Ambivalence in itself

von Shahnaz Bashir Shahnaz Bashir was born and brought up in Indian-administered Kashmir. He’s a novelist and teaches narrative journalism, creative writing and conflict reporting to post-graduate students at the Central University of Kashmir. gepostet am 21. April 2020

An ecphrastic essay on Palladium cinema of Kashmir

Introduction

Space defies attempts that try to conceal or manipulate the manipulations done to it. A manipulated (changed with violence) space can sometimes be decontextualized from the situation of violence by absolute erasure—but the visual evidence of that manipulation can always corroborate the annihilation or disappearance of the space. Contrary to a mobile life, space, for that matter any closed or open or enclosing space, however furtive or inaccessible, is a relatively fixed and stationary existence of its reality representing its change in a certain situation. In this case, media imagery can be considered as a standing point between an absolute space and an abstract or manipulated space. Just like space, an image too has an agency of its own. And then inversely, a photograph itself is a space too.

Thus through a chronological imbrication of photos, this ecphrastic study will try to argue how political violence and armed conflicts imbues a space with various meanings in Kashmir.

A historical text may not constitute as much factuality of a historical moment as a historical photo might. The need felt to translate historic images—that preceded the inventions of image-capturing technologies—into real images compelled painting or sculpturing of historic scenes or legendries. Yet, any random image or a standalone photograph decontextualized of its cultural or historical contexts compels narration. Captioning of news photography is an example in this regard. Writer John Berger claimed that “photos in themselves do not narrate”. The text around the photograph not only helps the viewer to identify the photographic content of the photograph but also to locate the meanings of the captured appearances in it. Not only in terms of their isolation from the context but also in their relation to their own truth, photographs need to be narrated. Howard Becker, a social scientist believed that “photos have a fragmentary relation to the truth of an event”.

An epitome of space, manipulated by protracted violence, in the Kashmir valley is “Palladium cinema” of the Srinagar city. The various phases of its production from a social space to political to garrison to, finally, annihilation and disappearance—into a nonexistence which is now to be embodied in a shopping mall—from its establishment in 1930s to the present times, depicted in the following six photos, will represent two categories of photographic ambivalences: a/synchronous and intimate/anonymous.

The same space, manipulated by the rough winds of different times becomes asynchronous to its putative synchronousness or anonymous to its own intimacy creating ambivalences of itself. Philosopher Gilles Deleuze understood the relational aspects of “difference and repetition” with great clarity. His theory carries an assistive significance for studying photographic ambivalence in images of common subjectivity such as this. His work implicates that “difference has only ever been understood in relation to sameness”.

Epitomizing Palladium cinema of Srinagar and employing images and narration, this work will try to argue how violent hands push the spatial boundaries, continually changing, shaping and reproducing the identity, meaning, utility and existence of space.

Photo 1: Circa November 1947.

Palladium cinema

“Palladium cinema is Kashmir’s first movie theatre”, writes Khalid Bashir Ahmad, a noted Kashmiri historian.[1] It was the only cinema among some fifteen cinemas in Kashmir that had a separate “Ladies Gallery”[2], a special corner for the women moviegoers. In the beginning of 1990s all cinemas in Kashmir shut down in response to militarization and the violence that followed it, and Palladium was one among the first to do so.

Built in 1932 by Anant Singh Gowri[3], a Punjabi (north Indian) businessman, Palladium cinema was named “Kashmir Talkies” but sometime later it adopted the globally famed name “Palladium” after Palladium Theatre in New York and St. Petersburg in Florida or the Worcester Palladium and London Palladium in the UK or the Hollywood Palladium in California.[4]

In the beginning, for several years, Palladium mostly screened Hollywood films. And most of the English movies shown were from the banner of Twentieth Century Fox. Palladium created history by screening Aalam Aara, the first talkie of Indian film industry. The cinema had the three-digit landline number 252 which never stopped ringing. People would endlessly inquire about the timings and screenings. Every morning two men, holding a hoarding of a newly released film, and followed by a bandwagon, would march the streets of the city. It is said that the mothers in the city would use the first beats of the bandwagon’s drums as an alarm to send their children to school.[5]

