The Kashmir Files is an emotion, a mission, not just a film

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Vivek Ranjan Agnihotri, Pallavi Joshi, Anupam Kher, Darshan Kumaar, Puneet Issar, Atul Srivastava & Bhasha Sumbli at the press conference. Photo: Rajiv Vijayakar

The press conference for The Kashmir Files, a scathing and disturbing drama on the greatest genocide unleashed in the civilized world—against the Kashmiri Pandits way back in 1990, was in a league of its own. Held at Red Bulb, a preview studio, it was enough to jolt and chill every member of the media present.

The worst part of this calculated pogrom against a specific community was the shocking cover-up of facts and the truth by not just the media but also the state and central governments, despite the fact that all aspects of what the UN defines as genocide were there. 32 years later, one filmmaker, not caring about threats to his life or media and industry support, decided to come out with a truth even he was not fully aware of when he first thought of researching this subject.

Writer-director Vivek Ranjan Agnihotri (of The Tashkent Files fame) and his actress wife Pallavi Joshi had toured USA, UK and Germany for over 90 days, recording video testimonials of people’s experiences at first-hand, including what had happened to them, their parents, children and families. Many of these Indians, who had migrated there, have now made a prominent name and position in these countries. More testimonials poured in from South Africa, Australia and parts of India, including Jammu.

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Dignitaries and special people with credibility like the Lt. Governor, top police personnel and others have also contributed. Vivek showed 20 minutes of blood-curdling video interviews before the equally moving trailer, and stated that every scene or shot seen visually have been re-created, with even the spoken word available in the public domain of YouTube and more.

“Not a single word or scene in my film is fictitious!” declared the filmmaker, stating that this was perhaps the most unique film ever made in the world. “We have only changed the names of the victims and we have placed everything in a common timeline—this is the only liberty we have taken!”

Vivek said that The Kashmir Files was more than just a film—it was an emotion. Supplementing his statement, Pallavi revealed that while their research was going on, she would not be able to sleep in their hotel at night, also well aware that they might hear worse the next day. Vivek added that they had video footage, from which he wrote the script, which ran into thousands of hours!

Anupam Kher, who heads the cast with Mithun Chakraborty (who was absent), and is a Kashmiri Pandit himself, said, “It was extremely difficult to portray a character when what has happened to him is very real. For me, there are two aspects here: I as an actor and I as a person. If the actor in me is not good, I can never project the real pain well. We all feel various emotions, but everyone cannot act it out. So just because I am a Kashmiri Pandit I cannot play my role well unless I can project what I feel as my character.”

He added, “My character’s name is Pushkarnath, which also happens to be my father’s name! When I reached Dehra Dun for the first shoot, the atmosphere was very different from that for a normal film, and then it dawned upon me what it was to play a normal, simple man from Kashmir, which my father had been! How do I differentiate the real Anupam Kher from the actor that is Anupam Kher? What is real and what is acting? The story was too close to life, as I had heard innumerable stories from my mother, maternal uncle and other close relatives. The silence in this room now shows that the pain has reached all of you, by the jolt all have received, and that is half the battle won!”

Vivek decided to show the film in America, where an incredible 36 organizations—the World Sikh Association, associations of the Jews, Nepalis, Tibetans, Buddhists, Telugu and Sindhi community and others decided to showcase his film. “In 16 cities, we had jam-packed shows, with a stampede outside of those who wanted to watch The Kashmir Files. And all this without any press or TV coverage! In Washington DC, for the first time in world cinema history, there was a Capitol Hill Congressional reception for Pallavi and me as filmmakers!”

He added, “And do you know that even worldwide, showing the full map of Kashmir is a no-no. Even children in Kashmir have not seen it, ditto those of migrants from there in the USA. But after watching this film, people contributed money and paid for putting up the Kashmir map with mention of my film at the world’s most expensive ad site for two days!”

With justified pride, Vivek added that there was not a single negative comment after shows across 16 cities, but only tears and hugs. “We made the film as a mission. Its success shows the power and universal resonance of a true story!” he concluded.

Darshaan Kumar, Puneet Issar, Atul Srivastava and Bhasha Sumbli were also present at the meet along with producer Abhishek Agarwal (the filmmaker introduced him as a man who gave a carte blanche to make the film), Rohit Sharma, the film’s background music composer and Udaysingh Mohite, the film’s DOP.

 

 

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