Srinagar: Veteran Bollywood actress Sharmila Tagore has said that the film industry has brought visibility to Kashmir but has not given enough to Kashmiris.
Speaking to Times of India, she recalled the everlasting memories and experiences of working in and visiting Kashmir. The veteran actress spoke about shooting various films and visiting popular locales in a state that has long been considered paradise on Earth and was a firm favourite for filmmakers and tourists alike.
She said: “Our films brought Kashmir to the doorsteps of the rest of the country. My very first Hindi film was shot in Kashmir. In fact the film was ‘Kashmir Ki Kali’ (1964). I look back at the first day’s shooting with so much nostalgia. The location was Nehru Park and Dal Lake. What a beautiful lake it was then, huge and brimming with water. I was rowing a shikara, wearing a beautiful, ‘Phiran’, and Kashmiri silver jewellery, singing Diwana Hua Badal. I was a little nervous as I was first time lip synching. I remember vividly that Asha Bhonsle and OP Nayyar were also there and once I finished the shot for the antara of the song, Ashaji came and embraced me and said, “Well done and I am so happy.” That was so encouraging.
“We shot in Gulmarg, Pahalgam, Sheshnag on Baramulla road and even in Shopian. There we shot the final dance sequence between Shammiji and I. Everything was beautiful and serene. We now read about these places in the newspapers but back then our films brought Kashmir to the doorsteps of the rest of the country. Our films have given so much visibility to Kashmir but we didn’t give enough visibility to the Kashmiris or to Kashmiriyat.
Subsequently, I have been to Kashmir with ‘Aamne Samne’, ‘Talash’, ‘Mausam’ and many more films. In fact every April / May and September / October was spent in Kashmir. Even Tiger and I shot our advertisement for Gwalior Rayon there.”
“I love Kashmir. I love everything it has to offer. Its carpets, shawls, paper mache, wooden artefacts, zafraan and khubaanis. I remember during my earlier visits, we used to wear cherries in our ears as earrings. I used to bring back Honey suckles and other exotic flowers from my trips to Kashmir.”
She said: “We could see a change in the relationship between the tourists, the security and Kashmir.”
In the early 1980s my trips to Kashmir became infrequent and finally stopped. Some years ago my husband and I were invited to Kashmir as the Chief Minister’s guests. We were taken aback by the omnipresent security and police presence. We were told that Gulmarg is safe and we would go by helicopter but Tiger was absolutely against leaving Srinagar. We could see a change in the relationship between the tourists, the security and Kashmir. We could not move as freely as we could in the 1960s and 70s and we were constantly escorted by security personnel. But despite the challenges of the Kashmiris and the uncertainties that prevail there, Kashmir is Kashmir – the most beautiful place I have seen and I will always cherish my memories.
“…We saw the CRPF, the Army and the police at regular intervals. It was the time of Amarnath Yatra and I actually rode an ATV to the hilltop in Gulmarg. It was both unnerving and exhilarating driving that machine uphill…”
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