Knowledge production has been the hallmark of the Indic civilisation. Kashmir has held the pre-eminent position within that knowledge tradition. When we think of Kashmir, Kashyap Rishi, Abhinav Gupt, Kalhan, etc., come to mind. However, when we think of Kashmir in a Bombaiyya film, we think of romance mostly.
The scenes of lovely couples chasing each other around tall evergreens or playing snowballs singing romantic songs clog our minds.
There have been films with Kashmiri themes too. Some of them took up the issue of Islamic terrorism in bits and pieces. But The Kashmir Files, directed by the award-winning director Vivek Ranjan Agnihotri, is probably the first film about Kashmir, her history, and her people. Most of the film is based on actual events.
The film revolves around the protagonist Krishna Pandit, played by Darshan Kumar. Krishna, a student at an elite university in India, is mentored by one of his professors, played by Pallavi Joshi, to be a fiery leftist revolutionary leader. Krishna, however, is conflicted between his Kashmiri Hindu identity and the leftist propaganda that portrays Kashmiri Pandits, a minuscule minority in the Kashmir valley, as oppressors of majority Muslims.
The terrorists killed Krishna’s parents. He is being raised by his grandfather (Anupam Kher). Krishna’s grandfather wished that his ashes be scattered around his house in Kashmir after his death.
His grandfather’s death brings Krishna to Kashmir. There, Krishna meets four of his grandfather’s friends—a retired government bureaucrat (Mithun Chakraborty), a former police officer (Puneet Issar), a journalist, and a doctor.
The film documents the genocide and the exodus of over 500,000 Kashmiri Hindus in some great detail. It also depicts the barbarism and gore of the terrorist violence perpetrated on the Kashmiri Hindus.
The killing of Krishna’s father, one of the most gut-wrenching scenes of the film, is based on the true story of a young engineer named B.K. Ganjoo. When the terrorists attacked his house in Kashmir, Ganjoo hid in a rice container in the attic. Ganjoo’s neighbour and a long-time friend told the terrorists about it. The terrorists killed Ganjoo and forced his wife to eat his blood-soaked rice in front of the rest of the family, including her two young children.
The terrorists gave Kashmiri Hindus three choices—Raliv (convert to Islam), Galiv (die), or Chaliv (flee). The “Raliv, Galiv ya Chaliv” threats were announced frequently from local mosque loudspeakers. Many had this threat posted on their house doors and walls. The film shows the plight of Kashmiri Hindus who were forced to live in tents as immigrants in their own country while the rest of India remained utterly oblivious.
Veteran actor Anupam Kher, a Kashmiri Hindu himself, has once again delivered a commanding performance. His familiarity with Kashmir, its geography, language, culture, etc., makes him seamlessly transform into a giant replica of Kashmiri pain and suffering, pride, hope, and aspirations.
Pallavi Joshi has dazzled in her role as a shrewd left-wing professor who does not recognise the political integration of the erstwhile princely state of Jammu & Kashmir into India after its independence in 1947. She also uses propaganda to advocate Kashmir’s independence (Azadi) from the Indian republic. One of the highlights of Joshi’s role is her rendition (own voice) of the renowned poet Faiz Ahmad Faiz’s revolutionary song “hum dekhenge”.
Agnihotri’s direction in the film is masterful. He has done a great job getting the best from his cast and crew with diverse experience levels. The script is tight, and the story well-researched.
The film reminds us that a story not told is a story lost. Hindus of the Indian subcontinent have suffered insurmountable tragedies. Hundreds of millions of Hindus were killed by the marauding invaders and colonisers. They destroyed countless mandirs, desecrated and dismembered moortis of hundreds of thousands of Devi-Devatas. But not many know about it.
Hindus have been living with acute transgenerational trauma for over a thousand years. To overcome this trauma, we Hindus need to tell our stories of pain and suffering. The Kashmir Files is a small but significant step in that direction.
The Kashmir Files has a release date of 26 January 2022, the Republic Day of India.