Some glimpses of old Bollywood in Kashmir


Usually, the Kashmiris think & believe that “Mainz Raat”/Mehndi Raat  ( in Kashmiri, 1964) was the first movie produced by Hindi Cinema on Kashmir  & that it was followed in 1972 by “Shayiri Kashmir Mehjoor”,  movie in Urdu & Kashmiri . The first movie produced by Hindi Cinema on Kashmir was “KASHMIR HAMARA HAI” in 1948. The name of the movie was taken from the “famous speech” of Sheikh Abdullah at Budshah Chowk Srinagar shortly after entry of Pathans in Uri-Baramullah in late October, 47. Since then, “KASHMIR HAMARA HAI” has become most used slogan in movies, theatre plays, TV dramas, songs, & other “artistic” works in India. The movie “KASHMIR HAMARA HAI” with the slogan-name was produced by Roop Kalla Niketan of Calcutta & directed by KK Verma. The film cast was all non-local. In the film, a character Ashok, a soldier of INA/Indian National Army, is joining the National Conference’s Militiamen, Peace Brigade, to fight “tribals” & is killed with his local friend “Showkat” in the end. It may be noted, however, that INA of Subhash Chandra Bose never came to Kashmir to fight Tribals. The national hero Ashok & local “volunteer” Showkat, thus, together fend off Pathans from Kashmir in the movie. In the film Ashok refers to Gandhi as “Bhagwan” [God] whose dream comes true in liberation of Kashmir. The film makes a cursory reference to Maharaja Hari Singh, accession & the circumstances in which accession was made. It articulates the “liberation” of Kashmir but from Pathans as a part of Indian Freedom Struggle?

In 1950, there came another Hindi cinema movie, titled, KASHMIR, with all non local cast but with same stories around tribals & army. Shahida (Neeropa Roy) is to be married to Rahman but news comes that Pathans have killed her with family, so the war starts between Indian Army & Pathans. Then, in 1964, Mulk Raj Anand, the pioneer founder of “liberalism & socialism, secularism & journalism” in Kashmir produced one more movie “DEATH OF A HERO”. It may be noted that “liberal socialist” Mulk Raj Anand has been the “Guru” in journalism of many Kashmiri journalists of the past. All these movies were creation of “Progressive Writers” of India. Later it was another well known progressive doyen of Hindi Cinema, late Balraj Sahani who cast himself in the lead role of Mehjoor in the title movie, SHAYIRAY KASHMIR MEHJOOR, in 1972 to showcase the “nationalist & secular” traditions of Kashmir. Prabhat Mukherji , another Leftist, was the director of the movie Shayiray Kashmir Mehjoor . Its Urdu version was not released & like “Mainz Raat”/Mehndi Raat, the Mehjoor movie  was a flop show.

In 1953 came Pomposh which was not politically motivated. Then, during the Indira-Abdullah-Accord days, three TV movies, RASUL MIR (1974), HABBA KHATUN (1977) & ARNIMAL (1982) were sponsored & produced by “the Government of J&K” & directed by a Kashmiri artist. Rasul Mir (a Kashmir poet) & Arnimal ( a Pandit Kashmiri poetess) were not so hit & popular among masses as Habba Khatun was  being “right on the target” of keeping masses away from the discussions about the burial of Mahazi Rai Shoomari/Plebiscite Front & signing of the Accord of 1975 which , by logic, should have been the subject of public debates & discussion during those days.  Anyway, Habba Khatoon movie was about Kashmir’s last Chak Ruler, Yousuf Shah Chak & his lady-love-queen, Habba Khatoon. In every family the movie, Habba Khatoon, triggered a discussion how cruel Akbar Badshah was who only four hundred years before had snatched “independence” & “freedom” of Kashmir by deceiving Yousuf Shah Chak. This discussion was invoked artfully to deviate the masses’ mind from the political developments of the time. The discussion is continuing among some Kashmiris till date. People were moved by Habba Khatoon movie so much that they had decided to travel to Sikandari Agra UP to exhume the mortal remains of “cruel” Akbar for snatching Kashmir’s freedom. But after hundreds of years, there is only dust left in the grave & nothing else.