British left India in 1947 and the subcontinent partitioned into India and Pakistan. And that was the year when the Palladium cinema was intersected thus affected by politics for the first time. Photo 1 depicts an event happening in the backdrop of a historical political activity in Kashmir: The last autocrat of Kashmir has already fled and the tribal army from the North West Frontier Province of Pakistan is being pushed back and prevented from taking Kashmir. Jawaharlal Nehru, the first prime minster of independent India, has arrived in Kashmir. Sheikh is the emergency administrator of the state and Palladium cinema and the buildings in its neighbourhood are the offices of National Conference.[6]

The open space in front of Palladium cinema in the heart of Srinagar has been consciously chosen as a place for Nehru, dressed in a long sherwani and tight pajamas, to address the people of Kashmir. Sheikh Abdullah, sitting in the chair right next to Nehru, is raptly listening to the latter.

A wooden table, on which Nehru stands, has been placed atop of a large wooden rostrum. The border of the rostrum has been draped with namdas (tasseled woolen Kashmiri mats embroidered with multi-coloured yarn). People, mostly senior workers of the National Conference, the local political party with secular ideals that Sheikh Abdulla headed, are seen sitting along the border of the rostrum or peeking out at the stage from the buildings in the surroundings, and even from the windows of Palladium Cinema itself. Two furled flags drooping from two poles posted at the two front corners of the rostrum belong to National Conference and India. (Anyone looking at these flags in this condition for the first time cannot recognize them only from their visible narrow portions.) The one on the right belongs to NC. It has a white ploughshare painted on a red background. NC and its leaders were influenced by socialism, thus the red in the background as seen in the flags of all communist regimes around the world. Only the ploughshare, as Kashmir had mostly farmers than labourers, replaces the hammer-sickle combo. Palladium’s involvement in this political activity can be located in the megaphone sprouting from its façade right above Nehru. And then there is a life-size portrait of the Sheikh on the top left side of the façade. In the portrait, he is riding a black horse and holding his party’s flag in his right hand.[7] Here, a centrally located cinema, which is a site for public entertainment, is backgrounding a stage set for a political activity. The partial obstruction of a space with another or merger of two different spaces with different identities complicates both their identity and meaning. The ordinary people, who have been reported to attend this event as a “huge crowd”[8], listening to Nehru’s speech are not in the frame. Hardly any photo of this occasion available on the internet has included the addressed. There is no explanation as to why that has not been done but it connotes that either the photographer(s) couldn’t imagine them as indispensible part of the frame’s space or that they have deliberately been excluded. But the photo will always stay in the formative social memory as politicization of a source of amusement. Henri Lefebvre expounded that “the experiences that subjects have of space and the ways in which they activate those memories are never linear”. Artistically, if not politically, a photographer’s gaze habitually sees reality and space in terms of imaginary frames. The photographer of Photo 1 here may not have been conscious of his political role while taking it but with his/her inevitable subliminal sense of posterity and response to exclusion, the image created in his/her camera will produce varying effects over time.

The purposive partial framing of the Palladium cinema in Photo 1 is to give space to the adjacent building, from the right, to include the factor of importance to Nehru’s speech: people are perilously hanging from its windows and peeking over the gathering from above. Nehru’s speech is seemingly encouraging Abdullah and authorizing him as the future leader of Kashmir. It is this famous speech in which the first Indian prime minster is on record to make a promise of holding referendum in Kashmir. These are the times during which Palladium is coincidentally, metaphorically screening a Bollywood flick Kismat (Destiny).[9]

Seven years later, the same Nehru would send Sheikh Abdullah to jail for eleven years, during which time the former would rearrange the political anatomy of the state.                                                                                               

Photo 1 is intriguingly the most significant in this study. It’s the earliest picture of the Palladium cinema, taken fifteen years after its establishment, archived in Google Images. There is no image available in the archives that could show the movie-lovers darting the cinema between 1932 to 1947. In fact, Photo 1, the first picture available, shows the cinema in a political light rather than social. Andrew Whitehead, a senior journalist from the BBC, blogged that the Palladium was known more for its political importance rather than its social. He wrote that “it is historic because of its political importance”[10].

Photo 2: Circa 1947.

