Vivek Agnihotri’s new film ‘Kashmir Files’ holds special previews in the U.S.

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Writer and Director Vivek Agnihotri discusses his film ‘Kashmir Files’ at ITV Gold Studios in New Jersey.A special preview of the film was held in Queens Nov. 27, 2021. Photo: ITV Gold
Producer and Actor Pallavi Joshi of the film ‘Kashmir Files’ speaking to ITV Gold. A special preview of the film was held in Queens Nov. 27, 2021. Photo: ITV Gold
National Award Winning Bollywood Actor Mithun Chakravarty talks about his role in the film ‘Kashmir Files’ at ITV Studios. A special preview of the film was held in Queens Nov. 27, 2021. Photo: ITV Gold.

A special preview of the upcoming Indian film, ‘The Kashmir Files’ directed by Vivek Agnihotri was held November 27, 2021, at the Bombay Theater in Queens, New York. Organized by the Global Kashmiri Pandit Diaspora in association with I Am Buddha Foundation, special previews of the film will be held through November 27th through January 6th, 2022 in several U.S. cities in Texas, Georgia, Florida, Massachusetts, California and more.

ITV Gold host Jyotsna Sharma during the interview with the producers and actors in the film “Kashmir Files” at the ITV Gold studio in New Jersey. Photo: ITV Gold.

Speaking to ITV Gold, part of Parikh Worldwide Media group which includes News India Times, Desi Talk and Gujarat Times newspapers in print, the makers of the film said they expect the film to touch not only Indian Americans but also people in general.

According to information provided by writer-director Vivek Agnihotri, the film is set to be released world wide on 26th January. The actors in the film include eleven main characters portrayed by Mithun Chakravarty, Anupam Kher, Darshan, Pallavi Joshi, Punit, Atul Srivastava, Chinmay Mandlekar, Bhasha, Prakash, and a small child Prithviraj. “This is a collective film in which everyone had put a tremendous effort. All of them have become the characters they are playing. None of them have remained the actor,” Agnihotri said.

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“Hollywood films have brought important issues to the front,” Agnihotri said. “There has been no film made in India on Kashmir or about Kashmir. People used to dismiss it as a conflict zone and forget it,” Agnihotri explained. “So I thought of making a film and I thought of starting to show it in the U.S. on the global level, so that the policy makers of the U.S., the intelligentsia, the narrative builders of the U.S. understand the importance of the issue,” he said.  The pre-release long tour will include screenings, special shows at Columbia University, on the Capitol Hill, at Howard University, and many more impact events.

Padmashri recipient Dr. Sudhir Parikh, left, and Actor Mithun Chakravarty, right,
during preview of the film ‘”Kashmir Files’” Photo: ITV Gold.

Agnihotri, who has also made ‘Tashkent Files’ earlier, said “The name ‘Kashmir Files’ follows my earlier film,” adding, “‘Kashmir Files’ is part of the trilogy that I am making. The subject of Kashmir was chosen because Kashmir is an integral part of India, like other states.” “Just like the U.S. has Harvard University or Silicone Valley, similarly, Kashmir was the Silicone Valley of the first millennium,” he said. “Gradually, due to politics, from the partition till now, whatever has happened there, is not known by the common man in India or outside India. People say, “Kashmir is a conflict zone” and then forget it,” he added.

Speaking of the research into the subject, Agnihotri said he and his wife Pallavi Joshi had been doing research on the subject for four years. “We found the truth about the pain of the people there, the problem there, and felt how the story of Kashmir is such an integral part of humanity,” he said. Producer and actor Joshi said, “Our research on the subject began in 2019. “We reached out to the first generation victims and their families. No one had earlier done long interviews with them in the manner of the long war tribunals,” she said, adding, “A lot of people do not know how big the issue of the Kashmiri Pandits is”.

Speaking further of their research, Joshi said, they connected with members of the huge Kashmiri Pandit community in the U.S. “We used to conduct 4 to 5 interviews in a day and there was not a single interview which did not make me feel like crying. We collected a number of stories at the end of a month – month and a half, after which I realized that it is one thing that these people did not get justice in the past thirty years, but it is another thing that no one even listened to their stories,” she said.

