‘The Kashmir Files’ is hard-hitting, unforgiving won’t let you look away, Entertainment News

With Anupam Kher, Darshan Kumar, Mithun Chakraborty and Pallavi Joshi

Directed by Vivek Ranjan Agnihotri

Rating: ***

‘The Kashmir Files’ hits home. It’s an angry outraged film, at times choking on its own bile while going the extra mile to target the vile, at other times failing to differentiate historical fact from its dramatic interpretation (more on this later).

It’s impossible to say what Agnihotri is most angry about: the actual genocide (a genocide, not an exodus, we’re repeatedly told) or his whitewashed subversion by the architects of Indian history.

Twitter review of ‘The Kashmir Files’: Netizens call it a heartbreaking story everyone should watch

Why is so much literature available on the Holocaust of the Jews and not on the genocide of the Kashmiri pundits? Director Vivek Agnihotri loves a solid conspiracy theory. He sunk his teeth in an earlier in The Taskent Files, claiming to solve the mystery of Lal Bahadur Shastri’s sudden death during a visit to Taskent.

This movie was the sleeper hit of 2019. To call “The Kashmir Files” a sleeper hit would be inappropriate, politically and otherwise. The growing impact of the film indicates movement rather than an anomalous event. The story that comes and goes in a back and forth movement lets us “see” sick.

Besides, this film is too much of a wake-up call to be a ‘sleeper’ or otherwise. Agnihotri spares us none of the brutality the pundits faced when they were told to leave their homes overnight. Convert, die or leave became the slogan of the pre-planned pandemic pogrom. What the massacre of the militants aimed at was nothing less than a cultural cleansing. Another slogan heard repeatedly in the deafening and provocative drama is “Without Hindu men, with Hindu women”, which unfortunately means that the bestial jihadists wanted to kill the men and impregnate the women.

It is a vile and deplorable thought, which any rational mind would reject. Agnihotri recreates the sheer madness and monstrosity of this period, not missing a single opportunity to use the hammer effect.

In an early sequence, a little girl hands a rose to an Indian army officer who, seconds later, is ambushed and shot dead by assassins on bicycles. Yes, shock value is highly valued here. So I take you quickly to the climactic butchery where 21 pundits are shot at close range in the center of the front one after another.

But my question to Agnihotri is: why the numbers? Why is the narrative so occupied with the number of people massacred? If you repudiate the statistics published by the government on the death toll, your “authentic” figures are also subject to debate.

The Kashmir files would have worked better if they had avoided provoking horror and disgust by the numbers. The idea the film puts forward – of an entire belief shattered by fundamentalists – is so overwhelming in its implications that the numbers no longer matter.

What really matters is the impressive credibility Agnihotri brings to the polemical drama.

There are long passages of conversations deconstructing the genocide story between four old friends played by Mithun Chakraborty, Prakash Belawadi, Puneet Issar and Atul Shrivastava, the latter embodying the “press-titute” line of thinking so popular among a section from the Indian right who conveniently blame historical disinformation on the media.

These behind-closed-doors conversations lend a chamber-piece aura to Agnihotri’s Kashmiri conversational carpe-diem. It’s not until the narrative kicks into action that we feel the full impact of seething rage coursing through the narrative’s vital organs.

Anupam Kher, a senile pundit from Kashmiri who dies fighting for his people’s right to return home, has a very emotional moment as he sits munching a biscuit outside his tent in a refugee camp while in the distance we hear the voice of an old woman singing a Kashmiri song about homesickness. I wish there were more such moments of controlled angst.

Pallavi Joshi as an academic recounting the notion of azaadi in his brainwashed students is delightfully ambivalent. But it’s Darshan Kumar as a young, impressionable third-generation Kashmiri pandit who steals the show. His perfect monologue on the illustrious history of Kashmir experts at JNU, sorry, MNU, will be remembered by history.

I’m not sure how history will judge ‘The Kashmir Files’. It will depend on who is in power on Judgment Day.

Wiley C. Thompson