Palladium would witness the Bal Sena march—one more intriguing political activity in 1947. After the invasion of tribesmen from NWFP, National Conference mobilized the youths of Kashmir for a nationalist movement. Young boys were organized to volunteer against the invasive tribals. This army of youth scouts was called Bal Sena (Boys’ Army)—words borrowed from Hindi language. Those seen in Photo 2 above are carrying wooden 303 demo rifles. The ploughshare of NC is painted on the left side of their cloth caps. Some boys stand on the concrete traffic beat podium instructing those standing on the ground. Now, here, the most important feature to observe is their uniform. Members and volunteers of Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), the extremist Hindu organization that supplants the ideology of BJP, the ruling political party in present India, have the same uniform: white shirt, khaki shorts, black shoes and khaki cloth caps. Pertinent to say that RSS was founded much before 1947, therefore, the imitation of the uniform can be directly attributed to the ideals of fascism in India. “The Bal Sena drilled with wooden rifles in the shadow of the cinema building,” writes Whitehead in his blog about the cinema. The word “shadow” explains it all, the political possessiveness of the cinematic space.

The angle from which this photo has been taken and the frame to which it has been fitted appear to be intentional. Though it is a long-shot of the cinema, and unlike Photo 1, which could not have possibly avoided the cinema as background, the angle here in Photo 2 could have been shifted even to the extent of 180 degrees—which is diametrically opposite to the angle from which it has been taken—and the Palladium as background could have seen totally avoided or excluded. Cutting to mid-long-shot of the boys with guns here in Photo 2 is an act of conscious framing. It is a calculated adjustment of a level to give space to the full visibility of the cinema in the background, acting also as headroom to them.

The photographic essence of the cinema carried as a political imaginary in the photographers’ minds, right from the times of Photo 1 taken in 1947 to the latest one, taken by the narrator, determines the frequency of its representation.

Photo 3: Circa 1979.

This was a usual spectacle outside cinemas in Kashmir whenever a new film was released. This photo is the only proof of the times when no manipulation to the cinematic space could be seen. Everything here in the surroundings of the Palladium perfectly and pertinently adds to the meaning and identity of the cinema. It is an apt portrayal of intimacy—a social spatialization of the cinema, being claimed with the fervour it deserves. Whitehead in his blog wrote of the times this photo was taken in that “the Palladium went back to doing what it was built to do—show films”. The important words in his sentence are “went back”, a perception denoting how much and how long the cinema was politically engaged until this time. The crowd gathered in front of Palladium includes Kashmiris from all faiths: Muslims, Pandits and Sikhs. Sikhs in the photo can be recognized from their turbans. Every image is a memory-image since photographic technology produces a visual archive of the past events. Psychoanalyst Sigmund Freud called the camera “an extension of human memory” because of its pervasiveness as intentional or unintentional preserver of memories. But there is a difference between social and political framing of photographs as memories. Mention or thought of “memory” is primarily and sometimes exclusively an emotional, social and nostalgic concern rather than a political. Memory is a voluntary visual impression being created for remembrance rather than for mere reference. The approach to eventuality of political as visual is more of archival and less of memorial. Even the other photographs studied in this work seem to be responses of photographers to archiving consequences of violence and politics rather than intentions or decisions to create memories.

Photo 3 is the only photo in this corpus that will be viewed and marvelled at more than the others due to it being constitutive of those historical elements that evoke social memories and nostalgia. Essence of presence of an existence is in its loss or in the absence of its being. The viewers who have either, realistically or photographically, visually experienced all the manipulations of Palladium will be intriguingly more pained to see this photo.

Usually on the first show of a newly released film, every cinema junkie had to jostle for a ticket. And there would always be people called “Blackers” who would acquire tickets much in advance and peddle them illegally for an exorbitant price as the demand would determine. “The most famous ticket blacker for Palladium was called Ismail,” says Bashir Ahmad (age 60), an avid movie-goer.

