Srinagar, Apr 9: With cinema halls having downed shutters two decades ago when insurgency erupted in the Kashmir valley, catching a movie in a theatre became a pipedream.
With most cinema halls having been converted into bases for security personnel, youth are perforce having to turn to Video Compact Discs (VCDs) and Digital Video Discs (DVDs) for watching movies.
The Indian film industry is the largest in the world in terms of ticket sales and number of films produced annually and movie tickets in India are among the cheapest in the world. It remains the cheapest form of entertainment for the masses, but not in Kashmir.
Prior to the time when militancy began in Kashmir, there were more than 15-16 cinema halls catering to moviegoers in the state, but the outbreak of armed militancy resulted in closure of the halls.
As eagerly recalled by elders, they used to throng ticket counters to see the latest Bollywood flicks, but this is not the case any more.
"Earlier, we headed for the nearest cinema hall to catch a flick during leisure time. We even watched English films which were screened at 7 p.m., but now since several years I haven't been to any theatre as none are left in the valley. The last film that I watched many years ago was Omar Mukhtiyar," said Noor Mohammed, a local.
Although a couple of cinema halls like Broadway and Neelam in Srinagar city were reopened, they were closed only a few days later, as a grenade was hurled on movie watchers coming out of the Regal Cinema in the Lal Chowk area in which many were injured.
Cinema theatres for youngsters have till date existed only in their grandmother's tales. The burnt cinema halls remind them of the mass appeal the films had among the people till a few years back.
Since then Kashmiri youth have been forced to look out for other avenues of entertainment whenever they get time off from their work.
"I have never seen a movie in a hall all my life, but have only heard that movies used to be screened in Srinagar many years ago. I have heard that movies are screened outside Srinagar in Jammu, Punjab and other places. What I have seen here are burnt cinema halls. I was told by elders that they used to set aside 3 hours especially to watch a 3-6 p.m. show," said Farooq Ahmed, another local.
Despite efforts by the State Government to revive movie entertainment, cinema hall owners still feel insecure about opening their theatres and have switched to other business leaving very little prospects of entertainment for the younger generation.
This has led to a spurt in vendors selling CDs and VCDs to youths and their business is flourishing as they are catering to the changing tastes of the youth.
"These days due to paucity of time people don't go to cinema halls any longer. After a hectic day's work when they return home, they need some kind of entertainment so they come to us to get the CDs and we are doing brisk business," said Ahmed Hussain, a local VCD vendor.
Although, the younger generation in the Kashmir valley is still keeping track of Bollywood offerings through VCDs, DVDs and satellite television channels, they still dream of watching a movie in a theatre just as their elders did in the past.