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THE KASHMIR FILES - One of the most brutal chapters of our history gets an equally brutal film, made with questionable intentions. (Thoughts by Bobby Sing)

14 Mar, 2022 | Movie Reviews / 2022 Releases / ALL ABOUT INSPIRED MOVIES / Inspired Movies (Alphabetical) / Just In / T

Have always been supportive of films depicting the dark chapters of history as they rightly serve one of the key responsibilities of cinema, enlightening the young viewers. However, gone are the times when films were seriously made for spreading awareness, without being biased, depicting the reality, educating the young generation. 
 
The tragic decade of the 90s in particular, changed the entire scenario of our country, drastically affecting the vision behind our Indian cinema. That’s the reason, the last amazingly balanced attempt in Hindi films can easily be quoted as Govind Nihalani’s TAMAS presenting the actual picture of partition and its politics, without any holding back. Post the horrifying Sikh genocide in 1984, the country witnessed a chain of similar genocides and riots continuing till the first two decades of the new millennium creating communal tensions. The most recent was the shocking Delhi-riots a few years back that continued for a couple of days despite the new-digital age of communication, viral videos, social networks, and quick action force available with the police, state, and the central authorities.
 
Each of these unlawful events deserves to be told in a film focusing on the facts enlightening the public. But, it should also not use the medium as a tool to serve some personal or political interests, misguiding the unaware audience.
 
Writer-director Vivek Agnihotri tried the same in his last attempt, The Tashkent Files, but couldn’t create the buzz because of its highly fictional writing. The film was informative, having its merits, but was also a project openly admitting its bias, revolving around all unproved accusations served with a heavy dosage of fiction. 
 
Many would have failed to notice that after making all kinds of allegations in its script, The Tashkent Files ended with a slide saying “Authenticity of all these claims is not proved”. But then, who reads such revealing slides while walking out of the theater, once the film gets over. So, neither anyone read that slide nor got the exact vision behind its making, otherwise showcasing an important mystery of our Indian political history.
 
With The Kashmir Files, Vivek takes a few steps forward, making a film on the real-life events that actually happened but were never aggressively reported and opposed as they should have been in the year 1990. Here, he also takes some giant steps ahead as a director, coming up with sequences that disturb and shake you like hell, depicting the mass murders. Yes, he takes the path of cinematic amplifications to create the desired impact, but the fact cannot be denied that it all happened and nobody cared about it, keeping their mouths shut, including the media and the politicians.
 
In filmmaking language, The Kashmir Files is an astutely conceived project, specifically stressing upon its beginning and the climax. It straight away commences with merciless killings and then ends with a much more gruesome sequence, making a solid impact. And both these sections remain stuck in the viewers’ minds while walking out of the theater, which is indeed a very fine strategical conception in directorial terms.
 
The message of the lesser-discussed events of those unforgettable, dreadful days gets effectively conveyed with these sequences fulfilling the informative purpose of the film. Plus, the effort gets decent support from its cinematography, background score, and the cast featuring Mithun Chakraborty, Prakash Belawadi, Atul Srivastava, Puneet Issar, and Darshan Kumar in the lead, along with Anupam Kher excelling them all.
 
But the problem lies in the film’s middle part, in which Vivek incorporates everything he has been writing in his continuing tweets since last few years, targeting the opposition and the minorities.
 
Stating the key questionable features, a big part of the film revolves around a university modelled on Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU). The writing portrays all students of the university as unaware, misguided fools and represents the entire teaching fraternity through only one (lady) professor and no one else. The professor (well-played by Pallavi Joshi) openly addresses the students supporting Kashmir’s separatists’ movement in the campus and is even shown to be in direct contact as a close associate of Kashmir’s terrorist leader. So, the entire JNU, its students, and the faculty get painted black throughout the film with no sign of any positivity or nationalism. Vivek even uses the infamous Azaadi song and Faiz Ahmed Faiz’s popular nazm, Hum Dekhenge for this purpose, forcibly bringing in the university in his story progression.
 
Just like the professor, the film also has only one terrorist leader in focus and everything happens under his instructions right from the very first sequence. Using a similar yardstick, the whole community is painted black, including kids and women with not even a single positive character representing the sect in the entire film. Following the same narrative, while the director truthfully depicts the exodus and mass killings of the Kashmiri Pandits, he silently skips the mention of all those non-Hindu Kashmiris who also got shot while raising a voice against the terrorists or for helping the Kashmiri Pandits.
 
