Thursday, February 13, 2020


                                       ( Photo Source .. Internet name mentioned .. Sameer Mushtaq ) 


In 1964, Shiraz cinema hall was opened at Khanyar locality of Srinagar city. Raj Kapoor's Sangam was the first movie that was screened at the Shiraz cinema, Khanyar, Srinagar. The movie drew crowds from all walks of life. School students, families and college students came in large numbers to see the movie. Songs of this movie like, ‘O Mere Sanam, O Mere Sanam ‘, ‘ Bol Radha bol sangam hoga ki nahin ’, O Mehbooba!  O Mehbooba! ‘ Dost Dost Na Raha ’, Har dil jo pyaar karega ’ and ‘Ye mera prem patra ’,etc. became quite popular in Kashmir during those days. And then the song ' Ichh liebe dichh 'meaning  'I love you'  in German, won hearts of the young generation of that period. The song had Russian words ' Ya lyublyu tebya' meaning ' I love you'. The song was picturised in colour on Raj Kapoor and Vyjayanthimala. With ski slopes of Swiss Alps in the background, the song created a grand and lasting impression on cinema crowds.
Interlaken is a beautiful resort town in the mountainous Bernese Oberland region of central Switzerland. Sangam was shot in Interlaken. Sangam became very important for Interlaken Tourism ( Switzerland ) because it gave most Indians their first glimpse of Swiss mountains, glaciers and other romantic spots. It was the first Indian movie shot in Switzerland.
This movie introduced Sangam sandals (ladies) in Kashmir. Sangam became a trusted and reliable name in trade and commerce. One could see many shops that had boards like, Sangam Tea Stall, Sangam Shoes, Sangam Embroidery Works, Sangam Tailors, Sangam Cloth House, etc. We had the well known SANGAM THEATRE ( dramatic club) in Kashmir.
                     ( Film advertisements in local newspapers in good  old days)

For many years, the Punjabi shoe making shop at Badiyar Bala ( close to the house of artist DN Walli ) in Srinagar city sold Sangam  sandals only.

In Kashmir, a movie was known as Kheil, a word that means a game. The common sentence exchanged by moviegoers was like this;-
‘Kya sa kis chha ye kheil ’
‘ Hello ! how is the Movie? ’
People from Rainawari would usually go to Shiraz Cinema. Students from Rainawari would bunk classes to see a movie in Shiraz cinema. Tongawallas and drivers would join the late-night show. This cinema hall was barely one km away from Rainawari.
The owners of Shiraz cinema were prompt in switching over to religious movies during Eid or Shivratri. In 1968, Khan e Khuda was screened in Shiraz and people removed their footwear outside the cinema hall as a mark of devotion and respect. The cinema hall was washed every day at the start of the first show. People would enter with Sheerin ( candies ) that was showered on the screen. Kashmiri Pandit women with their families would be seen watching religious movies like HAR HAR MAHADEV, HARI DARSHAN  and  SAMPURAN RAMAYAN in Shiraz cinema during Shivratri period mostly after the Salaam festivity. They would also be seen reciting some Mantra / Leela or clapping in the hall. Some elderly Pandit women carried flowers to be showered on the screen as Lord Shiva appeared.
Religious movies were free from black-marketing of tickets, a common feature in all cinema halls of Srinagar city. For religious movies, tickets were freely available and quite often, sold at the entry gate by the gatekeepers.
Friday was the movie change day for cinema halls in Kashmir. People would make enquiries about the new movie on every Friday. Quite often trailers of new arrivals were shown on the screen. The movie trailers would emphasize advertising things like cinemascope, 70mm, technicolour, Eastman colour, etc.
Once Narayan Joo Miyaan, a teacher known for enforcing discipline in DAV School, Rainawari, caught some schoolboys outside Shiraz cinema gate and gave them a good thrashing. The boys had bunked their classes to watch Mehmood's Gumnaam. Gumnaam was screened in Shiraz Cinema at least five times. And then some boys saw Narayan Joo Miyaan wiping his tears after he came out of Shiraz cinema where he had gone to see Sunil Dutt's Meherbaan. In the DAV School, none believed that Narayan Joo had tears in his eyes or he could weep. Narayan Joo Miyaan was a hockey player apart from being a great patron of football. Narayan Joo had created an excellent football team for DAV School, Rainawari. This team had some well-known football players like Bashir Najar, Habib Daandh and Wahid Rawal. These players later played for Zindshah football club. Zia, who played for J&KSRTC football team was a student of DAV School, Rainawari. 

Watching a movie in the lower stall or third class, as it was known during those days had some additional charm. You would find yourself in the company of excited moviegoers. This excited crowd would cheer up the hero during some fight scene. The villain received nastiest abuses from the lower stall. This lower stall crowd blew whistles during a kiss scene. Some people would try to throw burning cigarette bits towards the screen. These bits generally landed on the walking space in front of the lower stall. Sometimes when the hero was shown receiving some punches from the Villain, someone from the lower stall would cry:-

"Parvaai na . Amiss gatchhan vaen biriyaana"

'No worry. This villain will soon be cut to pieces"

 The hero getting punches from the Villain was simply unacceptable to the crowd in the lower stall.
Smoking inside cinema halls was a common practice in Kashmir. With no exhaust fans or adequate air ventilation, Shiraz cinema hall was full of smoke during movie time. Headache was a bonus in this cinema hall. As the movie progressed, one would see men moving in darkness through columns and rows crying" cake piece Lefton (Lipton) Chai ' . They carried small tea glasses in hangers made of wire along with some bakery items.

 ( This photograph was clicked at Shiraz Cinema in 1968  on account of release of Kashmiri film Maenzraat. The  first day show was inaugurated by Shri G M Sadiq , the then chief minister of the state in presence of the artists and technicians . We can see Shri G M Sadiq,  Padamshri Pran Kishore Kaul , Som Nath Sadhu, Omkar Aima , Dina Nath Nadim, G R Santosh and other  artists  )

(Avtar Mota)

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