27 May 2022 16:14
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 A REVIEW – THE KASHMIR FILES: By keeping silent we are complicit, twice over 

The empty eyes, blank faces, blistering heat, tents... And India’s silence.

“Where were you in 1990?” my son asked curiously when he saw us shell-shocked and teary-eyed on our return from The Kashmir Files.

“We were here in Delhi,” we mumbled. “In fact, I distinctly remember sitting on the bed with you in my lap and watching the monthly news video, News Track, where Benazir Bhutto bloodthirsty and hoarse gesticulated cutting up into pieces, the then Lt Governor. 

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“Jag-Jag-Mo-Mo-Han-Han and the chants of Hum Kya Chahete? Azaadi!” that had frozen my brain with fear at the time – till I heard it again during the CAA Protests when it brought back a flood of memories, this time, enraging me no end.

How they taunt us, were my first thoughts and that anthem Hum Dekhenge that pierced the veneer of the sham that we call Secularism in our country.

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The Kashmir Files; Image Source: Supplied

“Yes, I remember clutching you tight as news filtered to us of family and friends leaving with whatever they could leave for Jammu and other parts of the country”.

“Yes, I remember every story, every murder and the insult of it when TV anchors in newfound celebrity shine justified it all in smooth, dulcet tones”

The empty eyes, blank faces, blistering heat, tents…

And India’s silence.

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Vivek Ranjan Agnihotri’s brave, brilliant film The Kashmir Files smashes our complacence, fist-finds-the-jaw moment that shakes our well-oiled first instinct of hunker down and shut up.

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The Kashmir Files; Image Source: Supplied

The Kashmir Files tells it, as it is. The filmmakers don’t distance themselves from the usual disclaimers. On the contrary, they proudly and defiantly claim ownership of their research and dedication to the subject. 

For those who experienced it and survived. For those who were connected but not present and for those who are vaguely or not aware at all. The truth cannot be ignored after this – ‘No Moving On’, here. 

Till we confront our history and break The Circle of Burden our children will inherit a legacy of being victims. A legacy that perpetuates crimes borne in the past and expected to be taken on the chin in the future. 

Besides the technicalities and the sophistry of cinematography, the art in filmmaking lies in storytelling that draws the viewer in so completely that he belongs to it and the story becomes his.

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The Kashmir Files; Image Source: Supplied

The characters are people you think you know, in this case, you probably do, and every emotion becomes yours. 

Anupam Kher’s Pushkar Nath Pandit sears through the heart. He could be your grandfather, or that old uncle you heard of, who trekked in a Kafila leaving behind land, home, orchards in 1947 and so many times thereafter in our history of riots. ethnic cleansing and genocide. He encapsulates the history of India and in its recent avatar, a Kashmiri Pandit who pines till the end for his home.

In Darshan Kumar’s Krishna Pandit you recognise your own children, their peers. Young people, because of our own cowardice in confronting the truth know so little about who we are, who we were and can be. He is the child you hold close to your chest and hope your heartbeat tells him tales, that you dare not. But only once the vice-like grip on your own silence is prised open can he claim ownership and acknowledge his roots. The final monologue is a piece de resistance to which the actor does full justice. 

Quiet but powerful Basha Sumbli’s Sharda represents the civilisation of Kashmir with its trauma and courage. A role played with pathos, subtlety and simplicity that has a sledgehammer effect.

In Pallavi Joshi’s brilliant portrayal of Radhika Menon, I recognise my own sweetly manipulative professors of ‘ANU’ as Censors now want the university referred to, in the film. Looking for cracks, feeding on the confused and gullible …The danger these people pose is no less than those who carry guns. 

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The Kashmir Files; Image Source: Supplied

Chinmay Mandlekar’s Bitta bites you as it did every time you saw his evil face on your TV screens, feted by politicians and celebrity intellectuals, all the while his lazy eye mocking their stupidity.

The dilemma of a section of the establishment that witnessed the unfolding of the genocide and later the exodus is ably represented by Mithun Chakraborty, Puneet Issar, Prakash Belawadi and Atul Srivastava. The mesh of past and present is untangled, thread by a thread through them, while they question their own motives.

The Kashmir Files is a film that India cannot afford to ignore.

May a thousand Vivek Ranjan Agnihotri’s bloom! May our stories, written in blood, resound in every corner of this planet. 

By keeping silent we are complicit, twice over.

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Author: Nandini Bahri Dhanda is an Interior Architect. She has lived across sixteen states in India & travelled all over the world. Her interest in art, culture, history politics & above all a passion for communicating & chatting with people across the board, finds her voice in her blog.

Disclaimer: The review was first published on her blogspot, We have republished it with kind permission from the author. You can read the original copy at https://nandinibahri-dhanda.blogspot.com

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