One may well expect the hills of the valley to come alive with the sounds of Spielberg.
Once the favourite locale for Bollywood mandarins (with Ooty and Kodaikanal being taken over by the South Indian movie industry), Kashmir fell out of favour when insurgency ruined the valley, spoiling its economic activity and driving its youth to take up guns.
Bollywood then turned to Switzerland. Later, to other parts of Europe, Singapore and Malaysia. Indian cinema never returned to Kashmir.
It is, therefore, heartening to hear that a renowned and bigtime director like Spielberg plans to get his camera, crew and cast to Kashmir, once described by poets as “Paradise on Earth”.
But like the 17th century John Milton’s Paradise – which was Lost – Kashmir too was. It may well be regained now (as Milton’s later poem averred) with Spielberg’s camera, action and sound.
Partnering with Indian tycoon Anil Ambani’s Reliance Entertainment, 66-year-old Spielberg’s DreamWorks will have a large Indian cast, and this will comprise major stars. The names being thrown around are Shahrukh Khan, Aamir Khan and Hrithik Roshan as well as Anushka Sharma, Deepika Padukone and Aishwarya Rai.
Hollywood will also contribute with some of its biggies like Denzel Washington, Bradley Cooper and Richard Gere for a yet untitled film.
Spielberg – who will chair the top international jury at the Cannes Film Festival starting May 15 — was a movie enthusiast from a very early age. One of his first shorts, Amblin, got him through the doors of Universal Television, which produced his first films.
Success came very quickly. Duel (1971), originally made for television, proved to be such a hit that a feature length version was released in theatres soon after. And the first movie he made for cinema, Sugarland Express, was selected for the Cannes Film Festival in 1974 and won the Best Screenplay Award.
Thereafter, Spielberg had a series of international successes: Jaws (1975); Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981) and E.T. (1982), which closed the Cannes Festival that year.
But it was his 1993 Jurassic Park which renewed the Hollywood entertainment genre creating new ties with themes of adventure and sci-fi. The abundant imagination that characterises Spielberg has him say of himself “I dream for a living”, a dream that combines boundless curiosity, a delight in innovation and a virtuoso talent for directing.
Spielberg has also surprised us with his more intimate and socially engaging cinema: The Colour Purple (1986), Empire of the Sun (1987) and Schindler’s List (1993), which brought him the highest accolades. as well as a clutch of Oscars, including one for Best Director. And now, Lincoln.
His 40-year career with 27 movies has been an amazing canvas of dream and reality reflecting history, racism, human endurance, hope and peace.
And it this vast expertise and experience which will be at play when Spielberg wields the megaphone at Kashmir. And one may well expect the hills of the valley to come alive with the sounds of Spielberg.
Gautaman Bhaskaran is India Editor of FMT, and Chennai-based author, columnist and movie critic. He may be emailed at [email protected]