In Photo 3 some men standing, one behind the other, on the front, located almost in the middle of the photograph, are either seemingly furtively staring at the person who has taken the picture or covering their mouths with their hands. These men could easily be suspected for blackers on any given show day. They would go around and repeatedly mutter the word “tickets”. The inquiring sly gaze with which these men regard their awareness of being photographed in Photo 3, and then the speculative context in which they can be regarded as blackers, make this photo an “affection-image”. “Affect is like the expressed of the state of things, but this expressed does not refer to the state of things, it only refers to the faces which express it,” Deleuze wrote. For Roland Barthes too there is always a connotative message, an additional meaning to what a photograph usually denotes.

On the first-day-first-show occasion it was almost impossible for anyone to reach the ticket counter. Not only because of long beelines but there would be viewers outnumbering tickets or seats. Muhammad Ismail and Muhammad Abdulla (of Dalgate, Srinagar), the latter being the longest-serving gate-keeper of the Palladium, had always a tough time to control the crowds trying to nudge their ways in.[11]

Now these two men—and maybe there are more who are not visible in the shade or in the crowd—seen here in Photo 3 appear to be exclusively conscious of the presence of the photographer or of themselves being photographed. But there could be other reason as well. During the time the photo was taken, the glimpse of a photographer or a camera outdoors was rare.

The angle from which the photo has been taken has ensured the visibility of a hotel that was never before seen in earlier pictures of the cinema. The blue Coronation hotel has for a long time been synonymous with the Palladium cinema. “On the ground floor of the building, housing the hotel, there was a Bata shoe shop and a restaurant, always thronged by the cinema-goers,” reminisces Bashir Ahmad.

At the bottom left corner of Photo 3 one can see a portion of an auto-rickshaw’s roof. During the time the photo was taken, auto-rickshaws were the favourite means of private transport after Ambassador or Fiat cars which were very exclusive. Auto-rickshaws readily waited outside cinemas to ferry the movie buffs. The Palladium did not have a parking space. The gates of the main hall opened directly onto the road or to the open space occupied by the crowd.

Off late, after 1960s, the most unique feature of Palladium cinema that has always remained hitherto is its blue mosaic pillars, in the centre of its façade, lined with sky-blue and white tile fragments called chips. Masons arranged these chips in a jigsaw method on a layer of raw cement. Up until the ’90s people in Kashmir used chips on the interiors of kitchens, bathrooms and verandahs.

Photo 4: Circa 1990/1/2/3.

The response of the Indian state to the 1989 armed uprising against the state was dense militarization of the region. State’s rule of law was challenged in Kashmir and the result were human rights violations and the absence of justice. Spaces too fell victims to the situation. Due to violence, all cinemas including the Palladium in Kashmir shut down in the beginning of ’90s. The outcome was what we see in Photo 4 above. Kashmir became a “state of exception”. Ace political scientist David Harvey professed that “occupations, revolutions, resistance movements propelled by ‘exceptional’ subjects can alter and defy the spaces of power and subvert the given order.” He asserted that the exception did emerge not only where sovereign power suspended the rule of law but also through the “spatial practices of rebellious or contestatory individuals and groups”.

This elevation extreme-long-shot of Palladium in Photo 4 is a deliberate attempt of the photographer to portray the emptiness and desolation. The focus here is not on the cinema alone but on its surroundings too. This image precisely exemplifies how an intimate space becomes anonymous. This is the only photo in this group of photos that actually shows the vastness of the space that the Palladium had around itself. It gives a cue about the size of the crowd that must have gathered in front of it for Nehru’s speech. “Chinar Shade”, a blog on literary and cultural writings in Kashmir, called the crowd as “mammoth gathering”.[12]  The main reason of the Palladium’s vulnerability to politicization and violence was—what Whitehead also mentioned in his blog—its “key location and iconic political history”. Composition of such a frame, that partially includes the vast space of the road almost proportionate to the space of the photo occupied by the buildings, is intentional. The photographer has emphasized on the desertedness rather than on the Palladium. In the online archive of Goolge Images Photo 4 is relatively hazier than all other images of the Palladium from 1990s. It is not a deliberate rendition since every photographer strives to take and produce as clean images of reality as possible. But an effect of photographic conditions, quality of the camera used, lighting and other factors, like going of an image through computational processes and techno-chemical reproductions, can impact their clarity. Since all photos, except Photo 5 and 6, studied in this ecphrasis belong to an era when images where manually produced and chemically developed, they are scanned or photographed duplicates of the original. All these pictures of the Palladium have been taken in natural lighting conditions only.