The making is very clever as it neither names any party nor any specific leader staying away from Kashmir politics. The whole film keeps focusing on the disturbing killings, repeating them at regular intervals, constantly reminding the viewers about the inhuman brutality. But the script neither discusses the politics nor takes some names as it was relentlessly done in the director’s last film, The Tashkent Files. The act of not prominently mentioning the ruling party, the alliance, the governor and their power, capable of stopping the heinous killings, strongly points towards the actual intent of the film.
 
At one point, the director also brings in the reference of Article 370 (in only one scene) and even mentions how in the present times, every minority is feeling scared of the current government and its leaders, giving a loud and clear message from the silver screen. 
 
In other words, The Kashmir Files is certainly a carefully devised film that brings forward an important but largely ignored chapter of our history spreading awareness. But its intent doesn’t appear to be only that, putting it bluntly.
 
The point of intent also brings us to the question that why such films are made and with what vision?
Relating it to our basic education, just think for a while that Why HISTORY is taught to us in schools in the first place?
 
If you ask this question to the general public, then the most common answer would be that history is taught to make us aware of the mistakes of the past, so that they don’t get repeated and we have a better future ahead learning the essential lessons.
 
The answer is certainly right, but it is also incomplete, missing the most important aspect of such education.
There is a specific reason behind teaching history in schools and it is done with immense responsibility of shaping the logical and balanced thought process of the next generation. 
 
History is rightly taught to make us aware, but it is done with an extreme caution that the knowledge of the past should not disturb the present or future of the innocent youngsters.
 
History of an awful past is never taught with a motive of adversely affecting the young minds.
It is never taught with the motive of instigating an urge of vengeance amongst the youngsters.
History is taught to make them aware and not angry.
History is taught to make them see the mistakes of the past and learn, without feeling the hate.
 
History is never taught to create tension among the students, pushing them into the pool of bloody hatred against the other communities.
It’s never taught to crush their future, creating hateful zombies out of them.
On the contrary, it is taught to build their future better than the past, making them more aware, knowledgeable, and intelligent citizens.
It is taught to make them understand the past, work towards logical rectifications and build a better and secured future for the coming generations.
 
In a few words, HISTORY is never taught TO PROVOKE.
History books are never written with that intent and films are never made presenting a narrative that instigates the readers/viewers to look at every person of the other community as his/her enemy or a conspirator. And if any book or film gets made with that kind of evil motive, then that’s irresponsible writing or filmmaking, putting in a conscious effort..
 
Sharing an evident example, the most responsible way the history has been written and taught to the next generations can be seen in Sikhism. The Sikh history has the most recent events of clashes resulting in bloodshed between Sikh Gurus and the Mughal emperors, in which the Gurus and their families were inhumanly tortured and murdered, including their innocent kids. But not even one single sentence in the thousands of pages of the Sikh history books makes you feel any hatred towards the other community. At times, I feel amazed to notice this divine quality of Sikh history books written by some exceptionally blessed souls following an exemplary balanced, spiritual and futuristic vision.
 
Working on the same vision, an animation film on Sikh history titled CHAAR SAHEBZAADEY became a huge success in the theaters released in the last decade. People cried watching the torture of innocent kids and killing of Guru Sahib's family. But the film spread love and not hate. Nobody felt any hatred witnessing the truthful depiction. The tears were all there but without any hate because the film was never made with that intent.
 
Quoting similar examples from Hindi cinema, one truly feels stunned, shocked, and awful, going into an introspective mode after watching Govind Nihalani’s TAMAS made in the late 80s. But the film (released as a TV series) never fills you with disgusting hate towards the other communities in its five-hour-long duration.
 
The same happens when you watch western films made on the holocaust like SCHINDLER’S LIST. They make you feel for the victims, the saviours, and force you to think hard. But never turn you into hateful beings, ready to kill the other as a revenge. While watching such films, you never feel uncomfortable noticing a person from a different community sitting along with you in the theatre.
 
