Vivek Agnihotri’s latest addition The Kashmir Files has been in the limelight since its release. Without any doubt, it is an instant commercial and critical success. And of course, the credit goes to the director and actors who shouted out for the exposure in a very controversial manner. But when we review the film on the merit of the story, it is nothing more than a propaganda film concocted with half the truth of the 90s Kashmir exodus without any given background.
The summary of The Kashmir Files
The Kashmir Files is set in two different times frequently switches between the 90s and the contemporary time. In the 90s, the film tells us a story about the tragic expulsion of the Hindu pandits. And Pushkar Nath Pandit (Anupam Kheer), a teacher faces critical time in the valley. The Islamic militants from the valley accuse Karan Pandit, son of Pushkar Nath of being a spy working with the Indian government. And eventually, the militants kill Karan but spare others including Pushkar’s grandson Krishna. After a tragic expulsion, the Hindu pandits relocate to Jammu where they live on government ration with a merger condition. But eventually, the Muslim militants kill them all in disguise of the Indian Army except Pushkar.
In contemporary times, Pushkar’s younger grandson, Krishna a student at Delhi’s Jawaharlal Nehru University starts to be influenced by professor Radhika Menon and decides to run for the student election. Radhika strongly believes in the Kashmir cause and makes Krishna raise the issue to the government of India where he accuses them of the Kashmir condition. After Pushkar dies, Krishna gets back to his ancestral land for the funeral activity as the person’s death wish. There he meets a person who reveals the truth about his parents. He knew that his parents died in an accident, but comes to know about the truth. Back in Delhi, Krishna gives a speech for the presidential election of the university where he perches about the condition of the Hindus living as victims in Kashmir.
Right Marketing Stunt for the Right Audience
The Kashmir Files is a low-budget film that did not have much marketing budget, according to the director Vivek Agnihotri. Yet they have pulled off the film’s marketing in a very effective manner.
At a promotional press conference, the director raised questions about the film industry accusing promotional shows. He said they are not invited to any promotional shows like the Kapil Sharma shows. He also accused, that many TV shows along with the media demand money for promotional purposes.
On the other hand, the story itself is a big pitch from the director to the right audience. Meaning, India is now ruled by the BJP, a Hindu populist government critical of other religious minorities. Modi’s government is always lashing out to Muslim communities in India making people believe that Hindus are at risk.
When this is the situation, The Kashmir Files gives the Hindu fanatics another reason to victimize themselves. Similarly, the film’s narrative has become a rage among the BJP hard-liner because it highly promotes the BJP ideologies. Furthermore, several state governments like Bihar, have exempted the tax over the Kashmir files. So, it also worked as a marketing tool for the producers.
Kashmir issue is one of the most critical issues in the world and it is not easy to resolve. So, it needs several points of view to understand the situation. But when it comes to films like The Kashmir files, the issue is seen from a single point of view which is devastating for the commoners living in Kashmir.
The Kashmir Files is a Propaganda Film
Vivek Agnihotri took a point of view and made the film as propaganda to hold all Muslims in contempt. And to reach the whole nation, BJP seems to help him by tax exemptions in several states.
As we have already said that the Kashmir Files is about the Kashmir exodus that caused expulsion to Kashmiri pandits in 1989-1990. At that time, more than 399 people were killed by militant groups. But this number has always varied from person to person.
But according to the film, the number is even more. Besides, Vivek is blaming Congress, human rights organizations, Naxal sympathizers, and Muslims in most cases. Similarly, the film also blames the then Prime Minister, Rajiv Gandhi for everything that happened to the Kashmiri pandits. But the fact is, the director has never used any background story in the film where many Muslims also gave their lives.
So, the film has taken some facts and concocted the whole story to promote the Kashmir issue. The half-truth and the distorted story make the Hindus victim while Muslims are the terrorist which is a very similar view of the present BJP government.
In the missing background, the half story is actually different. Maybe he missed the point that the BJP backed VP Singh was in the power of Delhi from 1989 to 1990 as the 7th Prime Minister of India. On the other hand, Jagmohan Malhotra was the governor who also supported BJP and joined the party after his retirement. So, whatever happened between 1989-1990, how could he hold Rajiv Gandhi accountable and not the BJP.
