By Promod Puri
It was the early ‘50s, and I still remember going to the Hari Theatre in Jammu. There we were four or five us excited to see the Dilip Kumar starring blockbuster Aan.
The songs of the film still reverberate in my nostalgic moods. Dilip Kumar, teasing actress Nadira and rocking with “maan mera ehsan” number, was the scene I can vividly recall. In that early teenage stage, it was indeed a bundle of joy to occasionally go for a movie and blow about it the next day in the school.
Aan was a thriller where the hero (Dilip Kumar) dominated the screen, singing, romancing, and fighting the bad guy (Premnath). The story, the dialogues, and the rest of the details I don’t remember, but I do know it was a package of entertainment including the refreshments at the film interval break.
After reveling in uninterrupted three hours of enjoyment, we came out of the theatre in spirited feelings of joy.
But as we stepped on to the main bazaar on our way home, the scene was frightening and of complete silence. Shopkeepers downed the shutters, and we could not see the regular hustle and bustle of the city’s downtown area. There were the police all over the main bazaar. We were told not to walk there, and if we dared to do so, we could be arrested.
This was a curfew, a very strict one, suddenly ordered by the authorities without any previous warning.
Curfews were a common occurrence in Jammu in those days. It was due to the often-violent demonstrations by the regional political party called Praja Parishad.
Discrimination by the government, dominated by Kashmiri politicians, including its prime minister Bakshi Gulam Mahammad, was the main complaint of the Praja Parishad outfit. The state of Jammu and Kashmir has always been controlled by Kashmiri leaders since 1947 after the Dogra Raj. Whereas Kashmir has been seeking “Azadi” from India, Jammu is seeking “Azadi” from Kashmir.
The Praja Parishad was at the forefront seeking equal opportunities for the Jammu region. The party always had violent confrontations with the government. As a result, Jammu frequently remained under curfew orders.
It was one of those curfews which were part of regular scenes while growing up in the ever turmoil state of Jammu and Kashmir. But life went on as we ventured out to see the movie, Aan.
Despite the risks involved, we managed to reach our homes, playing hide and seek with the police forces. It was frightening, but an experience fresh in my mind till now.
How other moviegoers reached their homes, ended up being arrested, being shot, or just stayed on in the theatre hall to see the movie again, are the questions revealing the ever-tense situation in the state of Jammu and Kashmir.