Insha Latief Khan & Shafat Malik
When the song, Kashmir ki Kali hun main was played on screen, people couldn’t help but scream and shout with joy and excitement. The legendary actor, Saira Banu and Shammi Kapoor in Nehru Park, Dal Lake mesmerizes the audience.
For a movie buff, Mohammad Latief Khan from Srinagar, the memories are as fresh as yesterday.
Kashmir has always been a muse for the Bollywood movies and the love for movies is deeply inscribed in the hearts of people of the valley.
“People were crazy about talkies. Mughal gardens, Pahalgam, Gulmarg, Dal Lake were the spots where movies were shot and everybody would look forward to the screening of these movies,” he said.
He got exposed to Palladium, a local cinema hall, when he was in 10th class by one of his friends. It was the time when radio was the only source of entertainment for people and television was not accessible to the larger population.
A whole new experience for him, he saw the actors on screen that he used to only listen about from his elders and peers. “Our elders used to go for movies and we used to listen to stories from them. they would not allow us but we would also find ways to go,” he said.
He further said that once in a while, school authorities would take students to the cinema to watch educational movies, history movies or inspiring movies. “They would often take us to watch a historic movie where Kublai Khan was one of the characters,” he added.
With time, women folk too started going to the cinema. Colleges in Srinagar on Saturdays would get off after half day and they would go to watch movies. People would come from far off areas along with their families to watch movies.
English movies were also screened. To attract larger audiences for those films, cinema owners would translate English names of the films to Urdu on posters.
During the time of 1970, people were fans of Raj Kapoor, Prem Chopra and Pran, Jeevan, Ajit, Madhubala and Meena Kumari.
On the screening of Mughal-e-Azam, an Indian epic historical film which is popular among masses till today, the local cinemas were packed. People would go to the cinema during Eid day too to watch movies.
Sholay also garnered huge public attention for its dialogues and story plot. Watching Amitabh Bachan having long hair and bell-bottom pants, many men of that time copied his style.
“I saw the movie three times. It was a good time back then," he added.
In the 80s, the experience of going to the cinema hall was a surreal one with everyone waiting impatiently for tickets, the best seats that was making everyone float through the aisles of the cinema.
Buying tickets was not easy for everyone like Ghulam Mohd of Bandipora as people in financially weak society were also die hard fans of Bollywood actors of those days.
Ahmad said that when he and his colleagues heard that any movie that will be screened in the cinema, they used to eagerly wait for it and used to save money for tickets and travel.
"I vividly remember the first time I watched the movie in a cinema hall in Bandipora when the ever popular movie with evergreen classic songs and the sweetest story was screened and I moved to tears,” he said.
Ahmad said one of their neighbours had a Black and white television and everyone in the village after returning from school or work would throng to their house and would see some documentary or other programs but the experience of going to a movie hall was an all together unique and different experience.
He said once they heard the famous romantic movie Mughal e azam will run in a cinema at Srinagar and he along with his friends started planning. "Fortunately i succeeded in managing money and it was a truly mesmerising experience, being a rather long, sad, tragic, musical love story", he said.
He said with the passage of time, televisions slowly started entering in village lives and they started watching movies on Doordarshan but everyone was always waiting for the next cinema experience.
Ahmed said that our children have never experienced this magic in Kashmir. Now, even as Kashmir prepares to release films, his fondest memories will be of another era, when going to a movie theater was a treat for them like no other.