‘The Kashmir Files’

By A Correspondent

The Kashmir Files’ narrates the exodus of Kashmiri Pandits during Kashmir insurgency in 1990. The film stars Mithun Chakraborty, Anupam Kher, Pallavi Joshi and Darshan Kumar in pivotal roles. PM Narendra Modi appreciated the film ‘The Kashmir Files’ and spoke about it eloquently at the BJP parliamentary meeting recently. A part of the PM’s speech translated to English read as: ‘The people who claim to be flag bearers of freedom of expression have been uneasy for the last few days. The film is based on truth, art, and instead of talking about it, these people have been trying to distort it….And if someone doesn’t like it, let them make it with a different perspective. But they are unable to digest it that someone has tried to tell the truth with so much hard work. The people who live by truth have chosen to stand by it now.”

Joining the list of BJP-ruled states like Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh and Haryana, Karnataka has announced that the movie ‘The Kashmir Files’ will be tax-free in the state. The move has been questioned by a few in the film industry, who attribute ideological reasons to the largesse. ‘The Kashmir Files’, which focuses on the exodus of Kashmiri Pandits due to insurgency, is directed by Vivek Agnihotri, who is considered right-wing due to positions he has publicly held before.

Filmmaker Kavitha Lankesh says her objection is not about the language in which the film has been made. “Films that won national and international awards have been neglected and nobody is watching them,” said Kavitha. “Earlier, there was a chance that these films would be showcased on Doordarshan. We grew up watching many such films with quality and liking a Bengali or a Malayalam movie. But in this case, it is just an agenda. We could at least learn about other cultures through the films. Now, none of that matters, only the Hindutva agenda matters. These days, there are so many polarisations. Why didn’t the movie ‘Jai Bheem’ get a tax exemption? Because Dalit lives don’t matter. Only the lives of upper caste hindutvawadis do,” she said.

A senior director, who did not wish to be named, said that he did not want to comment and give importance to the movie “directed by a mediocre director and is being promoted only because it is propaganda”. Another actor said that he did not want to openly criticise the movie for tax exemption because she is worried about the backlash she could face, not just from the government but also from her colleagues in the film industry. “There is no doubt that this is a propaganda film, made by a right-winger and supported by a right wing government,” alleges senior Kannada director B Suresha. “We have many deserving films but they don’t get such exemptions. The issue is that they no longer even disguise their opinions”.

Senior film critic Muralidhara Khajane alleges that the exemption given to ‘The Kashmir Files’ shows the narrowness of politics. In the past, exemptions were given because of the greatness of films by directors like Sathyajit Ray or Mrinal Sen. A Malayalam movie Chemmeen (released in 1965) was also given exemption. In 2015, M Manikandan’s Tamil film `Kaaka Muttai’, was given an exemption in Karnataka. But the approach then was not narrow like one sees now but for good cinema.

Actor Chetan Kumar said that when representatives of the government actively support a movie like this, be it through tax exemptions or through media statements, and urge people to watch it, it is an equivalent of using the taxpayer’s money for personal or political benefit.

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Vol 54, No. 39, March 27 - April 2, 2022