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Film adds 'fake ingredients', shatters fragile goodwill between Kashmiri Pandits, Muslims

By Jaideep Varma* 

"The Kashmir Files" is less a film, more a film template. In its essence, it uses the atrocities and violent cruelty from terrorist/militant attacks, and the grief of its victims, to very deliberately and consciously incite hatred against those from the attacker's religion.
This exact template can theoretically be franchised for films on Punjab militancy, the separatist movements in the North-East and the Naxal-Maoist insurgency as well (and given time, perhaps will be). Kashmir is the flavour of this season though, because this naked hatred can be turned against Muslims -- the pet project of the ruling party in India today (with assembly election rallies in Gujarat and HP already beginning, where this will play well).
The film's cunning lies in using actual facts as a foundation but then adding fake ingredients to the narrative's slant to skew it towards everyday Muslim hatred. So, trying to combat the film on facts is a pointless exercise in these fragmented social media times of low attention span -- as the authentic starting points are enough to bestow credibility, regardless of how fiendishly the narrative departs post that. The only thing being serviced right through the film is a residue feeling of revulsion and hatred, whose only outlet is Muslim-bashing.
It doesn't even attempt to disguise this attempt, as this Indian government becomes the first one in independent India's history to blatantly endorse any film on this scale. The PM speaks about the film in parliament, a large mass of ruling BJP leaders tweet/speak about it, the film is made tax free in several BJP-ruled states but the Assam CM truly takes the cake -- he actually exhorts government employees to take the day off to see the film and produce the theatre ticket stubs the next day as justification.
The film itself is as blatant as this intent. It equates the liberal, secular voice with militant collaborators -- like Pallavi Joshi in a somewhat outlandish attempt to replicate Arundhati Roy, making several perfectly valid pronouncements with some crazy (and cheap) ones, being eventually reduced to an unsympathetic character, designed to gaslight the liberal mindset. Hell, the film even manages to villainize Faiz Ahmed Faiz's "Hum Dekhenge" (the film is not worthy of its music even otherwise -- like the beautiful version of "Roshe", that so palpably seems out of place).
Speaking of the film, it is very much a product of its time. Borrowing copiously from the ethos of our recent popular film culture -- the shock violence of "Gangs of Wasseypur" or the trauma porn of "Sardar Udham", for example, but without the aesthetic integrity of those directors. The film's gratuitous dropping of pace at times, the long ideological forays through speech -- they artlessly demonstrate this director's pretentiousness and his palpable desperation to be taken seriously.
Ideologically, too, this is not different from Left-inspired victimhood and societal extremism of today (like in matters of gender and race) -- where the fear of innocent casualties is literally scoffed at -- mere collateral damage in such a worthwhile revolution. Well, this is how that exact same ideology looks from the extreme Right -- for the sake of that ideology, being willing to pay this societal cost.
By cathartically playing up the victim narrative for one community (comprehensively ignoring the plight of everyday Kashmiri Muslims for decades), this utterly one-sided foray into history (both recent and distant) has zero interest in silly humanist objectives such as assuaging societal wounds or finding political solutions. Which is what makes its agenda even more insidious (if not blatantly evil), as it does nothing for the Kashmiri Pandit cause in a real sense.
Ideologically the film is not different from Left-inspired victimhood, where the fear of innocent casualties is literally scoffed at
It actually increases the distance between them and the Kashmiri Muslim -- a fragile, gradually rebuilt goodwill shattered; resettlement now even more distant as a possibility. It doesn't even acknowledge the quiet resilience of the Kashmiri Pandits, who have thrived, even prospered to their great credit, despite the tragic displacement they were subjected to. Like everything else, true to character, this dispensation has selfishly used this tragedy to fulfil their larger agenda - of targeting the Muslim population.
Right through, the film focuses on the extreme (through the actions of extremists) so it feels like a genocide being depicted. The director's self-comparisons with "Schindler's List" and "Hotel Rwanda" is not just a giveaway of his wannabeness but also of his shameless dishonesty. The tragedy of Kashmiri Pandits' displacement is undeniable.
But genocide? The official number of Kashmiri Pandits dying in the last 32 years is 89 (obtained through RTI) is most probably lower than the truth, but in other accounts, it doesn't cross 1000, or, in most cases, even 300. Interestingly, characters in the film keep changing this number, as if to create this same smokescreen.
Every one of us can make up our own minds about that by asking our Kashmiri Pandit friends and acquaintances how many people they personally know (or even know of) who were actually murdered. Not those in the news, but people they actually know of. Settle it for yourself.
Given the film's overwrought residue, and startling conclusion of genocide, is it really surprising that the film has had the kind of response it has had? In these times, when on-screen murder and gore competes with social media preening, caramel popcorn and fizzy drinks in real life, everything is about the final feeling one is left with; there is simply no bandwidth for anything else. And that feeling -- the blatant villainizing of everyday Muslims -- is what the entire film pretty much riffs around.
As time will further accentuate, this is the most shameful moment in the history of Indian cinema. Till date. History will remember this.
---
*Indian writer, screenwriter and filmmake. Courtesy: author's Facebook timeline

Comments

Anonymous said…
Ok. So can Indian govt or state govt apologize for not safeguarding Kashmiri Pandits and then ensure safe return
to their owned ancestral properties. A reverse Exodus if you will. And also open an investigation to apprehend
the perpetrators of murders of the air force officers and Girija Tikoo murders please. Rest let’s Forgive. Those were too heinous
like Nirbhaya case.

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