In the breathtaking valley of Kashmir, a new generation of ambitious women is breaking barriers and creating their own paths.
From small-scale businesses to startups, acting, modelling and entrepreneurship, these women are seizing the opportunities and making a mark in a rapidly-changing landscape.
In the wake of the abrogation of Article 370, which granted a special status to the region, Kashmiri women are venturing into Mumbai, the heart of the Hindi film industry, known as Bollywood, to try their luck in acting.
Bollywood has long been associated with nepotism and familial connections, according to insiders. However, Mateena Rajput, a resident of North Kashmir, is poised to make her mark with the highly-anticipated release of her debut Bollywood film 'Welcome to Kashmir'.
Having already worked in the Tamil, Telugu and Marathi film industries, Mateena is ready to make her Bollywood debut.
The budding actress revealed that in the film, she portrays a courageous young woman dedicated to women's empowerment and fighting for justice.
"My character in the movie revolves around my passion for visiting every college and school for girls in our nation, inspiring them with my talks, and providing them with safety advice," Mateena said.
She firmly believes that women are inherently resilient, but often fall prey to societal pressures.
Proud of her Kashmiri heritage, Mateena expressed her gratitude for the opportunities she has had to represent Kashmir on various platforms.
"If we choose to view Kashmir through a positive lens, we'll realise its immense beauty. We need to embrace a positive perspective," she said.
While acknowledging that Kashmir has often been portrayed negatively in Bollywood films, often associated with promoting terrorism, Mateena is committed to showcasing her homeland in a favourable light.
"As a Kashmiri artiste, I understand the weight of my responsibility and always carry the spirit of my homeland with me. Others may have their preferences," she added.
'Welcome to Kashmir' tackles several important issues, including youth's involvement in drug abuse and the empowerment of women. Additionally, the movie highlights the positive aspects of tourism and hospitality.
What sets the film apart is its unique nature as a Bollywood Hindi feature film produced and directed by Kashmiris themselves. The film is a dream venture for its filmmaker, who hails from Sopore.
The film not only marks a significant milestone in Mateena's career, but also showcases the talent and potential of Kashmiri artistes in shaping the narrative of their homeland on a grand stage.
"Mateena Rajput's journey is an inspiration for every woman who dreams of making her mark in the entertainment industry. Through her debut Bollywood film, Mateena is not only entertaining audiences, but also addressing important social issues, making a meaningful impact through her art," said Neha Gupta, a film critic.
"Her ability to bring depth and authenticity to her characters is a testament to her versatility as an actress," she added.
"Mateena Rajput's on-screen charisma is unmatched, leaving audiences spellbound with her magnetic presence and captivating performances," said Maya Kapoor, an entertainment columnist.