Taking the most recent example, while watching SARDAR UDHAM (SINGH), you go through a sea of emotions witnessing the mass murders in Jallianwala Bagh and feel for every single person being killed in the ground. But the film still doesn’t portray every Englishman as a demon, working against every single Indian and the country. The presentation fills you with anger against the officers misusing their power, but it doesn’t blame the entire English community for the genocide portraying an extremely balanced narrative.
 
That is intelligent and responsible filmmaking conceived with a constructive mindset, with the only motive of spreading awareness among the viewers.
 
A visionary filmmaker’s purpose of making a film on the dark hidden or lesser discussed chapters of our history is to rightly inform the youngsters about the ugly mistakes of our past, but without disturbing their thought process or further widening the gap between the communities.
 
Such films are made to raise a healthy social debate amongst the people in which the mistakes of the condemnable past are duly accepted feeling the regret, along with inspring them to collectively work towards a better and peaceful future. That is and has to be the only motive of any creative medium remembering the past.
 
However, here, it doesn’t seem to be the vision in The Kashmir Files and the film repeatedly makes you feel that specific intent, hampering its overall impact. While watching, one seriously feels the shocks and experiences the extreme pain felt by the Kashmiri Pandits forced to leave their houses at gunpoint in a night. But the writing continuously keeps on feeding the hate, reducing it to a purposefully made project.
 
Therefore, while the film is rightly being praised for raising a voice for the Kashmiri Pandits through this medium like never before. It is also rightly being criticized for its selective narrative, intentionally playing the hate card.
 
On a personal note, the Kashmiri Pandits exodus strongly made me recall the Sikhs genocide in 1984 which also had a similar scenario when everyone remained silent, letting it happen, including both the authorities and the opposition becoming a part of it. 
 
Just like the Kashmir incident, in Delhi too, the question remained that while the people in power did nothing, why did the opposition remained silent when this was all happening right in front of their eyes? Why they didn’t raise a voice and stop the murders on the roads on the first day itself, silently contributing to the genocide? 
 
Just like the Kashmir incident, in Delhi too, the houses of Sikhs were secretly marked and lists of Sikhs’ residences were reportedly distributed to the mob, giving them the exact locations. And nobody did anything to stop the open massacre on the streets for over 3 long days.
 
The mention also reminds me of a dialogue in the film, wherein Mithun loudly says, “It was not an exodus, it was a genocide”. The dialogue got applause in the theatre, appreciating the right choice of terms.
 
But then it also made me think that what if this was a dialogue in a film made on 1984 Sikh Genocide, showcasing a Sikh leader saying, “Those were not any riots, it was a genocide”. In all probabilities that would have not resulted in any similar applause in the theatre, as here, the attacking community was not the same.  
 
Adding further, The Kashmir Files also follows the exact format of a brilliant film revolving around the Sikhs genocide, titled AMU, directed by Shonali Bose. In AMU too, a young girl suddenly gets some undisclosed information about her past (related to 1984) and she starts searching for her roots, going through the old journals, meeting several people in Delhi. However, while watching AMU, you feel no hatred towards any community, which is how such films essentially need to be made, constructively contributing to a peaceful future.
 
Coming back to the theatre experience of watching The Kashmir Files, it was very strange to see a contradiction in its public response. Though the film had all the shows housefull for the day with a good advance booking too, but many still left the theater during the lengthy monologue in the film just before its appalling climax. The monologue (by Darshan Kumar) is quite long, testing your patience but it does present some interesting references of the cultural history of Kashmir and its importance.
 
Interestingly, while walking out of the theatre, I found two boys blaming Congress for the exodus and the brutal killings in some strong words. They sincerely assumed that it was Congress ruling the country at that time, because of the non-disclosure in the film and their half-knowledge, most probably gained from the social networks. When I told them about the facts, they were surprised and quite confused. One of them had an honest thinking mind, and he started finding words for his thoughts after remaining silent for a while. 
 
When we were about to part, he said, “In case we consider Congress as the root cause of this issue during its ruling years, then from whom we are asking Justice in the present? – From the same people who were amongst the rulers at that time of the exodus……..! And if now we have the same people in power for the last many years, then ideally the justice should have been already served long back. Why it’s still lingering on and why we are still asking for Justice when the Congress is no more in the scene and has already lost most of its ground?”
 
