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The Kashmir Files: Brutally realistic insight into Pandits' tragedy – Goa Chronicle – Goa Chronicle

By Anand Venkitachalam Score: 9.6/10 New Delhi: Finally released in theatres, director Vivek Ranjan Agnihotri’s passion project “The Kashmir Files” is a beautifully crafted cinematic experience which is exquisite in its pure depiction of raw emotion. Boasting fantastic direction and production, “The Kashmir Files” is not just a movie but a learning experience. A powerful stomach punch to the gut of every watcher, this movie is a brutal experience with its raw and no punches pulled approach in dealing with one of the most sensitive topics in today’s India, the exodus and genocide of Kashmiri Hindus.
In a very sad twist even after 30 years, Kashmiri Pandits have been living in their own homes as refugees and their plight is something that most of India either doesn’t know about, doesn’t want to know about or simply dismisses as “propaganda”. For the very first time in Indian cinema, an Indian director has brought out the true tale of Kashmiri Pandits and has done so without any sugar coating or hesitation. Corroborated by a plethora of evidence at his disposal, “Kashmir Files” is an unapologetic insight which beckons heavy introspection on part of all Indians regardless their political inclinations or religious beliefs as to why the Hindus of Kashmir have been forgotten by their own countrymen.
Following the tale of a Kashmiri Pandit student, who has himself been brainwashed into believing a false narrative of the genocide being fake and his own issues of grappling between what is true and what is false, “The Kashmir Files” presents a dark picture of not just the sheer violence that was unleashed in the period of 1990 by Pakistan-backed Islamic terrorists when rivers of blood and screams filled the once serene and beautiful valley of Kashmir and turned it into a hell scape but it also features another kind of war being carried out in Kashmir.
It is also a commentary on how, Jammu and Kashmir are targets of non kinetic asymmetrical warfare or information warfare which is carried out not just by Pakistani or international media, but also certain sections of our own society, including the media, academia, artists, students and the government itself who genuinely believe that India has illegally occupied Kashmir and promote the slogans of “Azaadi” by using a powerful web constructed of half truths and lies, thus manipulating the gullible and the uninformed.
“The Kashmir Files” is a tale laced with blood and tragedy which is haunting in its depiction of savagery and the utter contempt and lack of empathy for human life which can make you cry (for if you do you are certainly not the only one). Furthermore, for those wanting to go watch this movie it is very important to know that “The Kashmir Files” is not for the faint-hearted as it is filled with graphic violence holding no punches in showing what kind of horrific savagery was unleashed by jihadists in the Valley right down to women being forced to eat food laced with the blood of their loved ones to the presentation of the Nadimarg massacre where 24 Kashmiri Pandits were brutally murdered by terrorist under the guise of Indian Army soldiers to chanting slogans of “Ralive, Tsalive ya Galive” (Convert to Islam, die or run) or them wanting to purely Islamise Kashmir by getting rid of all Pandit men and keeping their women as slaves.
Agnihotri created the film for just one purpose, showing us the plight of Kashmiri Hindus and why even after all these years they have been denied justice — and he has managed to deliver it beautifully and completely. In spite of the range of problems it encountered, be it the media or Bollywood refusing to promote the film, or lawsuits filed against it, or even death threats being given to the director, “The Kashmir Files” is a masterpiece of movie making that is filled to the core with heart and soul and is a display of sheer, raw emotion which is backed further by an extremely sombre almost haunting and depressing score.
“The Kashmir Files” comprises a phenomenal main cast consisting of Anupam Kher as Pushkar Nath Pandit, Mithun Chakroborty as IAS officer Brahma Dutt, Pallavi Joshi as Professor Radhika Menon inspired by a real life JNU Professor, Darshan Kumar as Krishna Pandit, Pushkar Nath’s grandson, Chinmay Madlekar as terrorist and current JKLF leader Farooq Ahmed Dar alias Bitta Karate, Prakash Belawadi as Dr. Mahesh Kumar, Puneet Issar as DGP Hari Narain, Atal Shrivastava as Vishnu Ram and Bhasha Sumbli as Sharda Pandit. Each and every one mentioned here deserves great praise with all giving powerhouse performances their own right. Anupam Kher plays the role of Pushkar Nath Pandit, a Kashmiri Hindu who is a man tightly held together by his strong attachment to his roots in Kashmir and his ultimate wish is seeing Article 370 getting scrapped from Kashmir after he is driven from his house by terrorists.
