Filmmaker Vivek Agnihotri’s The Tashkent Files, a film which is based on the incidents surrounding the mysterious death of former Prime Minister Lal Bahadur Shastri, releases today after overcoming quite a few roadblocks.
It is a little unusual for the Hindi film industry to touch upon political thrillers which are focussed on historical facts especially when they are mired in controversies. More so when it involves a political party which does not take too kindly to their dealings being put up on the celluloid. In The Tashkent Files Vivek Agnihotri in a brave attempt scratches the surface to try and know more about the air of mystery surrounding the sudden death of Lal Bahadur Shastri. Or was it a murder?
Agnihotri’s political views are out in the open for all to see. Because of which he has been maligned, mocked at and even physically attacked by political goons. Hence, some of the reactions his film is getting are quite predictable.
However, an honest assessment of the movie is that the film has its moments. Mithun Chakraborty as the leader of the opposition is back on the big screen after a long time playing a very balanced and nuanced character. Naseeruddin Shah as PKR Natarajan, a minister in the ruling party, gives us a glimpse of the Lutyens circles. Actor, Shweta Basu Prasad, who has won the National Award for Makdee, is a natural and carries the film on her shoulders.
These are supported by fabulous actors like Pallavi Joshi, Pankaj Tripathi, Mandira Bedi and Prakash Belawadi. The film is an extremely well-researched film which tries to ask a few uncomfortable questions without demonising any politician or a political party which may or may not have had anything to do with Prime Minister Shastri’s mysterious death and subsequent lack of investigation.
One may accuse Vivek of ‘copying’ the format of the legendary Hollywood movie ‘Twelve Angry Men’, but that will be an unfair charge as the format has been used often and renowned director Basu Chatterjee had made ‘Ek Ruka Hua Faisla’ following almost identical format and storyline back in 1986 itself. The Tashkent Files uses the same format to tell the story that should have been told long back.
The film makes a few startling revelations. Just how far were the intelligence agencies of the US and the then USSR involved? How deep had they infiltrated India through the politicians and media? Why was any inquiry commission not set up after Prime Minister Shastri’s death? Why was an autopsy not carried out? Why are there two separate versions of the medical report? Why the inconsistency? Why did the two witnesses who attended to PM Shastri in his last moments ‘coincidentally’ meet with road accidents?
Prime Minister Shastri’s body had turned blue-black, there were cut-marks on his body, there were dried blood marks on the body but despite this, the government of India did not think it was necessary to carry out an autopsy. Does this not raise alarm bells? The Tashkent Files brings together hours and years of research and puts out a coherent narration which leaves you angry and frustrated at what could be one of the biggest ‘coverups’ in independent India.
All in all, in when the country is spruced up with the ongoing general elections, this political thriller makes a great watch. The Netflix-generation, especially should watch the movie and learn more about the son of the soil and ask questions. Hope there is an investigation carried out on former Prime Minister Shastri’s mysterious death and the family as well as the country can get some closure.
I’ll give the movie four out of five stars.