‘Your opponent’s film is always propaganda’

In genocide, there are only two sides: the victims and the perpetrators. 

Published: 03rd December 2022 11:14 PM  |   Last Updated: 04th December 2022 03:40 PM   |  A+A-

The Kashmir Files. ( File Photo)

The Kashmir Files. ( File Photo)

“My film, The Kashmir Files, was screened in the ‘Indian Panorama’ section at the 53rd International Film Festival of India (IFFI) in Goa. I was in Los Angeles for an urgent visit that week, so I could not attend this screening. However, Anupam Kher went on our behalf. I was later told by the IFFI management that the theatre was jam-packed and that over 300 people crammed into that small hall to make my film a festival blockbuster.

All the same, I am not surprised by the comments made by jury head Nadav Lapid during his closing ceremony speech. I have not seen his films, but I know his credentials. He is a Palestine supporter. He believes in ‘Free Kashmir’. He believes Kashmir is an occupied territory under India. What has irked me about his comments is how unprecedented it is.

Every film festival requires that the jury sign a bond with the Government of India—I know this because I have been on many constitutional juries in India—that they will not say anything to hurt the sovereignty of the nation or the feelings of its people. In fact, some jury members have said they don’t approve of Nadav’s comments. They simply didn’t know. I know from the most reliable authority that the comments approved by the management were different. At the last minute, he made changes in Hebrew.

He called my film ‘vulgar propaganda’, a ‘cinematic manipulation’. I don’t know what he means. Can you make films without manipulation? Background music, acting, cinematography… it’s all manipulation. Nadav has made an ignorant, illiterate, hateful statement. If he meant ‘political manipulation’, well, it’s a political film. Is it a crime to make political films? The issue is he believes that the Indian state has forcefully occupied Kashmir. He said in an interview that this film reminds him of the Israeli situation. He has equated Palestine with Kashmir.

What is vulgar about my film? I challenge anybody in the world to prove that the events depicted in the film did not happen. If they prove this, I will stop making movies. He said the film has ‘fascist features’. What is a fascist film? I have shown Yasin Malik killing people. He’s in prison now, having confessed to his crimes of terror. Weren’t Indian Air Force officers killed? Weren’t their pictures printed in national newspapers?

COLUMN by Nadav Lapid | The Kashmir Files is disguised as a film

When a film is from your opponent, you denounce it as a ‘propaganda film’. When a film challenges you ideologically and exposes you, you call it ‘propaganda’. I am a student of Mass Communication from IIMC, New Delhi. Having been in advertising most of my life, I can tell you that ‘propaganda’ happens in return for payment when they promote an ideology or image. The Kashmir Files talks about Kashmiri Pandits who were butchered. If you seek proof, notice that no Kashmiri Hindus live in Kashmir anymore. They all live in refugee camps in Jammu. I find it ridiculous that people cannot see something so obvious.

I interviewed 700 victims all over the world on video for The Kashmir Files. I will publish them now as a web series or a film called The Kashmir Files Unreported. People have been commissioned, and one-third of the work is over. Beyond just interviews, this film will contain literature and documentation to clear people’s ignorance. At the time when this tragedy occurred, the police stations were shut in Kashmir. When women were raped, and men were cut in pieces, there were no cops. In fact, I have testimonies from sons about their father being cut into pieces, collected in a sack, and thrown in front of a police station because it was a safe place for murderers at the time. Kashmiri Pandits ran in fear and could not file FIRs. It’s a crisis of empathy that our media, our filmmakers, and our intellectuals are doubting these facts.

I am also accused of profiteering from a tragedy. They ask what I have done for Kashmiri Pandits. I am an integral part of the global Kashmiri Pandit diaspora. They have given me a second name, ‘Vivek Kaul’. We have been helping their community since before the release of The Kashmir Files. I don’t share this because I find it vulgar. We have been providing books and clothes to children in Jagti Camp and helped them during Covid-19. We organised global fundraisers, and the donations went to a KP foundation. Even the film, The Kashmir Files, was made with our own money.

Pallavi (Joshi, actor and co-producer) and I are the smallest partners. There’s also Abhishek Agarwal and ZEE Studios. The film was sold at a premium for distribution. When people hear figures like Rs. 350 crores, they don’t understand that the shares get divided, and there’s interest to be paid. I am using the money I got to make a film called The Vaccine War. I have opened a huge research cell and employed young, hungry people. I’m grooming them so more films like The Kashmir Files can be made.

I want to ask another question—did they show the other side in Schindler’s List? My film begins with a Muslim boy saving his Hindu friend from bullies. In genocide, there are only two sides: the victims and the perpetrators. All the ‘good people’ started showing up after 1995. On 19 January 1990, nobody gave shelter to the Pandits. They fled. Have they shown this side in films like Haider and Fanaa? My film even has a dialogue at the end about moderate Muslims being killed. There were Gujjars, Dalits and Sikhs too, who were killed. Are my opponents not practising selective secularism and selective empathy? It’s time to end these discussions.

(As told to Shilajit Mitra) 

Vivek Agnihotri

Director, The Kashmir Files


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  • Sameer Soni

    3 months ago reply
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