Nothing is known about the persons who took them. There is no credit-line attached to them. As such in Google images they are anonymous.

The early 1990s in Kashmir were replete with government-imposed curfews and sprawling of bunkers over the city. The first bunker that was built close to the Palladium can be noticed in Photo 4 at the bottom right corner. Also a semblance of two men-in-uniform can be found there close to the bunker with a conical tin roof: Two khaki-clad men standing between the bunker and the right-side entry to the cinema. All the streets surrounding the cinema are empty and all the shops and windows are shut. The space for movie posters on the façade of the Palladium is blank. And then on the top middle of the photo, far behind the building that housed the Coronation hotel once appears an empty roost that is supposed to be a perch for pigeons. The area behind the building is called Kokar Bazar. In the ’90s Kokar Bazar was a hub of pigeon fanciers.

The space that the photographer has consciously chosen to show the desertedness is because the Palladium was the only place in Lal Chowk[13] (Red Square, named after the Marxist, socialist Kashmiri intellectual gatherings in the tea houses and cafes of the place), the centre of Srinagar, where the road is the widest. Therefore, framing of emptiness and desolation here was possibly the deepest.

Photo 5: Circa 2018.

In 1990s, the abandoned buildings in Kashmir were taken over by the Indian army and turned either into camps or bunkers. All cinemas in Srinagar—Neelam, Firdous, Sheeraz, Broadway and Palladium—were occupied by Border Security Force and turned into torture camps and interrogation centres. “Soon, the arrival of the Indian army in the valley saw some theatres turn into military garrisons,” writes Aijaz Nazir in his report on the present condition of Kashmir’s cinemas in Al Jazeera.[14] People witnessed army bringing blindfolded men into the Palladium for interrogation and torture.[15] In his feature on the cinemas of Kashmir, Rayan Naqash in Scroll.in stated that by 1994 the venues of entertainment in Kashmir had become some of the most dreaded places—“homes to camps formally known as interrogation centres but more commonly known as torture chambers”.[16]

In 1985, the state government expressed displeasure at the screening of the film Loin of the Desert at Regal cinema in Lal Chowk.[17] The film is based on the Libyan armed uprising against Italian colonization. “One of the youths inspired by Loin of the Desert was Muhammad Yasin Malik, Chairman, Jammu & Kashmir Liberation Front,” writes Khalid Bashir Ahmad. Many from the first batch of JKLF militants were inspired by Mithun Chakraborty the famous Bollywood actor in India whose hairstyle and acting “shaped their militant mien”.[18]

Also, the shadow of the Indian military on the Palladium had already fallen on it much before the ’90s. In 1970s the cinema screened regular shows of South-Indian and Bengali films, especially for army and paramilitary personnel posted in Kashmir.[19] But still on the other hand the dislike of functioning of cinema can be attributed to the logic that amusement and entertainment cannot happen simultaneously with mourning and solemn struggle which the Kashmir of 1990s was fraught with. Journalist Jameel said that while the government wanted to show normalcy by showing films, Kashmir’s ground situation presented a different reality. “Also people would not like to be seen enjoying movies when there is persistent violence on the streets and young boys are losing their lives,” Yousuf Jameel told Al Jazeera. “The focus of the Kashmiri journalist has also shifted from covering culture and tourism to counting dead bodies,”[20] he remarked. Hilal War and Syed Ali Geelani both in separate statements have asserted that the Hurriyat (the separatist political organization) had nothing to do with the opening and closing of cinemas but to be concerned with the Kashmir dispute.[21] MLA Engineer Rashid said that the issue of opening and closing of cinemas was much smaller than the issue of Kashmir. He wondered what reel was depicting in cinemas had been witnessed in real life.[22]

Palladium was gutted in 1993 and the possible cause was a major fire that damaged the other buildings in the neighbourhood. There is no picture of its burning available in Google Images. The only thing that the cinema still retained and continues to retain like an indelible part of its identity, after going through the violent era of transformation, is its broken façade with stubs of the mosaic pillars. The dome-shaped top is gone. Manmohan S Gowri—grandson of Anant S Gowri the founder of the Palladium—the current owner of the hall attempted to rebuild it in mid-’90s but a dispute over land lease prevented it. Immediately, the paramilitary forces of India occupied it, and the occupation continues. The gutted structure was fortified into a camp.

