‘Welcome To Kashmir’ Shows Kashmir & Kashmiris In Positive Light’

KO photo by Abid Bhat

Srinagar- Art is missing from Kashmir for 40 years, says debutant filmmaker Tariq Bhat, who hopes to showcase the Valley and its people in a positive light through his film “Welcome to Kashmir”.

The 42-year-old said filmmaking was a long cherished dream to make a film on Kashmir, in Kashmiri language and starring people from the Valley.

“We had to take the initiative to do something about the Kashmiri youth because art is missing from 40 years in Kashmir. So, it is my duty to restore that art form in Kashmir,” Bhat told PTI in an interview.

“It is our duty to show the positive side because all of my artists are Kashmiris and are youth. Once this movie gets released, they (Bollywood filmmakers) will get inspired and more jobs can be created by this art form.”

The filmmaker, who hails from north Kashmir’s Sopore area, said he travelled to Mumbai to realise his dream only to discover that producers there were not willing to take a chance on a Kashmiri film that did not have blasts and gun firing.

When Bollywood comes to Kashmir, Bhat said, they have only one point of view that they have to show that Kashmiris are villains and Kashmir is burning.

“We were looking for producers, but, there was a catch. We were asked if you are not showing firing or blast, then why were we making a film on Kashmir? There was no producer. Then we had to put our own money into it. So, I am the producer of the movie as well. We used our own resources,” he said.

He claimed that the film was one of a kind and a movie made by Kashmiris for Bollywood.

“All the cast is Kashmiri. All the crew is also from Kashmir except for a couple of technicians. This movie is for Bollywood. It has been a very long time since we have done a Bollywood movie from Kashmir,” he said, claiming that his is the first film since 1960s film “Mainzraat” that has been shot entirely in Kashmiri language.

“After that, this is the first kind of movie where we are showing entire Kashmir and this is a movie made by Kashmiris for Bollywood,” he added.

The movie also introduces a song in Kashmiri sung by Kashmiri sensation Ishfaq Kawa.

“So, the entire Bollywood, entire world is going to see a proper Kashmiri song because we want to show our positive culture,” he said.

“Welcome to Kashmir” revolves around a girl who dreams to work for women empowerment and women safety in Kashmir.

“She comes to Kashmir and one of her followers, who is a drug addict, kidnaps her,” he said, narrating the story.

“In the movie we show how drugs hypnotise our youth and how we have to control drugs. We are showing a positive image of Kashmiri people and positive image and bravery of Kashmiri police, how they handle the situation and get the girl back to safety,” he added.

Lead actor of the film, Ahmad Shahab, who is making his debut with the movie, said it was a really good opportunity for him.

“Many actors (from Kashmir) have to go to Mumbai in search of work. I am really grateful that this golden opportunity came to me. The experience was really wonderful. It was a great platform,” he said.

Shahab said his role is kind of a mix of a protagonist and an antagonist.

“This movie touches the current affairs of the nation like drug addiction, women empowerment. It was a huge platform to talk about the youth fighting drugs. It is really necessary for us to be aware of these things.

“I was really excited about the movie. I got to explore those places in Kashmir which I never had seen. So, it was a great experience. It is a moment of pride for all of us that this movie totally made in Kashmir by Kashmiris. This should be inspiring for other actors, other people who want to pursue this field,” the actor said.

Bhat, who unveiled the movie’s poster here on Tuesday, said they are in talks with distributors for a suitable release of the film.

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