The 30-years dream of the new generation in the Kashmir valley to watch movies in a multiplex has been shattered as the permission to build a cinema hall in Srinagar’s cantonment has expired due to failure of the builder to construct the multi-storied commercial complex within the stipulated time.
Cinema halls in the Kashmir valley were shut or burnt 30 years ago by terrorists who issued the diktat that watching movies was un-Islamic.
It was after three decades that hope of having a cinema hall in Srinagar was rekindled when the government in 2018 allowed construction of a multiplex in the cantonment area that was considered safe. The multiplex was supposed to begin screening of movies in the summer of next year.
The builder of the complex had to complete the construction within two years after having been granted permission in 2018 but the cantonment board’s permission has lapsed as the work could not be completed within the time frame. The High Court has also dismissed the petition for allowing the construction.
However, the youngsters in Kashmir were using the new technology of the internet, DVD, pen drive and various other gadgets to watch movies of their choice on TV screens and laptops. But this was not the substitute for the big screen of the movie theatres which they have not seen so far.
Prior to 1990 when terrorism hit J&K, the valley had 19 cinema halls in Srinagar, Anantnag, Baramulla, Sopore, Handwara and Kupwara, but now these have turned into ruins or are being utilized for other commercial activity.
The Farooq Abdullah government in 1999 tried to reopen cinema halls when the Regal, Neelam and Broadway were allowed to start filming movies. But there was a terrorist attack during the first show in the Regal Cinema, killing one person and injuring 12 others. The theatres were locked once again.
Srinagar city alone had 10 cinema halls including Firdaus, Shiraz, Khayam, Naaz, Neelam, Broadway, Regal and Palladium, which screened Bollywood movies.
With the passage of time, many of the old theatres in Kashmir are either makeshift camps for security forces or have been converted into hospitals and commercial centres.
Ruins of the iconic Palladium Theatre in the heart of Srinagar were being utilized by the CRPF as their camp in the Lal Chowk. The cinema hall was burnt down by terrorists.
Another attempt to reopen cinema halls was made during the BJP—PDP regime two years ago when the then chief minister Mehbooba Mufti welcomed crown prince Mohammed Bin Salman’s decision to reopen movie theatres in the Islamic Republic of Saudi Arabia. However, the radicals in the valley opposed any move to reopen cinema halls.