KASHMIR CONFLICT

Kashmir has lost its cinema halls but not its love for the movies

Abandoned theatres have been turned into security camps, hotels, and even a hospital, but piracy keeps alive the passion for moving images.

In Srinagar’s Lal Chowk market are the ruins of what was once a movie lovers’ paradise – the Palladium cinema. Today, all that remains is the faded blue mosaic-tiled facade, surrounded by buildings that are still full of life. Once, people stood in long queues to buy tickets to watch their favourite movie stars on the big screen. Today, the Palladium’s only permanent guests are security forces.

A few kilometers away, it’s the same sorry tale at Neelam. Here too, vigilant soldiers guard watchtowers; long sheets of tin hide the building from view; spools of concertina wire surround the theatre’s compound. The only sign of Neelam’s past grandeur is a decaying signboard bearing its name.

The eruption of militancy in the 1990s brought down the curtain on the 19 cinema halls in Kashmir, including nine in Srinagar. Today, most of the theatres are camps for security forces, while others have been turned into hotels, shopping complexes and even a hospital. But they live on in the memories of the people, who still remember the joy of going to the movies.

Aijaz Ahmad, a resident of downtown Srinagar, attended a school close to Neelam. Every Saturday, which was a half-day, he and his friends would plead with the school watchman to let them off early so they could catch the afternoon show.

Sheikh Irfan, also from the same area and now in his 40s, recalled watching Sholay several times with friends, never once paying for tickets. “We would go to the nearby Khayam cinema,” he said, a broad smile lighting up his face. “With sticks we would make slits in the [window] net to watch the film from outside.”

Ahmad Warsi, a shopkeeper in his late 50s, was a regular at Palladium. According to him, the post-’90s generation grew up in “an abnormal situation”, never knowing what life was like for the generations before them. “We would go for the night show at 9 pm and stay out late with friends, sipping tea and chatting,” he said. “What do we tell them about how we enjoyed ourselves?”

Then: Long queues outside Palladium in the 1980s.
Then: Long queues outside Palladium in the 1980s.
Now: The cinema house in ruins. It houses a bunker for security forces.
Now: The cinema house in ruins. It houses a bunker for security forces.

The slow death of cinemas

Everything changed as the Valley plunged into chaos in the summer of 1989. As Islamist militants took over the streets within a matter of months, the campaign against what they deemed un-Islamic intensified. Among the first diktats was a ban on liquor vends and cinema halls, issued by Allah Tigers, a radical outfit.

Amidst threats and intimidation, the vends and cinemas shut down one after another. As the government started pushing in troops to suppress the militancy, bunkers made an appearance in the abandoned cinema halls. By 1994, these venues of entertainment had become some of the most dreaded places in the Valley – home to camps formally called interrogation centres but more commonly known as torture chambers.

In 1999, three cinema halls – Regal, Neelam and Broadway – reopened. That same year in September, militants attacked Regal with grenades, killing one moviegoer and injuring 12. Then, in September 2005, Neelam – the only operational movie theatre in Srinagar by then – was the stage for an encounter between the police and suicide attackers in which one militant was killed. Around 70 people were in the theatre at the time, watching the Aamir Khan-starrer Mangal Pandey.

Going to the movies became so dangerous, and the taboo associated with it so strong, that “no one wanted to be found injured in a cinema”, recalled Irfan. “If you got injured while watching a film and people got to know, they would question your character,” he added.

With political turmoil and unrest following years of militancy, many Kashmiris no longer mourn the movie halls. “Kashmiris have been dying [because of recurring turmoil] in the last 25 years to 30 years,” said Aijaz. “This [cinema halls] is a nonsensical issue now.”

Pirates to the rescue

However, the demise of the movie-going culture in Kashmir – which once served as the setting for numerous Indian films and songs – did not end of the people’s love for cinema. They turned to television sets and video cassette recorders. Sales of televisions, VCRs and video cassettes picked up. Later, video CDs and DVDs became popular. For Kashmiris who had never watched a film in a theatre, the small screens of their computers, laptops and television sets became their window to the world of moving images.

Irfan has been in the pirated movie trade since the ’90s. Following the ban on cinema halls, business was good, he said, until internet downloads became widespread.

However, people still come to his shop, near a defunct cinema hall, looking for cheap DVDs of old Hindi movies. “While browsing, they talk about the cinema halls where they watched the movie,” Irfan said.

Video cassette dealers were on the radar of militants in the early days, Irfan said. “We, too, were threatened in the 1990s,” he said. “Posters and bans were issued by militant organisations. There was once a grenade attack on us but we did not pay heed.” Despite the risks, customers still came to them.

