Fest draws crowds back

Colorized 'Mughal-e-Azam' is top draw

NEW DELHI — Kashmiris are flocking to the cinema again after years of being scared off by militant violence.

Main draw is a film festival in the Srinagar, the summer capital of Indian-administered Kashmir, featuring Bollywood and Iranian movies.

Most popular movie of the fest, which kicked off Nov. 19, has been ” Mughal-e-Azam” (The Great Mughal), a film that was screened in Kashmir to full houses for six continuous months in the late ’70s and has now been colorized.

“The idea behind the festival is to provide award winning films to the people,” says Farooq Renzu, head of Kashmir’s information department.

After the armed revolt against Indian rule in Kashmir began in 1989, rebels forced the closure of all cinemas in the Muslim-dominated Kashmir valley, including 10 in Srinagar.

After eight film-free years, two movie halls finally reopened in Srinagar in 1998 after the state government assured it would provide full security.

But with violence levels dropping and tourism levels rising in the Himalayan region — the fruits of a slow-moving peace process between arch-rivals India and Pakistan — India’s Ministry of Information and Broadcasting joined forces to stage a rare film fest.

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