Invasive and occupying armies do not arrive at or operate from “designated” spaces. They, logically, saturate the abandoned spaces first and vulnerable spaces secondly. That is what this narrator has experienced and observed as a resident of a region [Kashmir] replete with an armed conflict since 1989. French philosopher Michel Foucault asserted that space was conceived and used as an apparatus for domination and control in the hands of the dominant elites and the military.

This photo demonstrates how state violence is brazenly inscribed and unfolded in a space. The ruins of Palladium have hosted the small army camp for more than 25 years now with a parking space for an armed truck and the razor-wire fencing as its regular features. But earlier there was a sandbag bunker before the double-decker concrete one, seen in the photo, cropped up in the last decade. No one knows when the rusty hoarding saying “Ce… and WAIT-N” was hung on the broken façade. There is one more on the other side which is hidden behind the double-decker bunker. The Himalayan Chestnut trees inside the building grew around the ’90s. Small portions of the wall around the mosaic pillars can still be seen here but they would eventually vanish in the next one.

The most intriguing thing here is that there are photos within the photo, a space within the space. It is a new phenomenon for those who study the Palladium camp through photos and for those who pass in front of it it in real time. The hoarding partially visible is draped with a life-size photo of a trooper holding the hand of a Kashmiri child against the background of Dargah Hazratbal which is the greatest shrine in Srinagar, preserving a holy relic, a strand of Prophet Muhammad’s hair. Such kinds of photos can be seen at countless places in Kashmir in which the army tries to show a people-friendly gesture to cover its notorious violence. Another big one, sideways close-up of a trooper against the background of the same shrine hangs limp on the concrete bunker. The Battalion name and number can also be seen under it. A twist of Palladium’s fate: the space on the façade where once Sheikh Abdulla’s life-size photo hung was the same space where posters of movies were eventually pasted. And later in the same space an indecipherable ad of something saying “Ce…” was displayed but then partially blocked by a life-size photo, of the child and the trooper, taken against the background of the shrine that Sheikh Abdulla had built. The space where once Nehru avowedly promised plebiscite to the people of Kashmir, or where once the movie buffs crowded to buy tickets, is now a bunker and a parking area for armed vehicles demarcated by coils of concertina wire. The space where once people sat rapt watching films or women enjoyed their special Ladies Gallery is now the space where nature has reclaimed itself in the form of mountain horse chestnut trees. The space where once Muhammad Abdulla, the longest serving gatekeeper of the Palladium, stood guarding the cinema is where now a trooper guards his bunker.

A middle-aged Imtiyaz had a shop near the cinema and he himself was an avid moviegoer. Years later when the cinema had changed into a military camp, Imtiyaz was arbitrarily picked up by troops and taken into the Palladium camp. He pleaded for his innocence and requested the army to release him but “they detained me and tortured me severely”.[23] Now he harbours absurd feelings for the cinema. The Palladium that was once his favourite place became his darkest nightmare. The same space is memorialized with an ambivalence of intimacy and distance/grudge. Here we encounter a hidden, direct, pain-causing physical violence used against a human being, who had intimately regarded the space where he is now subjected to violence, within the space that has been itself subjected to structural violence. Nobody except the troops and Imtiyaz himself is witness to his detention and torture inside the Palladium. There is only a testimony but too many of those who knew his intimacy with regard to the cinema, in the days when they would have known him as a film-junkie or must have seen him watching films or accompanied him to the theatre, Imtiyaz’s fact of being tortured in the same space is anonymous. At different times the same cinema, the same space, is asynchronous to itself. The common memory of a social space reconfigured into a garrison is a memory of ambivalence but the latter will always overlap the former. Many people who watched films in the Palladium like Imtiyaz are dead by now either because of natural reasons or might have fallen victims to the state violence. But the Palladium, however, in ruins, is still there. All manipulations it has gone through are calmly manifest and self-explanatory.

