INDIA: “The Kashmir Files” is based on the excruciating genocide of Kashmiri Hindus in the 1990s, which forced thousands of Hindus to flee their homeland. The gruesome story, or rather the 32 years of the darkest chapter in history that has been erased from any existing narrative, unfolds through the Pandit family of Kashmir.
The night of the 1990s unleashes a tragedy, igniting an onslaught of Kashmiri Hindus across the valley. Every terrorist is on the prowl, and they viciously target and slaughter every existing Kashmiri personnel based on their religion.
The plot represented the apex of the trauma experienced by Pushkar Nath Pandit, Sharda Pandit, and Shiva Pandit, who had lost a family member, which is nothing short of horror to humanity. Krishna Pandit is the story’s pivot, moving the timeline between the present and the past. Facing the horror while living to tell the tale and resembling a refugee in their own country, the narrative raises only one question: Will Kashmiri Hindus receive justice?
Vivek Agnihotri, a National awardee and independent filmmaker, helms this tale of the lost and tortured souls of Kashmiri Hindus. He has previously directed prominent films such as Buddha in a Traffic Jam (2014) and The Tashkent Files (2019). The Tashkent Files was a sleeper hit at the box office, completing 100 days in theatres.
The films include National Award winners Anupam Kher as Pushkar Nath Pandit, Mithun Chakraborty as Brahma Dutt, Pallavi Joshi as Radhika Menon. It also stars prominent actors such as Prakash Belawadi as Dr. Mahesh Kumar, Puneet Issar as DGP Hari Narain, Chinmay Mandlekar as Farooq Malik, Darshan Kumar as Krishna Pandit, Bhasha Sumbli as Sharda Pandit, Mrinal Kulkarni as Laxmi Dutt, Prithviraj Sarnaik as Shiva Pandit and Atul Srivastava a Vishnu.
Kashmir’s truth unfolds through Vivek Agnihotri’s vision
The film puts the spotlight on the definitions of nationalism, communism, the left-wing, and the right-wing which are rarely seen in Bollywood films. The way Kashmir has been depicted in such a truthful manner has never been shown in any Bollywood film; if any film is made on such a topic, it is always shown through twisted facts with a high sense of political correctness, which primarily includes the Indian Army as the sole cause of all the problems in Kashmir. Hats off to Vivek Agnihotri for having the courage to portray such a sensitive subject in such a brutally honest manner, free of political correctness; he is the true star of the film in every way.
It’s like the actors have lived their parts, not just performed them
Pushkar Nath Pandit, played by Anupam Kher, depicts the searing sorrow and trauma of a man whose life has been radically altered by the onslaught in the valley. His mere expression is enough to elicit an emotional response in anyone. His tiny steps and the manner in which he talks or argues with Krishna Pandit define how he has carried the grief for so long. There’s a scene where his character requests that Article 370 be repealed, and it emotionally tears us. We, as an audience, can connect with him to the point where we can sense his anguish. His character’s reality stems from the that Anupam Kher is likewise a Kashmiri Hindu. And it’s safe to say that it’s his best performance to date.
As the cast is full of great actors, Pallavi Joshi, who plays Radhika Menon, is one of them. Her eerie and separatist mindset represents terror sympathizers in our country, who shed tears every time a terrorist is hanged and blame the Indian Army for the oppression of Kashmiri youth. Her character’s authority over all university students is reflected in the close shots and extended takes of her character. Her character embodies what Vivek Agnihotri refers to as an Urban Naxal.
Darshan Kumar’s portrayal of Krishna Pandit left a lasting effect on the audience despite numerous outstanding performances. His persona is created so that it represents the audience; how his character is influenced from both sides is a criterion of the audience until the film’s halfway. He portrays the dilemma between understanding narrative and the truth. We get a strong sense of what is fact and what is fiction as his character finds the secret of the Kashmir massacre. His character’s stunning speech at the end of the film perfectly encapsulates the significance of Kashmir, not just Kashmir, but India as a whole, which makes us wonder what historical significance is being kept hidden from us. Darshan Kumar has given his most incredible performance to date, completely dominating the screen throughout the climax moment.
Mithun Chakraborty’s performance as Brahma Dutt has also piqued everyone’s interest. The beginning, or more accurately, the planning of the genocide that slowly lingers towards Kashmiri Hindus is shown through his point of view; his character witnesses many changes in the environment, which he also informs the Chief Minister about. However, as the genocide progresses, he also discovers the heavy inclusion of political parties in the genocide. He is portrayed as a powerless bystander who witnessed the start of the massacre. He also carries the burden of pain on his shoulders, and he constantly laments past actions. As is customary for a talented actor, Mithun Da is expected to provide a strong performance.
Sharda Pandit, played by Bhasha Sumbli, is a character that breaks our hearts emotionally to the very end of the film, which sends shivers down the spine. She also works as the film’s assistant director. As a result of her fantastic performance, we as an audience want to see more of her in future films.
Chinmay Mandlekar’s portrayal of Farooq Malik, alias Bitta is flawless. We can sense a genuine sense of panic and horror blending in the atmosphere whenever his character comes on screen. Every scene centered on his character foreshadows something gruesome and gory to come next on the screen.
The first thing that comes to mind is that each actor’s portrayal does not feel performed or scripted; instead, it appears like each actor has lived their part and experienced the terror that actually occurred.
What could have been better
The main flaw in the film is that it has been toned down due to some changes that are not the filmmaker’s fault. The transition from JNU to ANU, as well as several remarks painted on university walls, it has distorted the cinematic experience. The edited and deleted scenes must be released with the online version so that viewers may perceive them fully.
Vivek Agnihotri’s direction needs an extraordinary mention. Talking with Transcontinental Times 360 degree live show, a few months back, He said that the new generations were not aware of the Jews holocaust until it was shown in movies; similarly, Kashmir Exodus must be told through the film. His deep and meticulous research depicts on the screen. This movie may put Vivek at par with an international group of film directors.
Vivek Agnihotri’s historical film emerges as a thriller that psychologically crumbles us to the very end; it not only unveils the truth that was made to be erased from history, but it also exposes the separatist mindset that justifies terrorism on the verge of so-called system oppression. It’s highly recommended for every truth seeker and those who can digest the harsh reality.
Caution: Last 20 minutes can be very tormenting emotionally.