Two decades of threats and attacks on crowds in public places shuttered every movie theater in the Kashmir Valley. The skeletons of the cinema halls were repurposed as nursing homes, shopping malls or used by the military as conference centers, according to The Hindustan Times.
But Tuesday, the first multiplex consisting of three movie theaters was opened in the valley, signaling a potential improvement in the stability of the Indian-controlled state, per CNN.
The region of Jammu and Kashmir has a complex history of colonialism, religious conflict between Muslims and Hindus, and state violence. According to the University of Central Arkansas, around 50,000 individuals have been killed in government clashes, bombings and protests since late 1989.
In 1999, when the Regal Cinema in Srinagar reopened after 10 years, militants threw a grenade into a group of people filing out of the theater, killing one and injuring 12, according to India’s Tribune.
Inaugurated INOX multiplex theatre in Srinagar. Congratulations to the people, Sh. Vijay Dhar & INOX Group. A major Socio-economic revolution is sweeping through J&K in the last 3 years. It is reflection of a new dawn of hope, dreams, confidence and aspirations of people. pic.twitter.com/VhdiVTHhQw— Office of LG J&K (@OfficeOfLGJandK) September 20, 2022
The first screening was of the film “Lal Singh Chaddha,” a Bollywood remake of “Forrest Gump,” per CNN.
Vikas Dhar, managing director of Taksal Hospitality Private Limited, which owns the multiplex, said “The magic of the silver screen is that you a feel part of it,” and that “A lot of world cinema is bereft of good stories. We have phenomenal stories to tell from Kashmir. This should inspire youth to tell their own stories,” per The Hindu.
The Hindu also reports that the area's administration is planning on opening locations in all 10 districts in the valley.
According to Firstpost, the public reaction is mixed about cinemas reopening. With the rise of streaming services and personal devices, it is not clear how much foot traffic the theaters will receive, especially if questions of security still remain.
Mushtaaque Ali Ahmad Khan, a film festival organizer, told the Hindustan Times that a focus on culture and entertainment will be beneficial to local artists. He claimed there were 500 proposals for film and music videos to be shot in the area with 120 already approved. “It is mandatory for the producers to employ a certain percentage of local artists, which will help us in a long way.”