Photo 6: by Shahnaz Bashir on Nov 26, 2019.

Photo 6 is the latest available photo of Palladium. It is a tight frame long-shot of the cinema, intentionally taken from an angle and in a manner so as to include the building that once hosted the Coronation Hotel. Fresh brickwork evinces that the building has been rebuilt. Just in the timespan of a year there is again a change in the same space. The small portion of the wall around the stub of the mosaic pillar is gone and has been replaced with a coil of concertina wire. The red paint of the double-decker bunker has faded, and the flex banner has now been replaced with another flex sign that carries four photos depicting a Central Reserve Police Force man shaking hands with children or patrolling the roads. And there is also a writing between the photos that says “Alive and True, One Thirty Two” and “CRPF AT YOUR SERVICE”—messages trying to appropriate militarization as necessity. There are movable iron barricades on the front, painted with commercials.

The perpetual violence that has been acted upon the cinema is manifested in the photo and can be found as an externally visible, abstract reality reflecting an accumulated physical manipulation of its materiality.

The Palladium not only symbolizes but also samples a microcosm of territorial violence that has shaped wider aspects of space in Kashmir.

A space seems to perceptively and receptively embody the territorial moves of the state in various determinate forms and ways which may collectively in themselves be dissonant but are commonly a consequence of the state of exception. For example, the various political forces of the state in Kashmir like National Conference (Sheikh Abdulla), Indian National Conference (Nehru) and now the BJP (Narendra Modi), however contestant over time, have equally practiced both personal and structural violence to the Palladium in both the realms of politics and militarization.

In 2017 the state government decided to convert the ruined structure of the Palladium into a heritage site museum but the plan fizzled out.[24] After the August 5 abrogation of Article 370, that scrapped a special political autonomy of Kashmir, Times Now reported Indian Prime Minster Narendra Modi vowing to bring back cinema to Kashmir.[25] Manmohan Gowri is trying to reclaim its possession and intending to reconstruct it into a shopping mall. By the time an absolute erasure of space happens and Gowri’s Palladium cinema becomes Palladium mall,[26] the stubs of the mosaic pillars shall keep bearing witness to the existence of the Palladium cinema. Hillman (2017) argued that “photographs modify memory, shaping it to their own form such that memory becomes photographic”.
After all the photos this narrator has seen, he is compelled to imagine a photo that doesn’t exist: A photo of a shopping mall called Palladium: with the same dome-topped façade but with a present-day exterior as seen of most of the malls in Lal Chowk, Srinagar these days.

Before any complete erasure of the Palladium cinema as a space the only assurance the social memory has of its existence is solely and solely in the space of its photographs. 

 


[1]Bashir Ahmad, Khalid. Sep 6 &7, 2018. “Kashmir’s Celluloid Years” in Greater Kashmir, Srinagar.

[2]Ibid.

[3]Ibid.

[4] “Palladium Theatre”. WikipediaQuasi ein Online Lexikon.. https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Palladium_Theatre&oldid=583375516 Accessed on Nov 27, 2019.

[5] Bashir Ahmad, Khalid. Sep 6 &7, 2018. “Kashmir’s Celluloid Years” in Greater Kashmir, Srinagar.

[6] Whitehead, Andrew. 2017. “A week in Kashmir: the cinema” https://www.andrewwhitehead.net/blog/a-week-in-kashmir-the-cinema Accessed on November 23, 2019. 

[7] Bashir, Shahnaz. 2019. “A Childhood to Insurgency” in A Desolation Called Peace edited by Ather Zia and Javaid Iqbal Bhat. HarperCollins, New Delhi.

[8] Whitehead, Andrew. 2017. “A week in Kashmir: the cinema” https://www.andrewwhitehead.net/blog/a-week-in-kashmir-the-cinema Accessed on November 23, 2019.

[9] Bashir Ahmad, Khalid. Sep 6 &7, 2018. “Kashmir’s Celluloid Years” in Greater Kashmir, Srinagar.

[10] Whitehead, Andrew. 2017. “A week in Kashmir: the cinema” https://www.andrewwhitehead.net/blog/a-week-in-kashmir-the-cinema Accessed on November 23, 2019.

