‘The Kashmir Files’ Makes a Strong Case for Kashmiri Pandits
The Kashmir Files, Vivek Agnihotri’s latest film, depicts the unresolved wounds of Kashmiri Pandits in a gut-wrenching way. Kashmir – this one-of-a-kind place encapsulates so many opposing pictures and emotions, from majestic beauty to the heartbreaking loss of innocent life. Brutality, massacres, illusive peace, and human rights violations continue to endanger the country’s pure beauty. It’s impossible to separate Kashmir from politics, and it’s even more difficult to condense years and centuries of intricate Kashmiri history into a feature-length film.
Agnihotri’s latest film focuses on the plight of displaced Kashmiri Pandits and the events that led to lakhs of them being homeless overnight.
According to IAS Brahma Dutt, this is not an exodus but genocide (Mithun Chakraborty). It’s a phrase that appears several times throughout the film. When Pushkar Nath Pandit (Anupam Kher) attempts to inform his grandson Krishna (Darshan Kumar) about what they had to undergo as a community and family, he echoes the sentiment.
The film is based on true events and stories from first-generation victims and survivors who recount the horrific story of torture and awful violence done on their loved ones. It wasn’t simply a few isolated incidences of being threatened that drove family to flee Kashmir, but terror, which tragically had the implicit support of the then-government.
The non-linear tale gradually builds on these horrors. The cinematography of Uday Singh Mohite juxtaposes scenes of Kashmir’s stunning beauty with the frenzied haste of the horrifying bloodshed. As chants of ‘Raliv, tsalive, chaliv’ (convert, die, or leave) permeate the air, the sombre colour palette reflects the reign of fear. Some of the scenes are heartbreaking, but what makes them much more distressing is that they are based on true incidents.
The Kashmir Files begins with the assassination of Satish Tickoo, a young businessman killed by JKLF terrorists. Farooq Ahmed Dar alias Bitta Karate’s killing rampage, which spared no women or children, is likewise intertwined. Terrorists pursued BK Ganjoo, who was hiding in a rice barrel. After his neighbour tipped him off, he was shot dead, and his wife was fed rice laced with his blood. There’s also a scenario in which jihadis line up 24 Kashmiri Hindus and shoot them, not even sparing a young boy’s life.
While the first half of the film deals with what happened in Kashmir in the 1990s that led to the Pandit genoacide, the second half focuses on Krishna, whose mind becomes a symbolic conflict zone after his grandfather and friends give him a view of Kashmir that contradicts what his university professor wants him to believe.
Taran Adarsh: the film was a masterpiece and Kashmir’s most dramatic depiction to date.
In one word, #TheKashmirFiles is brilliant. Rating: 4.2 out of 5 If you’re looking for a powerful film about #Kashmir, go no further than #TheKashmirFiles. Direct, to the point, and very honest… Just don’t miss it. Adarsh posted the hashtag #TheKashmirFilesReview.
Rating: ⭐️⭐⭐️⭐️½#TheKashmirFiles is the most powerful film on #Kashmir and the genocide and exodus of #KashmiriPandits… Hard-hitting, blunt, brutally honest… JUST DON’T MISS IT. #TheKashmirFilesReview pic.twitter.com/FPnw7OidMK
— taran adarsh (@taran_adarsh) March 11, 2022
A film about Kashmir will always be political, and the conflict between two opposing philosophies is depicted. Darshan is a befuddled young man, and Krishna is oblivious of his own or his family’s history. He must seek out the truth on his own. While limiting a whole university to a single ideology is overly simplistic, it does clearly show the battle lines. Everything in our highly polarised environment is coloured according to one’s political beliefs. Agnihotri deftly pits the two against one another. In one scenario, the ‘Azaadi’ slogans at AMU (which reminds me of a certain JNU incident) are linked to a grainy film of Benazir Bhutto calling Kashmiris to take up guns for their azaadi. From Faiz’s ‘Hum Dekhenge’ to characters based on Yasin Malik and Arundhati Roy, everything has a place here. Brahma Dutt IAS, DGP Hari Narain (Puneet Issar), journalist Vishnu Ram (Atul Shrivasta), and Dr. Mahesh Kumar (Prakash Belawadi) are tragic memories of how the local administration, police, and even the media remained useless and mute spectators while nothing was done to save the Pandits. Professor Menon, a Pallavi Joshi creation, is positioned as the “left liberal” separatist sympathiser lobby. As the binaries sketched attempt to oversimplify a pretty difficult problem, more nuance in writing would have provided depth.
The Kashmir Files features some excellent performances, an evocative background score, and an empathic depiction of the pain and bloodshed endured by Kashmiri Pandits.
Anupam Kher plays Pushkar Nath Pandit, a man who has spent his entire life wishing to return to his beloved nation. Chinmay Mandlekar, Bhasha Sumbli, Pallavi Joshi, and Darshan Kumar are all outstanding.
Scenes of a shikara floating blissfully over Dal Lake, even while the Valley drowns in tears and despair, are a haunting reminder of how political manoeuvrings have orphaned its own people. We have seen various sides of Kashmir over the years, from its pristine beauty and love to the killings of innocent people, human rights violations, missing men, and unclaimed bodies. The grief and betrayal felt by Kashmiri Pandits deserves to be seen and understood. Regardless of how profoundly polarised the world is today, where everything is seen through the lens of one ideology or another, the Kashmiri Pandit community deserves justice, closure, and reconciliation. The documentary The Kashmir Files makes a strong argument for it.