Pakistani Movie Fails To Revive Srinagar Cinema

8 June 2008
Agence France-Presse

Srinagar: The first Pakistani movie screened in India in over four decades failed to revive the flagging fortunes of Srinagar's sole cinema, with people in the restive Kashmiri city staying away out of fear. 'Khuda Kay Liye' (In the Name of God), about the struggle by moderate Muslims to preserve their beliefs following the September 11, 2001, attacks, opened across India in April but only arrived here this weekend. Just 15 people attended the first show Friday in the lone 400-seat theatre in the summer capital of the insurgency-hit Himalayan region, where cinemas have been a popular target for militant attacks. 'We had hoped this film would draw good crowds but that has not happened,' said a glum Noor Mohammed, manager of the Neelam Cinema, which operates under heavy security. People in Srinagar are deeply interested in news, music and movies from over the border, with thousands turning out last month for a concert by leading Pakistani rock band Junoon. But going to the movies is a risk many are still not willing to take. 'I think the violence is still playing on the minds of the people and that is why they are staying away despite this one being a Pakistani movie,' said Mohammed. Srinagar once had eight movie theatres, but that was before Islamic militants launched a separatist insurgency in 1989 and imposed a ban on cinema halls, attacking some of them. As violence increased, four of the city's cinemas were converted into makeshift camps and interrogation centres by Indian troops. In the late 1990s the government helped three cinema halls reopen in a bid to showcase what it said was the region's improved security situation. Rebels responded with a grenade attack that left a moviegoer dead and dozens injured, resulting in the immediate closing down of the two other cinemas. Now only the Neelam Cinema remains. Still, the film's screening in India points to a further thaw in relations between nuclear-armed rivals India and Pakistan, who launched a peace process in 2004, and ends a ban imposed after a 1965 war between the two neighbours. Pakistan screened its first Indian film since that war in 2006. But the two, who have fought two of their three wars over the scenic mountainous region, have yet to make any progress on Kashmir.