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Kashmir's first multiplex opens today with Laal Singh Chaddha, carrying a chaotic single-screen legacy forward

Shaurya Thapa
Shaurya ThapaSep 20, 2022 | 10:51

Kashmir's first multiplex opens today with Laal Singh Chaddha, carrying a chaotic single-screen legacy forward

The INOX Multiplex in Srinagar is a collaboration with businessman Vijay Dhar who also started the Broadway movie hall back in the 90s (photo-DailyO)

The earliest announcement of Kashmir’s first-ever multiplex in Srinagar came last month with the theatre set to open in September. The day has finally come as it will be inaigaurated by LG Manoj Sinha today with Laal Singh Chaddha being the first title to be screened.

It seems fit for the Aamir Khan-starrer to mark the theatre's debut given how the titular character goes through a monumental life journey. Kashmir as a region itself has gone through such a journey. The Forrest Gump remake would perhaps signify a ray of hope.  

The upcoming INOX in Srinagar: A promising future

Two of the three screens are functional now, while a third one will debut in October. The total seating capacity is estimated at 520 people. 

Workers adding the finish touches to INOX Srinagara, moments before the inauguration (photo- Kashmir Reader)
Workers adding the finish touches to INOX Srinagara, moments before the inauguration (photo- Kashmir Reader)

After over three decades of insurgency-related violence, the collaborative effort between Kashmiri businessman Vijay Dhar and the multiplex chain INOX is set to bring some normalcy for the city’s cinemagoers. 

Judging from the photos shared by locals and photojournalists in Srinagar, the INOX seems to be coming up well with the seating arrangement and lighting and sound systems put in place. According to Dhar, the hall would be well-equipped with central heating to combat the harsh Kashmiri winters. 

While it can’t be spotted in the visuals so far, Dhar has also added that the theatre would be adorned with traditional Kashmiri art especially with the ceilings being designed in the Khatamband patterns. A handcrafted art of ceiling making from the region, Khatamband can be characterised by wooden blocks arranged in geometric patterns. 

Kashmiri single-screens: a tragic past 

Having entered his 80s last year, Vijay Dhar has been involved in several other business ventures in Srinagar, most prominently a Delhi Public School (DPS) in the city. But when it comes to theatres, this INOX isn’t his first attempt as his family was involved in construction and management of the Broadway Theatre of Srinagar in the 1990s.

 

Way before in 1989, when the extremist insurgency began, movie halls were shut down across the Valley. In the late 1990s, when Farooq Abdullah assumed power as Chief Minister of Jammu and Kasgmir, three major single-screen theatres were opened in Kashmir. These were Regal, Neelam, and Broadway, the last of which was started by Dhar’s own family. One of the major Bollywood titles to be screened at Broadway as a coloured restoration of the epic Mughal-e-Azam. Even Hollywood classics like The Godfather were screened for the public. 

A boy kissing a poster of The Godfather at Broadway, a hall owned by Vijay Dhar in the 90s (photo- DailyO)
A boy kissing a poster of The Godfather at Broadway, a hall owned by Vijay Dhar in the 90s (photo- Kashmir archives Facebook)

However, cinema watching in Kashmir was ill-fated as a grenade attack at Regal left one dead and 16 injured. The audience numbers subsequently fell and Broadway had to shut shop. In 2005, a clash between police and theatres during a screening of Mangal Pandey caused Neelam also to halt operations. 

A glimmer of hope came in 2017 when then-CM of Jammu and Kashmir Mehbooba Mufti tweeted in support of Saudi Arabia’s decision to reopen theatres after a decade, praising the move as a progressive reform. This spurred a debate among locals, some of whom pushed forward for such a decision to be implemented in Kashmir while the conservative elements continued referring to cinema halls as unwanted Western influence.

Now, finally, with the coming of the INOX multiplex, there seems to be new hope for Srinagar and the Valley. While the local administration has been supportive of this step for film watchers, it is yet to be seen how the state government and private players like Dhar would promote homegrown initiatives for Kashmiri filmmakers now.


 

Last updated: September 20, 2022 | 10:51
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