The boy certainly got disturbed by his logical thinking but had concluded a strong, valid point. Moving towards his bike, he said, “Sir, I think this subject needs a deeper study and just a movie made with a specific motive cannot make me reach any conclusion. I would definitely like to read a lot more, digging deep into the past through all the reliable resources.”
 
His words gave me hope, and I said, “That’s exactly supposed to be the purpose of making movies depicting history, brother. Such cinema is not made to conclude things by giving a judgement. It is made to make you think and explore, raising questions about the past, without blindly following any smartly polished cinematic narrative. So, you have rightly watched the film and gained a lot from it”. 
 
As the boys parted, I looked at the crowd coming out of the theatre and thought, how many of these would have an urge to know more about the past taking a positive clue from the film? Perhaps not even five percent. Sadly, the present world has successfully conditioned us into too eager, restless souls, who quickly like to reach a conclusion just by watching a film, a viral video, reading a news clip, or going through a blindly forwarded whatsApp message, taking it as the divine gospel truth that can never be false. The impact can easily be seen in any show of The Kashmir Files studying the immediate public response and their collective voice.
 
In reality, there is a lot more behind the screen that has to be discovered by an individual making his or her own study. But who has the time to go through that process in the present world of momentary attention?
 
Yes, The Kashmir Files shows the real incidents and Justice has to be given to all the Kashmiri Pandits and their suffering families, constantly asking for it since the last three decades. The film strongly reminds us of that. But that Justice also remains awaited by the victims of many other genocides in the country involving Hindus, Sikhs, Muslims, and Christians looking towards the authorities with hope.
 
Summing up, the discussion with the young boy gave me hope and hope is all we have praying for a better future for our kids, wisely moving ahead of this ugly religious hatred. And I am using the phrase ‘ugly religious hatred’ as a young witness to the bloody Delhi genocide of 1984 that came back to my memories watching the barbaric torture of Kashmiri Pandits and their families. Such devilish incidents are not meant to be repeated and we together have to work towards the same as a nation. 
 
Rating: As a cinematic project, the film surely deserves 3/5 (with the special mention of the key performances).

But then, HATE can never be the message of any story, book, film, or creative expression depicting history, it has to be JUSTICE.
Because the moment it stresses upon HATE, the creation doesn’t remain creative anymore, moving into a completely different zone.

Tags : THE KASHMIR FILES Review by Bobby Sing at bobbytalkscinema.com, New Hindi Films Reviews by Bobby Sing, New Bollywood Movies Reviews by Bobby Sing.
14 Mar 2022 / Comments ( 13 )
Vishnu Mahesh Sharma

The youth you encountered was indeed half read otherwise they would have known that a phenomenon of this magnitude cannot be steered in a single night on this scale. Yes, VP Singh led government was at the center back then but if I am not wrong he the oath of the office in December 1989 and exodus started a few weeks before it albeit at small scale culminating and reaching an unfortunate peak on January 19, 1990. So the center had less than a month to assess the situation that was triggered well before they assume the office. And prior to that Congress leaders used to have meetings with people like Yasir.

The governor was originally appointed by the Congress who was re-appointed by the center considering the gravity of the circumstances. Sending a new governor, not familiar with the territory and its politics would have dome much more harm. Also, had it not been for the governor it would have only been genocide, even exodus would have not been possible.

I am not saying that the then government did the best what they could have done but they certainly did their best in controlling the damage that had already been inflicted upon on innocent people.

But I agree with you on the point that non Kashmiri Pandits were also targeted and became victims and their representation is almost absent from the feature.

And depicting minority as villain, sir, they did not come from Pakistan. They were also residents of Kashmir. They were neighbors of Kashmiri Hindus. Had the majority of the minority been in their human elements, no one could have pulled of a communal atrocity of this scale. But because the majority of the minority, back then for those few years (reiterating myself BACK THEN FOR THOSE FEW YEARS), was completely brain washed and riding high on vicious communal sentiments, we have this ignored, neglected, unreported, less discussed, ill discussed, abandoned and unfortunate chapter as part of our history. So entire minority can be the villain if the story is being told from a KPs point of view. Had the same story been told from the minority’s point of view we might have seen KPs as the villains holding offices of power and denying the minority their rights and deserving opportunities. So it is the narrative lens that projects someone a hero and someone else as a villain and everyone has a right see it through the lens he wants to see it from.