Joshi, who is India’s National Award winning actor herself said that in the sixties and seventies, Kashmir was glorified in Hindi films. “Every romantic song was picturized in Kashmir. Every hero and heroine wanted at least one song of theirs to be picturized in Kashmir,” she said. “And yet, the moment some activities began there, everyone left Kashmir as if it never was a part of India,” she said.

“So we said this is our duty. Aren’t Kashmiri Pandits Indian? God forbid, if such an incident happens in Gujarat, or Maharashtra, or any other state, would we leave them there,” she asked. “So this film has to be made. And the way they narrated their stories, all those incidents should be part of the script of the film,” Joshi said. “Thus, the decision was part of our research and then there was no turning back. I believe no such film has been made in the past and I feel that no one will make such a film in the next few years on Kashmir,” Joshi affirmed.

National award winning senior actor Mithun Chakravarty who also acted in Agnihotri’s earlier ‘Tashkent Files’, spoke of his role in the film. “When I read the script, I found it is not only about Kashmiri Pandits. It is about humanity. Vivek wrote a story in which he put his heart. I am an actor. I read it and brought to life that character. I want audiences to watch this film. And then it is their responsibility how much life they put into this,” Chakravarty said. “I am an actor and my job is to bring the character to you. I want to see if we have reached your heart, or we haven’t,” he said. He said he considers Agnihotri one of India’s best directors who reads a lot and has worked very hard on making this film honest. “When you watch the film, in places you will feel as if you have heard this dialogue somewhere  before. Some leader might have said this. He did not make it up. He has only brought the truth in front of you,” Chakravarty said.

Speaking of the decision to continue making the film in the midst of many questions and threats, Joshi said there were no afterthoughts or considerations about making the film. “There is a fatwa on Vivek’s name in Kashmir. We were fortunate enough that we heard about it only when we reached Bombay after completing the shooting in Kashmir,” Joshi said. “I am the producer of the film. I am an actor by profession. Our two children also now work with us and are part of the film. When I heard this, for a moment I became a wife and I realized that there is a big threat hanging on our heads,” she said.

“Vivek and I had decided one thing that we have heard one complaint of all Kashmiri Pandits that India and Indians have ignored them. But nothing will come out of just reiterating this  complaint. So we two, as Indians, have to take the lead and decide to make this film. Now there is no point in being afraid, we felt,” Joshi said. “This is more than a film for us. I feel this is our repentance of all these years of not listening to their story, of not paying them attention, of leaving the issue of Kashmir unheeded,” Joshi said. “I hope that every Indian feels that way after watching this film,” she added, saying the film was their atonement.

Referring to the threats, Chakravarty said the audience should decide after watching the film whatever Joshi as a producer and Agnihotri as a director have gone through in making this film is worth it or not. “It is very important for you to do justice to the film because your right judgment will be the justice to the film,” he said.

“There is a dialogue in the film by Mithun Chakravarty’s character, that the terrorist elements in the world want to make you hopeless and they do this by threatening you, issuing ‘fatwa’, and then people become quiet,” Agnihotri said. “But if we stand in front of them without fear, and say our say, and have the knowledge in our hearts that ultimately terrorism will end in the world, that is the real justice. And that is the message of the film,” he said.

“To add to that, I want to say that I am a very proud Indian. And I am a very big advocate of India. I firmly believe that whatever problems are there in the world today, of terrorism, of extreme consumerism, of exploitation, the answers to these are there somewhere in Indian philosophy,” Agnihotri said. And these will be seen only when every Indian, no matter which part of the world he is in, will be proud of India and brings that in front of the world, he added. “I think every Indian is a brand ambassador. And this film invokes India’s thought power,” he said.

“People always say why we don’t make films like ‘Schindler’s List’. This is our effort towards that. People will have a right to complain if they feel we haven’t done that. If people feel this is an honest attempt to address an issue, then you become the brand ambassador of this film and you take it forward,” he said.

(Interview transcribed and with add-ons by Archana Adalja)

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