A multiplex in Kashmir was unimaginable even a while ago and now we have an INOX franchise here. Tell us about the efforts that went into it.
My father used to run the Broadway cinema hall, which was once a prestigious haunt in Srinagar. It shut down in 1989. Cinema is in the heart of every Kashmiri —their fashion, language, manners were dictated by the Indian film industry. We would go back home and enact Amjad Khan from Sholay or mimic Amitabh Bachchan. “Jwala boots”, designed after Jitendra’s mustard-coloured, knee-high boots, became famous. Michael Jackson’s jackets were all the rage. Even after cinemas shut down, that ethos never left us. I think cinema’s love for Kashmir did not wane despite the myriad issues that came up, and Kashmiris’ love for cinema also remained intact.
Also, my family runs a school here and based on my social interactions with a cross-section of the youth, I would say there is nothing for them to do in the evenings. Wholesome entertainment is required so that people can destress and lead a life like anybody else.
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What were the obstacles, if any?
The challenge was to bring the latest technology and equipment like Dolby Atmos, safety features such as a fire safety tank, which I think nobody in Kashmir has. The interactions with INOX were fruitful because they had the technique and the know-how. The people here and the agencies of the State and Central governments have been helpful. It ultimately turned out to be not half as difficult as I thought it would be.
It is a commercial endeavour and its viability depends on the audience. How hopeful are you of success?
For me, it is already a success because it came from the heart. We are not looking at making money out of it, it is just a dream come true.
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But security is a concern. The last time cinemas were reopened in Kashmir, it faced militant attacks. How are you going to deal with that?
The government and the people have been positive, they are looking at it as a step forward. I feel that if you do something which is good for society, you need not worry much. At present, I am not even concentrating on that [security question].