I have been watching the reviews and comments flowing back and forth on The Kashmir Files , getting involved only when I found people questioning the facts of the events . All I wanted was people to give it a fair neutral watch and then rip it to pieces or praise it as needed . But the deluge of posts calling it a propoganda or hailing it as a saviour of Hinduism without watching it are the ones I am not interested in , although I admit that I got sucked into those discussions a couple of times , because both have an agenda that I am not interested in .
As a Kashmiri Pandit I am glad that this movie was made because it captures our lived memory ….. memories of our family and friends .
A generation of people who were with us did not know the detailed facts , a generation of people born after 1990 have not probably heard about it or care about it anymore . And Kashmiri Pandits have spread all over the world carrying on with their lives and remembering the pain only once in a while .
I have seen my grandmother’s generation pine and cry for ” Panun Kashir “( Our Kashmir) since they knew no other life and adjusting to a harsher weather and different life style at that age was difficult for them , I have seen my parents reminisce about their youth and ancestral home which is forever denied to them now , I have seen my father miss his childhood home which he can never show to his grandchildren and the finality of it all when it was taken over and burnt down by terrorists , I have heard people reliving the terror of those days and nights when their school friends and neighbors turned up outside their homes shouting slogans asking them to vacate their homes not meeting their eyes in a crowd but not hesitating to show their faces too , I have heard about their terror of listening to loudspeakers broadcasting ” Convert or leave , but leave your women behind ” everyday from masjids and their midnight escapes in cars and lorries with just a few belongings leaving homes and livelihoods behind frightened of being stopped and killed any moment .
And then there were unfortunate ones whose misery would not end as their hard earned means were unavailable to them . So from palatial homes they were reduced to living in tents at the government camps overnight and had to undergo the humiliation of registering themselves as a refugee in their own country and wait for a packet of food when just a day back they had stores of food available to them.
The government in state and centre and media downplayed the events terribly . 24 people in a village were lined up and killed one day , shot point blank ,but it was not front page news in national media . Social media came later but by then decades had passed and it was old history for all . But not for people who were living that exile .
A new generation was growing up in Kashmir branding the exodus as work of Jagmohan the governor and people were buying into that story . Our history was already becoming a propoganda , a myth . Meanwhile the killers openly gave interviews confirming that they had killed without any repercussions . Infact they were wined and dined by powers . Even the Supreme Court of India failed us citing a technicality although courts are opened at night for terrorists .
The Kashmir Files won’t change anything for us , except tell our story and maybe provide catharsis to the few survivors . A generation has wept it’s way to their graves and won’t see this though .
Vivek Agnihotri is not the best director to tell this story for many people including me but he is the only one who has done so in 32 years so then maybe he is . It will just be a record for this generations and next generations so we may forgive but not forget our history . The next generation of Kashmiri Pandits kids who are growing up with no link to their homeland and getting their news from social media may keep the stories alive and not forget and be able to say in future that it happened , it really happened . Silence would mean having to defend the horrors by survivors all over again as it is happening today .
I had to brace myself to watch The Kashmir Files though , it is a tough watch . A lot of events , horrors , politics is thrown at you. The story is too close to me emotionally to do a fair review but I will try to list what I liked and what I did not
What I Liked in The Kashmir Files:-
- The fact that this story is being told , it has been long overdue . While I get that this movie does not show both sides sometimes movies about genocide don’t eg Jews have a history of financial oppression which the holocaust movies don’t talk about . And this happened to Kashmiri Pandits without provocation from them
- The use of kashmiri dialogues and songs in the movie some of which made me cry .
- Good acting by the cast . Anupam Kher , Pallavi Joshi and Bhasha Sumbli live their roles .
- No camouflaging of raw events because sometimes everyone needs to be shocked to start a dialogue and if you want to know all events shown in the movie about Kashmir are actually toned down and not exaggerated . Many worst incidents were not shown at all though one heard references to some of them in the dialogues
- The terrorist and terror organization is clearly mentioned by their names
- The complicity of political parties and media is shown
- The background score that Kashmir was the cradle of Indian civilization was enumerated in the pre climax speech that most Indians do not know about because it is not taught in our history books
What I did not like in The Kashmir Files:-
- Heavy handed direction and in your face political views could have been more subtly woven into the script . It needed to be raw and honest but not preachy.
- The use of Mussorie terrain to depict Kashmir although some scenes were shot on Dal Lake but maybe shooting in Kashmir would have been a safety issue
- Black washing whole of JNU . JNU in the last decade has done many questionable things indeed but is an institute with long history
- combining all terrorist organization into one maybe for convenience
- Pallavi plays an amalgamation of media personalities like Arundhati Roy and JNU professor Nivedita Menon and the univ. scenes were again combined from various incidents . Clubbing everyone and everything under one person loses authenticity somehow
- Similarly all atrocities were clubbed as if they happened to one family . The director highlights the horrors but fails to show the scale of the tragedy
- Pakistan’s involvement in the whole conspiracy was not shown clearly nor was the politics of Abdullah family which created the discontent in Kashmir to begin with .
- There are always good people everywhere although it was difficult to find them in our neighbors but others did . In case of any genocide religion plays the crucial role but if we want a dialogue and non Hindus to see the movie and not make them uncomfortable ,questions needed to be raised and left for viewers to decide where we went wrong as a nation