Cinemas have reopened in Kashmir after 2 decades — but few moviegoers are showing up

by | Oct 30, 2022 | Top Stories

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The lobby of the new multiplex movie theater before afternoon screenings in Srinagar, on Oct. 1.

Showkat Nanda for NPR

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Showkat Nanda for NPR

SRINAGAR, India — Huge movie posters showing muscle-bound Indian action stars adorn the newly built Myoun INOX Cinema multiplex in southern Srinagar, Jammu and Kashmir’s largest city. Inside the four-story building, young Kashmiris grab buckets of popcorn before taking their seats to watch Vikram Vedha, a new Hindi-language cop-vs.-gangster action film. The big-budget movie is a hit across India. But in Indian-administered Kashmir, Oct. 1 marked the first time a film was screened in a cinema in 22 years. And on opening day, only a few dozen moviegoers have shown up. Among them is Ummi Kulsoom Gulzar, 32, whose uncle used to take her to the movies in the city when she was a child.

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Poeple watch Vikram Vedha at Myoun INOX Cinema in Srinagar Oct. 1.

Showkat Nanda for NPR

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Showkat Nanda for NPR

“I brought my 5-year-old niece today,” she says with a smile. “To keep the legacy going.” But there is nothing ordinary about going to the cinema in Indian-administered Kashmir. Just to reach the cineplex, people need to pass through a police checkpoint manned with heavily armed officers. Then they are then frisked at the theater entrance for bombs and weapons. Only those who’ve bought tickets online ahead of time are allowed in.

Although Kashmir — famed for its idyllic scenery, snow-capped peaks and lakes — was a popular setting for Bollywood movies, cinemas here have been on the front line of an insurgency that has inflicted pain on this Himalayan region for decades.

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