Not just this, whenever and wherever, the BJP government was in power, there has been communal violence. Thousands of Muslims died but Hindus who supports RSS became the victim.
There is no denying that the tragedy of the Kashmiri exodus is true but how it has been scripted in The Kashmir Files does not fit into the real narrative. Rather, Agnihotri has picked up his own narrative and succeeded. And without any doubt, currently, he is the most famous filmmaker that BJP was looking for.
The Kashmir Files as a BJP Tool for Weaponizing Kashmir Exodus
The Kashmir Files shares an exactly similar viewpoint on Muslim and Kashmir issues like BJP. And this film is a tool for BJP to weaponize the Kashmir Exodus for the further massacre.
We can clearly say that Agnihotri shares a similar viewpoint as BJP and this movie is propagated to hold his grudge against the Muslim community and other communities who do not believe in RSS ideologies. According to his approach, he wants the common people to believe that all Muslims are terrorists in Kashmir and they want Hindus to convert to Islam which is a very BJP way of presenting Muslims in India.
Moreover, how the BJP ruled state governments are promoting the film and providing facilities including tax exemption, we can clearly say, BJP has found its favorite director. Even PM Narendra Modi is not away from praising the film, which he has not done in a long time.
This propagating technic is not new though, we have seen some other Indian films like this. For example, Thackeray (2019) was a propaganda film that promoted Shiv Sena. Similarly, Hollywood has taken the same path to promote and inject nationalistic propaganda through films long back. But we have also seen this similar technique from Nazi Germany. In 1935, Hitler’s party also promoted the documentary film Triumph of the Will by Leni Riefenstahl. Entire Germany was united by the film in support of the second world war. The film was so good that till today, it is a masterpiece among propaganda films.
As India is moving forward led by the Orange Gang, propagated by films like The Kashmir Files, a Muslim genocide is not far. In 2020, Arundhati Roy rightly said in an interview to DW, ‘BJP has a genocidal behavior towards its Muslim population’.
One-Sided Characterizations Missing Human Eye
Vivek Agnihotri has intentionally set all the elements one-sided but brilliantly. As we have seen this is a propaganda film, so he had to do what he did to reach his objectives.
The exaggeration of bloodshed and torture of pandits is a great camera work intense on its own merit. On the other hand, actors have also done a great job. Pushkar Nat played by Anupam Kher is on his best as he always does. Besides, Mithun Chakraborty also did his best to support the same nuances of Pushkar Nat.
Film’s lead role Krishna played by Darshan Kumar works like a rebellious yet confused BJP fanatic. Despite his little understanding of the complex Kashmir issue, he incites the students at Premier university modeled for JNU. It is not possible for anyone to understand the complexity of the Issue by visiting and taking photos of Kashmir, but he did. And we can relate him to the director himself. Who knows, maybe Krishna is Agnihotri’s distant self-portrait.
However, the characterization of the movie has been brilliant yet the storyline made very easy to understand. The BJP’s favorite director, Agnihotri has just lightened up the very critical Kashmir issue with a conventional BJP way. But a director should not do anything this way because it can cause a lot of damage on the nationalistic level.
The depiction of many Muslim leaders in the film was very fictitious despite the fact that it was made on an actual event. On the other hand, there is no mention of any Indian Hindu politicians in the Pandit exodus in the film despite there being many who provoked the situation.
When it comes to the representation of Muslims in the film, the moderates vanished. I mean there are no moderate Muslims in Kashmir other than militants which is a simple way of showing everything as “us vs them”. Of course, it is brilliant but only for BJP supporters. It will definitely help to inject a more exploitative manner to flame the already embedded hate. And in this case, the director has done a very good job than his previous movie “Hate Story”. Indeed, The Kashmir Files is a true hate story.
In response to the dialogues, Agnihotri might have shade some light on the complexity of the Kashmir issue, but he did not. Rather he has just put anti-Muslim rhetoric which is missing the main purpose of the film. Moreover, a really good film without propaganda has a good human eye, which is totally absent from the Kashmir Files as well.