[Reader-list] 5th posting: Kashmir's only poster boy

Shahnawaz Khan fsrnkashmir at gmail.com
Fri Aug 3 16:59:30 IST 2007

*Kashmir's only poster boy*

Not only in Srinagar but in whole of Kashmir Valley with a population of six
million, Neelam is the only functional Cinema hall. With people having lost
interest in cinema halls and there has been a considerable fall in the
number of cine-goers since 1990, the management of Neelam is struggling hard
to make their presence felt within the city limits.

Putting up posters of the coming film is a small task in other places, but
it is a daunting job in Srinagar.  The cinema is unable to pay for
advertisements in the local papers.

In order to boost their business and to announce about the latest shows or
new releases of Bollywood films, pasting film posters in the city's space is
really a challenging task. Prior to insurgency each cinema hall used to have
few people on the payrolls for the job of pasting posters in and outside the

For Neelam Cinema today Ashraf is the only poster boy. A man in late
twenties, Ashraf was employed as a sweeper in the Cinema hall after it was
thrown open in 1997.

However, Ashraf is not comfortable with the job of pasting the film posters
on the city's walls and intersections. Since there is a ban on cinema halls,
he fears the backlash from the people who ordered the ban.

"See ours is the only cinema hall functional in the city. That way  we have
defied the diktat.  It is really a challenging job to paste a poster in the
old town or locality. Anyone can create trouble anytime," said Ashraf.

Though Ashraf is reluctant to talk about his job of pasting the posters and
feels that it would land him up in trouble.

"See I am a poor man and do this for making two ends of my family meet.
While pasting posters, my effort remains that no one should see me," he

There have been instances when he was rebuked by some youth for pasting
posters. Even some posters were torn from the walls the moment he pasted it.

"I don't want to indulge in any fight with anyone. One day some guys told me
that I am promoting obscenity and Allah will not spare me," recalls Ashraf.

The management hires an auto rickshaw and always sends another person with
Ashraf, while he pastes the posters. Most of the posters are being pasted in
high security zones, where there is constant presence of army and
para-military forces.

"Mostly I paste the posters in Badmibagh cantonment area and outside our own
Cinema hall, where there is lesser movement of people," Ashraf said.

After the opening of cinema hall the biggest challenge with the owners was
how to advertise about the show and timings. Initially they used to buy the
space in the newspapers for advertising new releases and show timings but
poor response from the people forced them to change their modus operendi.

"We could not afford to buy the space in newspapers, therefore we were
forced to sent our guys to paste the posters on the street walls," said
Mohammed Ayub, the project operator at Neelam cinema hall.

Pasting of film posters undergo a censorship when it comes to Kashmir and
the censorship lies with the poster boy. Ashraf in consultation with the
cinema management often artfully blacken the bold exposures by women
celebrities on these posters. The glaring example of censorship was evident
in the month of June from a bold exposure of celebrity showcasing the film,
"LOU- Ek Ehsaas".

"I remember when I was asked to paste the posters of Ahsaas, I thought that
it will not go well with the people over here. I bought a black ink marker
from the stationary shop and artfully tried to hide the breasts and naked
legs of the star by drawing lines on her body. After that it looked as if
she was wearing a net," said Ashraf.

"You have to do it, it you want to continue with it," he adds.

In the Srinagar city today you won't come across bigger than life size
images of celebrities on the film posters nor would find any full size
poster pasted on the wall. What usually is seen the torn away posters on the

Noor Mohammed, the ticket seller and the oldest employee of the Neelam
cinema says that in past tongas (horse driven carts) were hired and then
decorated with the film posters so as to sent it inside the Srinagar city
and outskirts for announcing the show and timings.

He misses the fervour and the presences of large film size posters in every
nook and corner of the city.

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