While the summer of unrest in 2016 broke the backs of businesses across the Valley, it had the opposite effect for Irfan’s customer base. Pirated copies of the latest Hindi, English and Tamil movies did not stop, Irfan’s store did better business than usual, helped by the internet ban. “People from across Srinagar came to buy CDs, many of them buying in bulk for reselling,” he said. “What else was there to do?”

Movie pirates did roaring business even during the summer unrest, helped by the internet ban.
Movie pirates did roaring business even during the summer unrest, helped by the internet ban.
We welcome your comments at letters@scroll.in.
Sponsored Content BY 

What’s the difference between ‘a’ washing machine and a ‘great’ washing machine?

The right machine can save water, power consumption, time, energy and your clothes from damage.

In 2010, Hans Rosling, a Swedish statistician, convinced a room full of people that the washing machine was the greatest invention of the industrial revolution. In the TED talk delivered by him, he illuminates how the washing machine freed women from doing hours of labour intensive laundry, giving them the time to read books and eventually join the labour force. Rosling’s argument rings true even today as it is difficult to deny the significance of the washing machine in our everyday lives.

For many households, buying a washing machine is a sizable investment. Oddly, buyers underestimate the importance of the decision-making process while buying one and don’t research the purchase as much as they would for a television or refrigerator. Most buyers limit their buying criteria to type, size and price of the washing machine.

Visible technological advancements can be seen all around us, making it fair to expect a lot more from household appliances, especially washing machines. Here are a few features to expect and look out for before investing in a washing machine:

Cover your basics

Do you wash your towels every day? How frequently do you do your laundry? Are you okay with a bit of manual intervention during the wash cycle? These questions will help filter the basic type of washing machine you need. The semi-automatics require manual intervention to move clothes from the washing tub to the drying tub and are priced lower than a fully-automatic. A fully-automatic comes in two types: front load and top load. Front loading machines use less water by rotating the inner drum and using gravity to move the clothes through water.

Size matters

The size or the capacity of the machine is directly proportional to the consumption of electricity. The right machine capacity depends on the daily requirement of the household. For instance, for couples or individuals, a 6kg capacity would be adequate whereas a family of four might need an 8 kg or bigger capacity for their laundry needs. This is an important factor to consider since the wrong decision can consume an unnecessary amount of electricity.

Machine intelligence that helps save time

In situations when time works against you and your laundry, features of a well-designed washing machine can come to rescue. There are programmes for urgent laundry needs that provide clean laundry in a super quick 15 to 30 minutes’ cycle; a time delay feature that can assist you to start the laundry at a desired time etc. Many of these features dispel the notion that longer wash cycles mean cleaner clothes. In fact, some washing machines come with pre-activated wash cycles that offer shortest wash cycles across all programmes without compromising on cleanliness.

The green quotient

Despite the conveniences washing machines offer, many of them also consume a substantial amount of electricity and water. By paying close attention to performance features, it’s possible to find washing machines that use less water and energy. For example, there are machines which can adjust the levels of water used based on the size of the load. The reduced water usage, in turn, helps reduce the usage of electricity. Further, machines that promise a silent, no-vibration wash don’t just reduce noise – they are also more efficient as they are designed to work with less friction, thus reducing the energy consumed.

Customisable washing modes

Crushed dresses, out-of-shape shirts and shrunken sweaters are stuff of laundry nightmares. Most of us would rather take out the time to hand wash our expensive items of clothing rather than trusting the washing machine. To get the dirt out of clothes, washing machines use speed to first agitate the clothes and spin the water out of them, a process that takes a toll on the fabric. Fortunately, advanced machines come equipped with washing modes that control speed and water temperature depending on the fabric. While jeans and towels can endure a high-speed tumble and spin action, delicate fabrics like silk need a gentler wash at low speeds. Some machines also have a monsoon mode. This is an India specific mode that gives clothes a hot rinse and spin to reduce drying time during monsoons. A super clean mode will use hot water to clean the clothes deeply.

Washing machines have come a long way, from a wooden drum powered by motor to high-tech machines that come equipped with automatic washing modes. Bosch washing machines include all the above-mentioned features and provide damage free laundry in an energy efficient way. With 32 different washing modes, Bosch washing machines can create custom wash cycles for different types of laundry, be it lightly soiled linens, or stained woollens. The ActiveWater feature in Bosch washing machines senses the laundry load and optimises the usage of water and electricity. Its EcoSilentDrive motor draws energy from a permanent magnet, thereby saving energy and giving a silent wash. The fear of expensive clothes being wringed to shapelessness in a washing machine is a common one. The video below explains how Bosch’s unique VarioDrumTM technology achieves damage free laundry.

Play

To start your search for the perfect washing machine, see here.

This article was produced by the Scroll marketing team on behalf of Bosch and not by the Scroll editorial team.