Having said that I am not trying to make a case against Muslims. I strongly feel the same way for Gujrat riots as well. And there it was the majority of the majority who were, back then for those few months (reiterating myself BACK THEN FOR THOSE FEW MONTHS), politically intoxicated by a well-engineered rioting machinery.

How unfortunate it may sound but both instances would not have occurred without huge number of common people putting a blind eye to their human conscience and letting the brutal, violent and communal animal instinct emerge as its replacement. So depending upon whose story it is, any can be a villain- Majority of the majority or Majority of the minority.

Bobby Sing

Hi Vishnu Mahesh Sharma,
Thanks for writing yout detailed comment sharing your thoughts. 
Keep Visiting and Writing in.
Regards

Sandeep Dwivedi

Such a balanced view! You thought and made us think at the same time. Keep it going sing saab. ,

Bobby Sing

Many loving thanks Sandeep.
Regards

Abhishek Kumar

Sir, I agree that movie was made with a set narrative or in other words you can say a "PROPAGANDA" but can't deny the truth that was depicted. It is upto a viewer's mind how he takes the call after watching a movie, but completely giving a clean chit to a minority group under the umbrella of "SECULARISM" is also not good. The film rightly targeted the group that was too be held responsible for the incident. The Rice scene and the Last scene can be treated as the evidences how brutal someone can be. And these are just few, many you have also gone through in the history of Sikhism. People have mentioned that the terror one has felt the movie doesn't have 10% of it. If the KPs can't have revenge or the justice for the genocide, may be showing the harsh reality to the audience in such a way could do.

About the Tashkent Files, I agree that movie was also targeting the Congress Govt., but if we go by the book "Mitrokhin's Archive - The Indian Chapters", there are evidences that how INC was in deep influence of KGB and was like a puppet to them and how Indira Gandhi(VANO) was given suitcases of money as a reward of treating her chair over the National Security. Also, I know the last slides put a question mark over the authenticity but also on the INC's dignity too.

Lastly, I would say that these are just my views or you can say a conflict of interest. But making a chaos for the movie that we have seen on news channels and social media, is not what I will support.

Thanks for providing the platform to express and share opinions. 

Bobby Sing

Thanks for sharing your valuable thoughts Abhishek.
Keep Visiting and Writing in,
Regards

Kuldeep

Overall again a spin around try to shade down the pure truth and facts in the movie. Article is nothing but sensless mixture of fake facts wrapping and paraphrasing some clear facts which are already visible in the movie.

Totally unappreciated. 

Bobby Sing

Thanks for experssing your views disagreeing to the review.
Respect your opinion and appreciate your gesture of reading and writing the comment.
Regards

Kedar Nakadi

The same thing I was telling my mother after watching it together. Khayalat milte julte he hamare 😊

Bobby Sing

Many thanks for reading and sharing an appreciative comment.
Keep Visiting and Writing it.
Regards

Sourajit Banerjee

First you must read Quran and then Haddis. After that you should go visit some Masjids in India, Bangladesh or Pakistan. Then you should interact regularly with Islamic Clerics, Scholars and Islamic Scientists. And then you should go and interact with some intelligent youths from the peacful community who belongs from Mewar/Mewad, Aligarh, Kanpur, Kashmir, some from Delhi, some from West Bengal, some from Assam and some from Kerala. I can bet you your 1 Month's expanse that you will change your view about this Movie, the peacful community, Art, History and all other gibberish you wrote.
No Offence!

Bobby Sing

I think you missed reading about what I wrote about Sikh History and the way its taught to the next generations.
Anyway you shared your opinion and I shared mine. We differ in opinion and that difference should be accepted and respected too.
No offence.

Dr. Khyatimaya Tripathy

I have always been a fan of your reviews. The way you review after looking at every point of view, it is a very advanced work in itself. I am a researcher of political films and I know you have got the right review. I appreciate your review. Those who have no knowledge of politics and who have not seen a single political film are commenting in support of a propaganda film. Nothing to worry sir. Your work is so nice. Keep on. Respect for you always. 

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