In movies that had Islamist terrorism as a theme, we have seen sequences where a character will be taken to a place to show the brutality happening against Muslims all over the globe to brainwash them to be a part of terror organizations. The kind of hate The Kashmir Files generates against Muslims through its right-wing lens reminded me of the abovementioned scenes. The difference is that this brainwashing exercise is a mainstream Hindi movie now being endorsed by the government. The only aim of Vivek Ranjan Agnihotri is to whitewash the amendment of Article 370 and blame Congress, and they do that with zero subtlety.
So the story is narrated from the perspective of Krishna, a Kashmiri Pandit studying in (J)ANU whose knowledge about the tragedy that happened with the Kashmiri Pandits is based on whatever is available in the public domain. He has come to Kashmir with grandfather Pushkar Nath Pandit’s ashes. And there, he realizes what exactly happened with the Kashmiri Pandits from his grandfather’s friends.
The Kashmiri Pandit issue is an extremely sensitive one, and to find its root cause, you will have to go back to the time of partition. I am not going to talk about the accuracy of the facts in this movie. But from the very beginning itself, The Kashmir Files is unabashedly flaunting its Islamophobic agenda. It is not like you will have to search hard for it. Any Muslim in the frame is either a terrorist or a terrorist sympathizer. After completely ignoring the Muslims who also lost their lives during those dark days, Agnihotri tries to tarnish the current critics of the government, which are JNU, and the left. A professor named Radhika Menon, who is a supporter of the left, is shown as this manipulative figure who has brainwashed all the students in JNU to be anti-nationals. The script here is basically trying to cover all the bullet points they have set.
Mithun Chakraborty plays Brahma Dutt, an IPS officer who is basically Agnihotri’s Schindler. Anupam Kher as Pushkar Nath Pandit is the one who gets the best character in terms of scope to perform, and he was pretty good. Darshan Kumar was just about okay as Krishna. Pallavi Joshi makes sure that Agnihotri’s vision to make Radhika Menon the epicenter of all the manipulation gets a convincing feel.
In one scene, Professor Radhika Menon gives Krishna the contact of Farooq Malik Bitta, a dreaded terrorist who killed too many pandits. And when Krishna goes to meet this guy, we are shown a picture of the professor and the terrorist at Bitta’s house. Vivek Agnihotri wanted to show that the JNU people are supported by terrorists, and this was his way to depict that. He even places the Azadi song at various places to make sure that the slogan will only have a negative image in the viewer’s mind. Whitewashing RSS, criticizing Vajpayee, calling the media the mistress of terrorism, etc., are the other things on Agnihotri’s agenda. At one point, he tries to balance it out by giving the terrorist a chance to explain his part. But he uses that track also to make the critics of the Indian Army anti-nationals. The cinematography maintains that eeriness with the dried-out color palette.
The visual goriness is Vivek Ranjan Agnihotri’s tool to hide the political agenda. If you are someone who is less aware of what happened with the Kashmiri Pandits, there is a great chance that you will easily fall for the hate politics of The Kashmir Files. I watched this movie almost after 10 days of its release. The anti-muslim video footages from the screenings of this movie and the glowing collection figures now feel like a threat to the country’s secular image. Looking at the kind of “off-beat” treatment it follows, I won’t be surprised if it gets the national award for best film.
If you are someone who is less aware of what happened with the Kashmiri Pandits, there is a great chance that you will easily fall for the hate politics of The Kashmir Files.
Green: Recommended Film
Orange: Okay, Watchable, Experimental Films
Red: Not Recommended