Srinagar : India's administered Jammu and Kashmir saw record-breaking visitors footfall last year which is why the authorities have been working to establish new tourism attractions for the travellers around the Valley. Not just tourists, many film projects are also being shot in the valley these days.
Nonetheless, Kashmir's new tourist places other than Gulmarg, Pahalgam and Srinagar's Dal Lake have become the prime focus for Bollywood as for the first time an album has been shot at Doodhpathri in Central Kashmir's Budgam district - the same place that remained open for the visitors for the time in winters this time. From Rishi Kapoor's Bobby on Gulmarg to Salman Khan's Bajrangi Bhaijan in Pahalgam, Bollywood has a long history of embracing Kashmir's natural beauty. All of the filmmakers and their crews refused to film in Kashmir during the 1990s unrest and bloodshed.
However, the last four years have opened "peace gates" in Kashmir as stone pelting, hartals and street protests have all taken a backseat.
If we talk about Doodhpathri alone, the album 'Kitabo' has been shot there. Talking about the project, Abbas Karole, an actor in Album, said that he had been dreaming of shooting a song in Kashmir for a long time and is happy that he finally got the chance to do so.
"We preferred Kashmir as some people think Kashmir is unsafe, but we have tried our best to promote the picturesque destinations and secure environment in Kashmir," Karole said, adding that the actress hails from Kashmir only.
"We have shot at multiple places including Dal Lake, Nishat Park, Drang waterfall, local village sites and other places," he continued.
Vikran Mehta who is the director of the album hails from Jammu. He said that Dodhpathri has remained the prime destination for them in the album.
"It is my first project in Kashmir though; there are a good number of shooting places here. We will shoot different places in Kashmir to promote the destinations. Our prime focus is to explore the new destinations here," he said.
He added that the majority of persons working with them belong to Kashmir. They helped them in exploring new destinations where shootings have not taken place and also made arrangements to make sure the shoot went smoothly.
According to Executive Producer Azmat Khwaja, major labels and brands that film in Kashmir typically favour the locations that have been previously explored and collaborate with only well-known artists.
"We have opted for a new target and are focussed to promote the hidden talent and give importance to the new persons and unexplored destinations," he said.
According to a top official in the tourism department, filming for songs and movies has been going on for more than a year in various locations all across Kashmir.
"We have been receiving frequent applications with regard to the permission for shootings at different locations. Some new locations too are being chosen by the crew, which is a welcome step," he said.
He added that the shooting of songs at new locations is depicting the efforts of the administration with regard to exploring new tourist destinations.
"Kashmir is scenic and every location here is perfect for shooting. The crew are getting information about new destinations and thus desire to shoot the songs and films there," he said.
Pertinently, after the government took measures to explore and promote new destinations in Kashmir, around 1.62 crore tourists have visited Jammu and Kashmir since January 2022.
The J&K government's Directorate of Information & Public Relations (DIPR) reported that 2022's tourism numbers in the union territory are the highest since India's independence.