Kashmir may have lost its cinema halls to insurgency and militia but the conflict-ridden Valley provides an apt landscape for shooting films, director Rahat Kazmi said. His latest venture "Side A & Side B", which deals with human emotions and a common man's love for cinema even during extreme conditions, was screened at the 'Indian language films section' of the 23rd Kolkata International Film Festival (KIFF). Addressing a press meet, Kazmi said, "This film talks about a period when youngsters from small towns flocked to theatres to watch Shah Rukh Khan and Amitabh Bachchan. "Suddenly, cinema was banned in the Valley and so was the idea of watching TV or listening to music. What happens to the boys thereafter is what you get to see in the film," he added. Kazmi said the theatres that were closed way back in 1990 were now home to the security forces Indian Army, and today there seems no attempt to restore them. Tariq Khan, one of the producers of the film, said the situation has improved in parts of the state such as Srinagar and Poonch over the years, unlike what has been portrayed in the media, the whole of Kashmir was not burning. "At Srinagar's Lal Chowk, women move around freely around in the afterhours unlike metros. The situation is not so bad for the common people in Kashmir. Still, theatres seem to be a distant dream. When an incident or two of violence is reported at one place, it is projected that the entire Kashmir is in flames," Khan said. Kazmi said "Side A & Side B" was conceived to make a movie on a place where people no longer get to visit cinema halls. "It is about the idea of making a film on a place where watching a film is a crime.
The place still provides a perfect setting for shooting movies. Some sequences were from stories we have heard or situations we have experienced. But there are no autobiographical elements," he added. Stating that they had been trying to make films on the Valley and its people for the past four to five years, the director said he tried to capture nuances of everyday life in the film. Talking about the appreciation his film received at the Cannes Film Festival earlier this year, Kazmi said, "The audience at Cannes generously appreciated our efforts to make a film on Kashmir. We saw the same buzz there that we see here at KIFF," he said. Asked about a possible solution to the hostile situation in the Valley, he said, "Once you go there, your perception will change. Cinema itself can play a big role in changing things there.
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