A short film promoting tourism in Kashmir has drawn over one million views on Facebook within the first 24 hours of its launch by Jammu and Kashmir chief minister Mehbooba Mufti.
The video — Warmest Place on Earth — that focuses on the hospitable nature of the residents of the valley was launched by Mufti in Srinagar on Saturday evening and shared by her as her first ever tweet on Sunday evening referring to it as “Kashmir, our home.”
The five-minute video has a Kashmiri song with powerful lyrics playing in the background, which is written by Indian Administrative Service officer Shah Faesal. As the video captures the natural beauty of Kashmir, Sahibo sung by Mudasir Ahmad and Vibha Saraf talks about loss and solitude.
The film, a confluence of serene shots from the valley, brings to the fore the experience of a young couple on their first trip to Kashmir. The couple is hosted by a smiling Kashmiri ‘guide’ who is by their side right through the day — from finding the prettiest boat for a ride on the shimmering Dal lake to clicking photos as they visit one place after another.
To the couple’s utter amazement, it turns out the elderly man was not Mir—the guide they had hired—but a stranger who was out to buy sugar for his wife and helped them explore his home.
“I am happy that the song written by me is drawing attention,” said Faesal, the 34-year-old bureaucrat, currently posted as managing director, JK power development department.
Faesal, the first person from the state to top the civil services examination in 2009, has been in the news since his selection. Last year, he lashed out at the media for “pitching one Kashmiri against another and breeding more alienation” in the valley in the wake of unrest over the killing of a Hizbul Mujahideen militant, Burhan Wani, in 2016.
“On top of everything else, it will help draw tourists to the valley,” Faesal added.
The tourism sector, which is a significant contributor to Jammu and Kashmir’s economy, adds 8% to the state’s gross domestic product. The sector employs over 100,000 people, directly and indirectly, according to approximate industry estimates.
In 2016, the state recorded the arrival of 1.29 million tourists.
Tourism figures for the valley have had a direct link with its law and order situation.
Kashmir was a favourite among national and international tourists until 1988, with over 700,000 arrivals. But in 1989, an armed violence began in the valley and the numbers dropped by 200,000.
There has been a decline in insurgency-related violence in recent years in the valley but the rise in street violence, mostly stone-pelting, has again scared away tourists.
“The film highlights how an average Kashmiri reacts when he receives tourists and how he hosts them,” said Mahmood A Shah director of Tourism Jammu and Kashmir.
The video has also been shared by filmmakers Karan Johar and Imtiaz Ali and actor Alia Bhatt on social media. Ali, who shot his films Rockstar and Highway in the valley, in fact, recalled his experience of how as a Class 9 student he was moved by the hospitality of a local in Kashmir.
“This short film truly captures the essence of Kashmir!!! The warmest place on earth! Please watch! ??” Bhatt tweeted.
Produced by Jaibeer Ahmad for J Walter Thompson, the film is directed by Amit Sharma.
In May, the state government promoted Jammu and Kashmir as an all-season destination suitable for adventure sports with a video The Land of Ultimate Adventure featuring Ladakh. Before that, the tourism department promoted the state as an enchanting destination in 2014 as Paradise on Earth.