Filmmaker Vivek Agnihotri announced his latest film The Kashmir Files, based on the plight of Kashmiri Pandit refugees following the 1990 Kashmiri Pandit exodus from the valley. Speaking exclusively to OpIndia on his new film, Agnihotri said that this film will not be a sugarcoated version of the plight of Kashmiri Pandits.
“People fear for their lives when it comes to Kashmir issue unless you are making a film that shows the Indian Army, India and Hindus in a bad light. I don’t think the Kashmiri Pandit issue is just a Kashmiri issue. That’s where we go wrong. It is an Indian problem. It is an issue every Indian must worry about as India’s cultural boundaries of a diverse culture are shrinking with Kashmir going to Sharia mindset,” said Agnihotri who recently directed the critically acclaimed The Tashkent Files which is also a commercial success.
Like his previous film, The Tashkent Files, which was backed by solid research work around the mystery surrounding former Prime Minister Lal Bahadur Shastri’s mysterious death in Tashkent, The Kashmir Files will also be backed by research as well as real stories of people who lived through it. He says the focus will be more on people as while books are aplenty, most are written to promote a certain ideology. “It is not just a film, it is my life mission,” he says on a topic the Bollywood has usually shied away from exploring.
Speaking about his experience of making The Tashkent Files, Agnihotri said, “People smell conviction and honesty. This is what I have learnt. We ensured throughout making The Tashkent Files that we remain honest to the material we had and people appreciated it. It has also made me more responsible as my relationships with my audience is that of trust, faith and honesty. I can’t divert from these three.”
He adds that a filmmaker must not worry about what would work and what wouldn’t. “One should just stick to one’s conviction. In The Tashkent Files, everything we did was against the norms. The theme, the narrative, casting, marketing everything was seen as disastrous. But in the end, we survived giants like Kalank, Avengers, SOTY2 as well as films by Ajay Devgan and Arjun Kapoor. Even the IPL, Elections and the results. The good news is that we will still be running despite Salman Bhai’s ‘BHARAT’. That is the reward of breaking almost every rule. But still, nobody in the industry wants to recognise such unprecedented success.”
Vivek Agnihotri’s film The Tashkent Files, while was very well accepted by the audience, the ‘film critics’ were quite hostile towards him. “I don’t have much problem with people like Raja Sen as they are corrupt and immoral people. My problem is with someone like Shubhra Gupta of Indian Express, who is an award winner, giving it 0 stars. ZERO STARS? What kind of critic gives 0 stars? It tells more about her than me or the film. NDTV gave 0.5 stars. A lot of them wrote 5000-word articles on me but nothing on the film. Same people then go and become faces of the ‘liberal’ movement and ‘feminist’ movement and tell us about ‘intolerence’ and return awards. They condemn the star system in their columns but become sycophants of the same stars after just one drink at their house. These are scheming, corrupt people. They are the middlemen of Bollywood’s underbelly,” Agnihotri reveals the dark side of the glamour world.
Film critics had even boycotted his film and refused to review it. “I am upset with people like Anupama Chopra and Rajeev Masand. By boycotting my film they have also sent a message that they are prejudiced and don’t care about the audience. They run small power camps. I have exposed them time and again and that’s why they hate me. They don’t even want to acknowledge me as a filmmaker. What Anupama Chopra ignores that my film has had higher IMDB ratings than her husband’s (Vidhu Vinod Chopra) film 3 idiots which had the highest ratings thus far. Do you see different standards? But I don’t care about them much. Rajeev Masand said he was out of country. Now he is back and the film is still running. If he is a fair and honest man will he see it and review now? Will he invite us and especially Shweta Basu for his round tables?” he says
“If it was a Karan Johar film or a big star’s film or an Anurag Kashyap film doing 50 days at the BO, they would have called it a classic and written hundreds of articles. Who wrote about us? If Shweta was backed by the Moguls of Bollywood, she would have been on all covers and front pages. She is undoubtedly one of the best female talents this industry has discovered since Alia Bhatt. Did you see any big filmmaker talk about her?” Agnihotri said adding that the Bollywood doesn’t care about talent, they need slaves which we can never become. Whoever is not a slave of some camps, is sitting at home, he says.