A week in Kashmir: the cinema
Every time I come to Srinagar, this stump of a building in the central square seems to have crumbled still further. It's the Palladium cinema in Lal Chowk (Red Square). Or rather, it was. No movies have been screened here for almost thirty years.
Indian security forces use the ruins of the building as a bunker. It is, after all, very strategically positioned. But what a come down for one of the most historic buildings in the city centre.
Historic because of its political importance. In the turbulent autumn of 1947, the Palladium became the headquarters of the main Kashmiri nationalist party led by Sheikh Abdullah. It was a radical and secular movement, with closer links to India's Congress party than to Pakistan's Muslim League.
As an invading forces of Pakistani tribesmen approached, a men's militia and a women's self-defence corps were set up. And as part of this general mobilisation of Srinagar's population, a children's militia - the Bal Sena - drilled with wooden rifles in the shadow of the cinema building.
When in November 1947 India's prime minister Jawaharlal Nehru came to Srinagar and addressed a huge crowd alongside Sheikh Abdullah, the Palladium provided the backdrop.
After the excitement of the Maharaja's eclipse, and Kashmir's accession to India, the Palladium went back to doing what it was built to do - show films. This was the cinema in about 1980 -
With the start of the separatist insurgency in 1989, a small militant group bullied and threatened Srinagar's cinemas into closing their doors. The Palladium's key location and iconic political history also made it a target. There was an attempt to reopen some cinemas and indeed establish new ones - it didn't work. There are now no public cinemas in the city. Srinagar has lots of film enthusiasts, but they have to watch at home.
Local traders have appealed for the Palladium to be restored. However wonderful that would be, it doesn't seem likely.
When Kashmir has featured so often in Indian moves - the acclaimed 2014 film Haider being a prime example - it's a rich irony that this is the one corner of India without a cinema.
There's a good piece about the Palladium and its history here and more generally on Srinagar's cinemas here; and for a look at the reasons for the absence of cinemas in Kashmir, give this a read.
This is the last of my 'week in Kashmir' blogposts - if you want to catch up on all of them then click here.
The end cost to the drivers who get caught can be enormous thinking about the fines and towing costs, besides the lost time. Fume cloud test stations like Lake Smog Test in Pasadena demand that drivers play out the state required transmissions survey in an ideal manner to avoid any of these normal issues.
A week in Kashmir the cinema was a new film which was screened at the Muhafazat Theater of Little Italy in Srinagar on Friday and Saturday. The film is a must-see movie if you travel to Kashmir or work there. There are very few Indian films made in the state and they are mostly made by those who reside outside India. A week in Kashmir is unique because it is entirely shot inside the state and it takes us through all four seasons, encompassing five different villages: Islam Nagar, Reshpora, Pieinga and Qazi Bagh.
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