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‘Warmest Place on Earth’: Kashmir releases tourism video to counter negative portrayal

The video has a Kashmiri song with lyrics written by IAS officer Shah Faesal. As the video captures the natural beauty, Sahibo sung by Mudasir Ahmad and Vibha Saraf talks about loss and solitude.

india Updated: Sep 26, 2017 16:39 IST
Abhishek Saha and Gulam Jeelani
Abhishek Saha and Gulam Jeelani
Hindustan Times, Srinagar/New Delhi
Kashmir tourism video,Kashmir,Shah Faesal
The film, a confluence of serene shots from the valley, brings to the fore the experience of a young couple on their first trip to Kashmir. (Videograb)

Jammu and Kashmir has launched a new five-minute film to counter perceived “negative portrayal of Kashmiris” in the national media and highlight the hospitality offered by Valley locals to visitors.

The video , Warmest Place on Earth , garnered over 1.5 million views on Facebook and 35 thousand views on YouTube in a little over 24 hours. It was released by the chief minister Mehbooba Mufti at a grand launch function in Srinagar on Saturday evening attended by senior minister and top officials.

An official press statement of the event said that Mehbooba regretted that “the negative portrayal of Kashmir has affected the tourism industry of the state badly which employs a sizeable chunk of population”.

“Tourism to Kashmir is not about its physical beauty alone but the exploration of a deep rooted spiritual system which needs to be experimented. Hospitality and warmth are deeply ingrained in the life of people here which has aptly been reflected by the film,” she spoke about the film.

The five-minute video has a Kashmiri song with powerful lyrics playing in the background, which is written by Indian Administrative Service officer Shah Faesal. As the video captures the natural beauty of Kashmir, Sahibo sung by Mudasir Ahmad and Vibha Saraf talks about loss and solitude.

The plot goes something like this: A couple from the Indian heartland is visiting the picturesque Kashmir valley and they are taken a day-long trip around the Valley by someone who they think is the driver provided by their travel agency – but turns out be just a common Kashmiri out to run an errand for his wife.

“I am happy that the song written by me is drawing attention,” said Faesal, the 34-year-old bureaucrat, currently posted as managing director, JK power development department.

It’s a first of its kind endeavour by the state tourism department that launched the film on its social media pages with a note saying, “We present to you the most stunning feature of Kashmir. No! It’s not about the snowy peaks, gurgling streams and winding treks. Watch this moving film till the end, to discover and celebrate a different side of Kashmir, the #WarmestPlaceOnEarth.”

Speaking to HT, director of the state tourism department, Mahmood Ahmad Shah said, “The positivity and warmth in Kashmir is not highlighted by national media – perhaps good news is not news. This film captures one of the countless heartwarming stories of hospitality that you will find in Kashmir.”

The short film, produced by J Walter Thomson (India), has received largely positive reviews on social media. In fact, a tweet of the YouTube link of the film with a message “Kashmir, our home” is the first tweet from the official handle of CM Mehbooba – which was lying inactive for a long time now.

However, some have criticised the film saying that the film promoted servility, instead of hospitality.

Popular blog With Kashmir ran a story titled “The Latest JK Tourism Video is Wrong in Many Ways”. “His [the Kashmiri driver’s] compassion is put in service of a desperate attempt to show that we deep down still are the likeable, subservient, acquiescent, compliant servants of yore. That we can still be reclaimed from our rebellion to do what we are perceived to do best: to serve and submit,” reads a paragraph from the criticism of the film by US-based Kashmiri academic Ather Zia, quoted in the blog post.

The tourism sector, which is a significant contributor to Jammu and Kashmir’s economy, adds 8% to the state’s gross domestic product. The sector employs over 100,000 people, directly and indirectly, according to approximate industry estimates.

In 2016, the state recorded the arrival of 1.29 million tourists.

Tourism figures for the valley have had a direct link with its law and order situation.

Kashmir was a favourite among national and international tourists until 1988, with over 700,000 arrivals. But in 1989, an armed violence began in the valley and the numbers dropped by 200,000.

There has been a decline in insurgency-related violence in recent years in the valley but the rise in street violence, mostly stone-pelting, has again scared away tourists.

“The film highlights how an average Kashmiri reacts when he receives tourists and how he hosts them,” said Mahmood A Shah.

The video has also been shared by filmmakers Karan Johar and Imtiaz Ali and actor Alia Bhatt on social media. Ali, who shot his films Rockstar and Highway in the valley, in fact, recalled his experience of how as a Class 9 student he was moved by the hospitality of a local in Kashmir.

First Published: Sep 25, 2017 10:24 IST