Well, no movie was produced by any local or non local actors/Kalakars, producers & directors about the Accord & burial of plebiscite-movement of 22 years under the signing of the Indira-Abdullah-Accord. It may not be out of place to mention here that immediately after Accord of 1975 there came a novel “Ye Kiss Ka Laho Hai, Kon Mara” written by a Kashmiri writer, Shabnum Qayoom in 1978. The novel was a reality based on historical facts depicting political developments of the time that were fictionalized by the author nicely. But, no one  among Kashur Art & Culture had time to produce & direct a movie on the theme of that novel of Shabnum Qayoom though most relevant to those times. In the novel, trilogy of a love-story between Ashok, Mehmood & Reshma was written by the author. It was banned by Sheikh Abdullah government & I have heard that the author was also jailed for witting “Ye Kiss Ka Laho Hai, Kon Mara”. Instead, the local artists produced “Habba Khatun” portraying love story of Yousuf Shah Chak & Zoon, Habba Khatun, with least relation to the political developments of the time. The TV movie, “Habba Khatun”, instead triggered novel discussion about the Emperor Akbar & how he had snatched hundreds of years ago Kashmir’s independence & sovereignty. It is how the minds of people are attracted towards non-existent issues & diverted from the real existing issues facing them. With all honesty, I must admit that Kashmiri Pandits/Bataas have been far ahead of Kashmiri Muslims [96% population] in understanding history & catching the pulse of the moments of the time, though more for propaganda than facts. Latest Bollywood KASHMIR FILES is just an example. Kashmiri Muslim artists & actors, men of art & culture, couldn’t capture the tumultuous moments of their history then when it was so easy compared to the present times. The reason for the failure was personal-benefits, avarice & lifelong bonds of love for then political leadership of the valley. The people were diverted on different lines of thinking, and acting & earning out of the art. And, the wheel of that socio-political maneuvering continues moving in the same direction in which it has been set decades before by the tides of time.

The “vested interests” through their writings have created euphoria around cinema halls of Kashmir ignoring the genesis of Hindi Cinema productions with respect to Kashmir that were politically laden with far reaching consequences for the people. The concern of these writers has been to mention, how many cinema-ticket-blackers were there in Palladium, Regal, & other Talkies of the past; who were the managers & owners of these cinema halls of the valley; how people used to queue up for tickets & frantically loved the movies by buying half tickets at full rate & so on. Without any critique on that, it has to be noted that all that is & was part of usual entertainment industry & NOT history. History is the name of the events that shape the future of the nations & communities for generations to come.

Till 1990, the “local” lead characters in the Hindi Movies were depicted “heroes of Kashmir” in their fight against Pathans (1947-48) or for mutual communal harmony between 3% Pandits & 96% Muslims, for a blend of Pandit traditions & Muslim traditions for the political-project of “Kashmiriyat”. But, after 1990, the movie scripts of Hindi Cinema with respect to Kashmir have completely changed.

It is not only Kashmir valley’s scenic beauty that has attracted the Bollywood over years for shooting movies. Kashmir was projected as a symbol of Indian national ‘secularism’ from Nehruvian Era as it has Muslim majority, although the word ‘secular’ was incorporated in Indian Constitution as late as 1976. But the question is why Punjab or North East States of Mizoram & Nagaland which have Sikh & Christian majorities, respectively, have not been used by Bollywood as theme of their movies to spotlight on Indian secular nationalism?   Kashmir has been articulated by Bollywood cinema as “nationalist” construction of Indian’s ancient past, previously as “secular” & now plainly  as “Brahman”/“Hindu” [Hindutva] both within larger political framework of the Indian State!

M J Aslam Author, Academician, Historian & Columnist

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