The Kashmir valley was an integral part of Hindi films through the sixties, seventies and most the eighties. Kashmir and the escapist stuff that the industry specialised in went well together.
The hero and the heroine romancing in the beautiful Mughal Gardens, Nishat or Shalimar, on the outskirts of Srinagar. Or walking through knee deep snow in Gulmarg. Or the heroine filling her matki (an earthen pot) with water from the Lidder river in Pahalgam. Or the most common shot of the film’s lead couple enjoying a ride in a shikara on the Dal lake. All this looked fantastic on the big screen. And thus shooting in the valley became an integral part of Hindi films.
There were three major factors that brought the Hindi film industry to Kashmir. More and more Hindi films started to be shot in colour in the early 1960s. This coincided with more Hindi films being shot outside the claustrophobic film studious of what then used to be Bombay (now Mumbai). This meant that producers and directors went looking for locations that would look good on the big screen. And Kashmir fit in perfectly.
The final push came in the form of Shammi Kapoor and his first colour film Junglee. Shot majorly in the Kashmir valley, this was the movie that ‘really brought’ Hindi film producers and directors to the valley. Many of Kapoor’s successful films were shot in the valley. This included Kashmir ki Kali, Andaaz, Janwar etc. The story goes that at his peak Kapoor in the mid 60s, Kapoor used to spend seven months of the year shooting in the valley.
After Kapoor, director Yash Chopra continued the trend of shooting in Kashmir with Kabhie Kabhie and Silsila. In fact, Kabhie Kabhie was essentially Chopra’s tribute to Kashmir. And the valley has not been captured so beautifully by anyone else till date.
The love affair between the Hindi film industry and the Kashmir valley continued through much of the 1970s and the early 1980s. Hrishikesh Mukherjee’s Bemisal which released in 1982, starring Amitabh Bachchan, Vinod Mehra and Raakhee, even had a song on the Kashmir valley : “Kitni khoobsurat ye tasveer hai…ye kashmir hai.”
The eighties dulled the love affair, as first the Hindi film industry discovered Switzerland and then terrorism made gradual inroads into the valley. Vidhu Vinod Chopra’s Khamosh which released in 1985, was one of the last films to be shot in the valley. The movie was a murder mystery set in and around the hill station of Pahalgam, and ironically enough did not have any songs, showcasing the beauty of the valley.
Through much of the 1990s and 2000s, Kashmir remained inaccessible to the Hindi film industry as terrorism took over the valley. But terrorism in Kashmir was too juicy a plot point to ignore, and thus became a part of the storyline of several Hindi films. The only trouble was that shooting in the valley was impossible. This trend was started by Mani Ratnam’s Roja which was made in Tamil and later dubbed into Hindi.
So various places, depending on the budget of the producer were passed off as Kashmir. If the budget was good enough, Switzerland could be passed off as Kashmir, if it wasn’t even Lonavala (a hill station close to Mumbai) would do. The only big budget movie which was shot in the valley during the years when terrorism was at its peak was Vidhu Vinod Chopra’s Mission Kashmir which released in 2000. The Aamir Khan starrer Fanaa, which released in 2006, had a storyline set around a Kashmiri terrorist, but almost all of what was passed off as Kashmir was shot in the Tatra Mountains in Southern Poland.
In the last ten years, a few Hindi films have been shot in the valley. There has been odd movie like Yahaan, a story of an army officer falling in love with the sister of a terrorist, which was shot almost end to end in the Kashmir. There was also Santosh Sivan’s beautifully shot low budget movie Tahaan which released in 2008. Sikander and Lamha were other low budget movies that were shot in the valley. And so was a small portion of Vishal Bhardwaj’s 7 Khoon Maaf.
Last week’s release Ye Jawaani Hai Deewani has been among the few big budget movies to have been shot in the Kashmir valley in years (The other movie that comes immediately to my mind is Yash Chopra’s swansong Jab Tak Hai Jaan.Imitiaz Ali’s Higway is also being shot in the valley, as was a part of his previous release Rockstar). And the first half of the film has some of the most breathtaking scenery that you will ever see in a Hindi film. The irony though is that the storyline of the movie passes off what is Gulmarg in Kashmir as Manali in Himachal Pradesh. While the hill stations of Himachal Pradesh are very beautiful, nothing comes close to Gulmarg after it has snowed. Its breathtakingly beautiful and totally out of this world.
This so called ‘artistic license’ has not gone down well with Omar Abdullah, the Chief Minister of Jammu and Kashmir. As he tweeted “It’s irritating when we roll out the red carpet & facilitate the shoot only to have people believe its Manali.”
I saw the movie in a Delhi multiplex on Friday afternoon (May 31, 2013). As the young women and aunties around me went ‘Awww‘ and ‘How Cute‘, everytime Ranbir Kapoor appeared on screen, the question I asked myself was why would anyone want to pass of Kashmir valley as Himachal Pradesh?
This keeping the background in mind that for the last two decades the Hindi film industry has had no access to the Kashmir valley. During this period it has passed off different parts of the world as Kashmir. And now that it can shoot in the valley, it has passed it off as Himachal. Also, Himachal Pradesh has never been able to replace Kashmir in Hindi films.
So why do that? The movie provides the answer as well. At the end of the trekking trip, the two lead pairs of the movie (Ranbir Kapoor-Deepika Padukone, Aditya Roy Kapoor -Kalki Koechlin) have a lot of bhaang on the occasion of the Holi festival, and dance non-stop to the song balam pichkari jo tune hai maari.
Now Hindi films aren’t meant to be logical. But having the hero-heroine of the movie sing a Holi song after downing bhaang, on the foothills of Gulmarg in Kashmir, a terrorism infested state, would have been totally illogical. And that to me seems be the only reason why Kashmir has been passed off as Himachal Pradesh. This despite the fact that Jai Jai Shiv Shankaranother famous Holi song from the 1974 movie Aap ki Kasam was shot in Gulmarg. But then those were the days when Kashmir was peaceful.
So its but natural that Omar Abdullah is peeved. But he can take solace in the fact from another artistic license that was taken more than 50 years back in 1961. Shammi Kapoor’s most famous song Yahoo-Chahe Koi Mujhe Junglee Kahe was shot in Kufree, in Himachal Pradesh. Though the rest of the storyline of the movie (Junglee) was set in Kashmir. The song was originally supposed to be shot in Gulmarg, but the hill station did not have enough snow that year, forcing the makers of the movie to look for snow somewhere else. For years people have thought that the song has been shot in Kashmir.
So in a way Ye Jawaani Hai Deewani passing off Kashmir as Himachal, is Himachal’s revenge on Kashmir, though more than fifty years late. Interestingly, Junglee had Shammi Kapoor in the lead role and was directed by Subodh Mukherjee. Shammi Kapoor was the granduncle(i.e. Paternal grandfather’s brother) of Ranbir Kapoor, who stars in Ye Jawaani Hai Deewani. And Subodh Mukherjee was the granduncle of Ayan Mukherjee who has directed Ye Jawaani Hai Deewani.
The article originally appeared on www.firstpost.com on June 11, 2013.
(Vivek Kaul is a writer. He tweets @kaul_vivek)