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Review: Rendered refugees in their own country, based on testimonials of the survivors, the film makes a strong argument that this wasn’t just an exodus, but a barbaric genocide that continues to be brushed under the carpet for political reasons. Living in exile for almost 30 years, their homes and shops encroached by the locals, the Kashmiri Pandits (KP) continue to hope for justice and most importantly, to be acknowledged. It’s strange that not many films have broached this incident despite its gruelling impact on displaced families.
Be it any ideology, faith or suffering, voices being curtailed seems to be a common nightmare. Kashmir, a lost paradise has been grappling with humanitarian crisis, cross border terrorism, separatist movements and fight for self-determination. Once prosperous and multi-cultured, now a disputed territory that struggles to stabilise itself amidst the constant tension, its wounds run deep and The Kashmir Files rips off the band-aid. In a span of little less than 3 hours, we try to get to the truth. But as they say, every truth has two sides.
Vivek Agnihotri’s fairly graphic and explosive film revisits the exodus and its aftermath. Based on documented reports, it shows the brutalities faced by KP’s because of their religion. Be it telecom engineer BK Ganjoo’s murder in a rice barrel, Nadimarg massacre where 24 Hindu Kashmiri Pandits were killed by militants dressed in combat uniforms, or defamatory slogans. The film recreates these real life incidents and we see them through the eyes of an ageing nationalist, Pushkar Nath Pandit (Anupam Kher), his four best friends and his on-the-fence grandson, Krishna (Darshan Kumaar). Oblivious to his past, Krishna’s quest for truth forms the story.
Reopening old wounds may not offer a solution but healing can only happen once the trauma is accepted. Agnihotri goes all out without watering down the events and that makes his film an intense watch. He resorts to shock over subtlety. A rather muddled storytelling laced with a he-said-she-said narrative; doesn’t allow you to feel at one with the characters or understand their psyche. The film skims through multiple issues — Digs at JNU (Jawaharlal Nehru University), media likened to terrorist ki rakhail, selective reportage of foreign media, Indian Army, political warfare, abrogation of Article 370 and mythology and ancient history of Kashmir — all at once. Pushkar Nath Pandit and his story leave you teary-eyed but he gets lost in the clutter somewhere and the film feels more long and less detailed. More chaos, less context. Right to dissent and opposing views find a place, but those one-dimensional characters barely scratch the surface, so the exercise of striking a balance and present conflicting views feels more of a formality.
Anupam Kher’s heart-aching performance leaves a lump in your throat. As a man pining for his lost home, Kher is outstanding. Pallavi Joshi is equally effective. Given her acting prowess, you wish her character was more layered. Chinmay Mandlekar and Mithun Chakraborty are competent in their respective roles.
Vidhu Vinod Chopra’s romantic drama Shikara got flak for not being the untold story of Kashmiri Pandits as it was pitched to the audience. It however, got you closer to their culture, pain and state of hopelessness. Vivek Agnihotri doesn’t dodge the bullet. He gets the politics and militancy to the forefront. The trauma of being torn away from your home looms in the background…
Courtesy: Entertainment Times of TOI.