His Twitter message and the reaction of the Twitterati to that message prompted filmmaker Vivek Agnihotri to make a film on the mysterious death of former Prime Minister Lal Bahadur Shastri. Named The Tashkent Files, the film which is likely to be released towards the end of this year, features eminent actors such as Naseeruddin Shah, Mithun Chakraborty, Pallavi Joshi, Pankaj Tripathi and Shweta Basu Prasad. Shooting for the film is over and editing is in process.
“It is an investigative drama and not a biopic,” said Agnihotri, while speaking to The Sunday Guardian, during his recent visit to New Delhi. He said that a prototype of the film was screened at the Cannes film festival.
Agnihotri, a Bollywood director, who shot to fame with his film Buddha in a Traffic Jam, has also directed films such as Chocolate, Hate Story, Zid, Junooniyat, etc. He said he never thought he would make a film on Lal Bahadur Shastri. But a Twitter message prompted him to attempt the film. “I wrote a message on Gandhi Jayanti (2 October) 2015, saying why nobody was mentioning Shastri whose birthday was on the same day. And people started writing back in large numbers. Seeing the kind of interest people had in Shastri, I though why not a film on his mysterious death in Tashkent,” he said.
Following this, he asked his team members to do extensive research on the subject. In 2016, on Shastri’s death anniversary on 11 January, he sought ideas from people in general on the mysterious death, on his email ID. There was a flood of response. “Initially I did not believe in any conspiracy theories and thought his was a natural death. But after seeing the people’s reaction, I concluded that it was not so simple. People of all age groups, from all walks of life were reacting to this subject. This kind of people’s participation got me excited,” he added.
Following this, Agnihotri filed around 25 RTIs to know the truth about Shastri’s death. But he did not find any documentary information on the circumstances that led to Shastri’s death in Tashkent.
According to Agnihotri, for more than 50 years, people have been forced to accept that Shastri died a natural death, despite the fact that the entire country has been demanding a proper investigation.
“The right to truth is the most basic right. Only then comes the right to justice and liberty. This film is more about my journey into the subject. It’s not only about his death but about a much larger conspiracy,” said Agnihotri.
Shastri’s grandson Vibhakar Shastri is happy that the issue may come to the national limelight following the release of the movie: “I wish Vivek Agnihotri all the best. All the family members are of the view that Shastriji’s death was not natural. We have requested successive governments that the mystery surrounding his death should be solved. But it’s unfortunate that nothing has happened in this regard.”