Sparkling rivers, regal Chinar trees, flowering meadows and snowcapped peaks - the beauty of Kashmir had been depicted in several hit Hindi movies like Aarzoo, Kashmir Ki Kali and Betaab until insurgency hit the valley. After a long hiatus, filmmakers are once again going there and Piyush Jha's Sikandar is the latest to capture the state's picturesque landscape.
Releasing on August 21, Sikandar stars Sanjay Suri, who visited the place after 18 years to shoot for the film. The actor, who was born and brought up in Kashmir, feels more and more films should be shot in the valley.
"I hope more films can go to Kashmir and be made there. I hope the local authorities can provide enough facilities so that people can come and go without any fear. It will also bring a lot of employment and prosperity and films are no doubt a great medium for that," Sanjay told IANS.
"I'd love to go back to Kashmir again. There are not many films being made on Kashmir; so some day I just might make one myself," added the actor, who has teamed up with child stars Parzan Dastur and Ayesha Kapoor in the movie.
With the start of insurgency in 1989, Kashmir ceased to be a preferred location among Bollywood producers and they stopped going there due to security reasons.
"Producers and filmmakers are keen to shoot in Kashmir even now. But when it comes to taking their unit there, then the security problem is always on their minds," Gautam Kaul, noted film historian, told IANS.
"The government of the state is extremely welcoming and want more films to be shot there, but filmmakers are still doubtful and only a handful have been shot in the valley in the last 20 years," he added.
In the last two decades a few films like Mission Kashmir, Yahaan, Tahaan and Shaurya have been shot in the valley.
But in earlier decades, Kashmir was the perfect backdrop for Hindi films like Aarzoo, Jab Jab Phool Khile, Do Badan, Aap Aaye Bahar Aaye, Junglee, Kashmir Ki Kali, Kabhi Kabhie, Silsila and Rocky among others.
But as shooting movies in Kashmir became impossible due to militancy, foreign locations attracted filmmakers and they shifted their attention to the Alps in Switzerland.
Apart from Jha, acclaimed director Jagmohan Mundhra recently went to Srinagar and Sonamarg to shoot a song for his forthcoming actioner Chase.
"A lot of people told us that Kashmir is dangerous and we shouldn't go there. When I was young, most of the songs used to be picturised in Kashmir... but now not many films are being shot there. People have forgotten Kashmir. So we wanted to show the paradise on earth to audiences through this song," said Mundhra.
"We didn't face any problems during the shooting. The government was very supportive. It was actually a pleasure to be in such a beautiful place," he added.
Jha, who did thorough research in Kashmir to find the best locations to shoot for Sikandar, says support from locals made his work easier.
"People in Kashmir want the industry to come back and thus are very welcoming. The kind of support I got from the locals was inspiring. It's a beautiful place and shooting there is just not a problem," he said.
Commenting upon the locals' attitude to movies being shot there, Kaul said: "If you make films that are not about Kashmir and only dance-drama routines or for that matter serious stories where Kashmir is only in the backdrop as a beautiful location, then you will face no problem shooting there.
"But if you try to make a film that deals with the people there, then protests are bound (to happen). Just like problems faced by Rahul Dholakia's film Lamha."
Starring Bipasha Basu and Sanjay Dutt, Lamha is essentially a love story that also depicts the pain and suffering of Kashmiris.
In November last year, the director had to cancel the shoot due to protests by locals but he returned to the valley early this year to complete the film.