After a brief suspension in Bollywood enthusiasm for Kashmir following the execution of Parliament attack convict Afzal Guru, tinsel town is back in the Valley with directors scouting picturesque locales across the length and breadth of the state.
Bollywood director Imtiaz Ali is on a three-day trip to the Valley to look for shooting locations for his upcoming film 'Highway', starring Randeep Hooda and Alia Bhat. The director is halfway through the film and is planning to shoot a song and some sequences in the Valley, sources revealed.
"The crew arrived in Gurez. The director plans to shoot near the Line of Control (LoC) and has sought the permission of the tourism department and the security agencies," sources close to the director told the Hindustan Times.
Gurez is 123-km north east of Srinagar and Ali, who is also the co-producer of the film, would stay there for two days to finalise locations. Several south Indian directors also approached the tourism department last week seeking permission for shooting.
Ali is among the first directors to have revived Bollywood's lost linkages with Kashmir, marred by two decades of militancy, with his flick 'Rockstar' in 2011. Ali's foray in the Valley has instilled a sense of security among many Bollywood directors. Late Yash Chopra had returned to the Valley after three decades to shoot 'Jab Tak Hai Jaan' in 2012.
Bollywood has always been a barometer to gauge normalcy in the state. After Guru's hanging in February, filmmaker Siddharth Anand cancelled the shooting of his upcoming flick 'Bang Bang'. Sources said movie stars Hrithik Roshan and Katrina Kaif did have reservations over security concerns as the Valley was overwhelmed by street protests after Guru's hanging.
Tourism deputy director Azmat Ali sees Ali's return to Kashmir as a good portend. "It will definitely give a fillip to tourism. Bollywood has always helped Kashmir in reaching out to rural pockets of the country. We expect rural India to visit Kashmir after watching its scenic beauty through Bollywood. The return of Bollywood will instill a sense of security among people, conveying that Kashmir is safe again," he said.
Separatists have also scaled down protests on the issue of returning Guru's mortal remains in the last two weeks. "We do not want to put extra burden on the people. It was the state police that resorted to incessant curfew," said separatist JKLF chief Yasin Malik, who welcomed increasing tourist footfalls in the Valley.
Kashmir has witnessed record traffic of tourists in the first three months: over two lakh tourists against last year's figures of just around a lakh.