[11] Bashir Ahmad, Khalid. Sep 6 &7, 2018. “Kashmir’s Celluloid Years” in Greater Kashmir, Srinagar.

[12] Blog titled Chinar Shade: Literary and Cultural Write-ups accessed it from autarmota.blogspot.com/2012/09/come-near.html  published under the titled “Palladium Cinema of Kashmir”. 2012. Accessed on November 23, 2019.

[13] Jha, Jitesh. 2017. “Palladium Cinema site to be developed as heritage museum in Srinagar” in Jagran Josh

https://www.jagranjosh.com/current-affairs/palladium-cinema-site-to-be-developed-as-heritage-museum-in-srinagar-1492575477-1 Accessed on Nov 23, 2019. 

[14]Nazir, Aijaz. 2018. “Kashmir loses its cinema halls to prolonged conflict” in Al Jazeera https://www.aljazeera.com/indepth/features/kashmir-loses-cinema-halls-prolonged-conflict-180629113815358.html Accessed on November 23, 2019.

[15]Tharoor, Kanishk; Maruf, Maryam. “Kashmir’s Palladium cinema” in The Museum of Lost Objects http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/p058gh24 Accessed on Nov 27, 2019.

[16] Naqash, Rayan. 2016. “Kashmir has lost its cinema halls but not its love for the movies” in Scroll.in https://scroll.in/reel/824328/kashmir-has-lost-its-cinema-halls-but-not-its-love-for-the-movies Accessed on November 23, 2019

[17]Bashir Ahmad, Khalid. Sep 6 &7, 2018. “Kashmir’s Celluloid Years” in Greater Kashmir, Srinagar.

[18] Shah, Javeed. 2019. Shut due to militancy, valley’s movie halls are desolate https://www.firstpost.com/long-reads/kashmirs-ghost-theatres-4393023.html. Accessed on November 23, 2019. Bashir, Shahnaz. 2019. “A Childhood to Insurgency” in A Desolation Called Peace edited by Ather Zia and Javaid Iqbal Bhat. HarperCollins, New Delhi.

[19] Bashir Ahmad, Khalid. Sep 6 &7, 2018. “Kashmir’s Celluloid Years” in Greater Kashmir, Srinagar.

[20] Nazir, Aijaz. 2018. “Kashmir loses its cinema halls to prolonged conflict” in Al Jazeera https://www.aljazeera.com/indepth/features/kashmir-loses-cinema-halls-prolonged-conflict-180629113815358.html Accessed on November 23, 2019.  

[21] Roshangar, Rouf A. 2018. “Cinema halls are first fatality of militancy in Kashmir” in India Today, https://www.indiatoday.in/movies/bollywood/story/cinema-halls-are-first-fatality-of-militancy-in-kashmir-1378048-2018-10-29 Accessed on November 23, 2019.

[22] Nazir, Aijaz. 2018. “Kashmir loses its cinema halls to prolonged conflict” in Al Jazeera https://www.aljazeera.com/indepth/features/kashmir-loses-cinema-halls-prolonged-conflict-180629113815358.html Accessed on November 23, 2019.

[23] Tharoor, Kanishk; Maruf, Maryam. “Kashmir’s Palladium cinema” in The Museum of Lost Objects http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/p058gh24 Accessed on Nov 27, 2019.

[24] Nazir, Aijaz. 2018. “Kashmir loses its cinema halls to prolonged conflict” in Al Jazeera https://www.aljazeera.com/indepth/features/kashmir-loses-cinema-halls-prolonged-conflict-180629113815358.html Accessed on November 23, 2019.

[25] Dixit, Ayush Mohan. 2019. “Broadway, Regal, Neelam and Palladium cinemas: A walk down memory lane of theatres in Kashmir” https://www.timesnownews.com/entertainment/news/people/article/broadway-cinema-regal-cinema-neelam-cinema-and-palladium-cinema-a-wal… Accessed on November 23, 2019.

[26] Nazir, Aijaz. 2018. “Kashmir loses its cinema halls to prolonged conflict” in Al Jazeera https://www.aljazeera.com/indepth/features/kashmir-loses-cinema-halls-prolonged-conflict-180629113815358.html Accessed on November 23, 2019.