir government has tried to subsidize the reopening of cinema halls in Srinagar to project it as a sign of return of normalcy.
Except for one cinema hall in Srinagar city, which screens Bollywood movies amid tight security provided by paramilitary forces, all others remain closed.
Some have been converted into charitable hospitals.
And though people have access to both Bollywood and Hollywood movies through dish and cable television in Kashmir, the small box simply can't match the magic of the 70mm screen.
In the process, many Kashmiris satisfy their hunger for the big screen when they visit cities like Chandigarh and New Delhi.
'The thrill of watching a movie inside a cinema hall is unparalleled. We used to eagerly wait the release of some of the best movies of our days like 'Naya Daur' and 'Mughal-e-Azam',' moaned Ghulam Nabi Sheikh, 64, a retired headmaster here.
He added ruefully: 'Now it's all over!'
(F. Ahmed can be contacted at [email protected])