He is the embodiment of every Kashmiri Hindu’s pain, their thirst for justice, their strong connection to their roots and their ultimate desire to return to their ancestral homes. He lost his son and later his daughter-in-law and elder grandson at the hands of terrorists. Mithun Chakraborty plays senior IAS officer Brahma Dutt, a close friend of Pushkar Nath Pandit, an honest man who does his utmost to help the Kashmiri Hindus during the genocide but is ultimately made helpless by the unwillingness of that time’s government and Farooq Abdullah basically rejecting the reports of Pandit genocide, as well as actively inviting and talking to separatists while curtailing the Indian government’s power over Kashmir through the misuse of Article 370. Pallavi Joshi plays the role of Professor Radhika Menon a university professor who views India as an illegal occupier of Jammu and Kashmir and is at the forefront of the calls for “Azaadi” .
Her character is essentially the embodiment of all those left wing intellectuals who have called for Kashmir independence, rejected the Kashmiri Hindu genocide, berated the Indian Armed Forces and J&K Police, opposed India’s nuclear program and the current right wing BJP government, sympathize with and actively worked to provide intellectual support to separatists and terrorists. Darshan Kumar plays the role of a university student who is Radhika Menon’s student and the grandson of Pushkar Nath Pandit, but in spite of being a Kashmiri Hindu himself he knows nothing about his ancestral home or the horrific murder of his parents and elder brother. He is actively following his teacher’s claims though counter claims from his grandfather and later his grandfather’s friends leave him confused as to what is right and what is false showing how certain sections of media and academia are able to brainwash people into believing a certain kind of narrative by using very convincing arguments even if most of them are false.
Chinmay Mandlekar plays the role of real life separatist and terrorist Bitta Karate, the current leader of the Jammu Kashmir Liberation Front who was responsible for carrying out campaigns of ethnic cleansing of Kashmiri Hindus in Kashmir declaring open war against the Indian state and wanting to merge Kashmir with Pakistan. He also displays how terrorists are able to garner immense sympathy to their cause after committing countless acts of horrific murders in the Valley by playing the victim card. Prakash Belawadi plays the role of a Dr. Mahesh Kumar who was a close friend of Pushkar Nath Pandit and witnessed the genocide first hand and is forced to treat terrorists on gun point watching them actively kill Hindu patients, as well as hear their call for Jihad against the Indian state. Puneet Issar plays DGP Hari Narain, another friend of Pushkar Nath Pandit who first hand dealt with separatist forces and terrorists in Kashmir during the period of Kashmiri Pandit genocide.
He is a friend of Pushkar Nath Pandit just like Brahma Dutt is made helpless by the weakness, indecisiveness and unwillingness of the Indian administration to tackle the problem as well with his juniors in Kashmir actively abetting in terrorist activities by not putting a stop to them. Atal Shrivastava plays the role of Vishnu Ram, a journalist who though knows of the ground reality of Kashmir but is unable to report on it. He understands that Kashmir is part of an information warfare campaign by both domestic and international media who have sidelined Kashmiri Pandits and are intent on making the Indian government as villains of the whole situation. He also had interviewed separatist terrorists like Bitta Karate.
Bhasha Sumbli plays the role of Sharda Pandit, an Kashmiri Hindu and the daughter-in-law of Pushkar Nath Pandit. She survives the ordeal of genocide for a while though she along with her elder son Shiva Pandit die at the hands of JKLF terrorists in the 2003 Nadimarg massacre. Nothing here seems over the top or fictional or overly exaggerated. This is what we have seen in the news for years now and none of these characters seem like characters of a movie, these are all real people merely being portrayed by the lens of cinema. If anything there are some very important lessons to be learnt from these characters so as to ensure that what happened to the Kashmiri Pandits never happens again in India and so that the whole nation does not have to bow its head in shame ever again.
However, for all its narrative perfection and directorial brilliance, it has some minute technical problems which while don’t take anything much from the film as a whole or just noticeable enough that they manage to stand out. Chief among them is the fact that it would seem that the director was so focused on bringing out the story of the main characters and presenting the point, that some of the side characters, the side extras mostly have delivered some extremely lacklustre performances that undercut the highly realistic tone of the movie. Though more of a nitpick than an actual criticism, for a movie which makes you feel like you are watching the depiction of real life, a side character giving a tired or disinterested performance or other issues such as hiring North Indians to play the role of a Kashmiri manage to stick out just enough to break the realism at times.
But this takes almost nothing away, “The Kashmir Files” is a solid effort which requires great guts to make, something which director Vivek Agnihotri and his entire crew have shown. The story of Kashmiri Pandits is one that the whole world needs to know and perhaps, The Kashmir Files can help start a discourse among the average Indian citizen and may even inspire other directors to broach this subject in a realistic non masala way and shed away the fear of persecution becoming the first among the many baby steps required to present a solution to this current tragedy that may one day enable to send the Pandits back to the land of their ancestors. The average media or the commercial machine may not be with Vivek Agnihotri, but the hearts of Indians are certainly going to be enraptured by this truly heartfelt, factual and passionate film on what is among the darkest periods in the history of independent India.
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