My father's one unfulfilled wish was to bring me to Kashmir: SRK
As Shah Rukh Khan begins shooting for Yash Chopra's next film in Ladakh, the Valley hopes that Bollywood will bring tourists back
Photos: Faisal Khan
"My fathers one unfulfilled wish was to bring me to Kashmir cos his mom was from here. Now i am here, it feels i am in his big strong arms" – SRK, who's shooting in Ladakh for his next film, tweeted on Monday.
After a long wait, Bollywood actor Shah Rukh Khan, who was in Ladakh on Monday 27 August to shoot for his untitled Yash Chopra movie, finally arrived in the Valley to film some romantic scenes. Soon after his arrival at Srinagar airport, Khan flew in a chopper to the famous scenic spot of Pahalgam.
SRK, as his fans call him, shot at the lush locales of Aru, a hill station to the north of Pahalgam. “Dark clouds...wet roads...too early for even life to feel alive...but i am on way to make movies. A cigarette and coffee as co travellers,” he wrote on micro-blogging site Twitter in the morning.
For a Kashmir rebounding from the scars of militancy and grappling with adverse international travel advisories, SRK’s arrival for the shoot has come as a symbolic boost. It is expected to put Kashmir back on India’s tourism map and re-introduce it to the world as a peaceful destination. “We hope the shoot will help in Kashmir’s image makeover,” Valley’s prominent travel operator Nazir Bakshi told TEHELKA. “A Khan movie will also persuade Bollywood to wend its way back to Kashmir”.
Even though SRK is not the first to shoot in Valley in recent years, his movie builds on the renewed trend to showcase the Valley as a romantic destination. Bollywood is returning to the Valley for a tried, tested reason: to feast the camera on Kashmir’s breathtaking locales.
At Pahalgam, word about SRK’s arrival had already gone around. Hundreds of people had assembled to watch SRK shoot but a posse of police maintained a tight cordon around the star. People could only see him from a distance, moving on a hillock.
Last year, Ranbir Kapoor-starrer Rockstar was extensively shot in Pahalgam. The Kapoor scion's arrival to the Valley along with Nargis Fakhri, evoked memories of Bollywood's first brush with Kashmir. It was Raj Kapoor, Ranbir Kapoor’s grandfather, who in 1949 shot Barsaat in the Valley and made it a popular destination for Bollywood. And the film had Raj Kapoor and Nargis as the lead pair.
In the following decades, scores of movies were shot in the Valley which featured the likes of Rajesh Khanna and Amitabh Bachhan. But by the time Shahrukh Khan emerged on the scene in early nineties, Kashmir had already become one of the world’s most dangerous places. Movies continued to be made on Kashmir but outside Kashmir. For Mani Ratnam's Roja, Kashmir was no longer the paradise but a subject; it's locales no longer exuded romance and mystique but evoked fear. Only three movies were shot in Valley between 1998 and 2003. After 2003, a succession of Kashmir-centric movies were made with focus on terrorism, Pakistan and the conflict in the state, some of which are LoC Kargil, Maa Tujhhe Salaam, Mission Kashmir, Yahaan, Fanaa and Tahaan.
Rockstar, and now the SRK-starrer, is trying once again to tap into Kashmir’s romantic image. Film crews are returning to Pahalgam and Gulmarg, the scenic resorts where numerous movies have been shot in the past. Kashmir is once again sought after for its geographical beauty rather than as a peg for the shrill jingoistic narratives.
“We want Shah Rukh to also shoot in Srinagar around Dal lake,” says Azim Tuman, a former president of Houseboat Owners Association. “This will go a long way to change the negative perception about Kashmir and bring tourists back.”
Riyaz Wani is a Special Correspondent with Tehelka.