The movie ‘Shikara’, which claimed to be the ‘untold story of Kashmiri Pandits’, has received great criticism for watering down the extent of the atrocities the community was forced to suffer. Shikara was expected to be the first real effort by the entertainment industry to bust the organized campaign of genocide denial but the movie disappointed on all fronts.
Expectedly, people were greatly disappointed when the movie did not deliver on what it promised. One Kashmiri Pandit woman broke down and directed her ire against director Vidhu Vinod Chopra for the movie. Chopra, in an attempt to placate her, said, “truth has two sides”. Everyone has his own perspective and may have different opinions, said the filmmaker. He did not stop there and went on to mock the anguished woman. He said that he will make ‘Shikara 2’ for her. The insensitive conduct by Chopra subtly hinted towards his ideological inclinations.
Vidhu Vinod Chopra’s ideological inclinations become even clearer when one reads what Suketu Mehta, the screenplay writer of Chopra’s 2000 movie Mission Kashmir, wrote in his book ‘Maximum City: Bombay Lost & Found’. Chopra is quoted by Mehta as saying, “The Indians have f**ked Kashmir. I’m a Kashmiri, I know. They have been f**king Kashmir for fifty years.”
Mehta wrote: Vinod wants the film to reinforce in the popular imagination the syncretic idea of Kashmiryat, the age-old ideology that allows Muslims at the Hazratbal mosque and Hindus at the Shankaracharya temple to worship in the same country. He is not blind to the recent history of his troubled homeland. At one point, he says, “The Indians have fucked Kashmir. I’m a Kashmiri, I know. They’ve been fucking Kashmir for fifty years.”
From Mehta’s words, it appears that Vidhu Vinod Chopra believes Kashmir was all hunky-dory with diverse communities singing ‘Boomro Boomro’ before the Central Government intervened. It is the same worldview that finds voice in Mission Kashmir, a movie that provides ample justification for Islamic Terrorism and dilutes the true nature of the terrorism that Kashmir faces.
Mehta also wrote: What is fascinating to me is not so much the scriptwriting process as hearing Vinod explain what is politically acceptable and what’s not. Infinite care has to be taken, as the papers put it, to avoid “hurting the sentiments of a particular community.”
The screenplay writer of Mission Kashmir himself holds extremely problematic views. He writes in the book, “I feel distanced from many of the scenes in Mission Kashmir. In writing them, I am a lawyer, putting words I do not believe in the mouths of my characters. Politically, I am at left angles to the film. I argue that we need to insert something about the social and economic conditions that go into the making of a terrorist, especially in Kashmir. I talk about visiting Kashmir in 1987 and seeing perhaps the most corrupt state government in India; about the wishes of most of the locals I had spoken to not to be part of the Indian Union; about the double standard in India’s keeping Muslim-majority Kashmir on the grounds that the maharajah had acceded to us at independence, and refusing to let the Muslim princes of Hyderabad and Junagadh accede to Pakistan because they ruled over Hindu-majority states. But I don’t push the point. I do not have the necessary weight on the script-writing team.”
Maximum City is an award-winning book. It was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize in 2005 and won the Kiriyama Prize. It also won the 2005 Vodafone Crossword Book Award. The Economist named Maximum City one of its books of the year for 2004. It was shortlisted for the 2005 Samuel Johnson Prize.
From the perspective provided by the book, ‘Shikara’ appears to be consistent with how Vidhu Vinod Chopra sees Islamic Terrorism in the valley. From Mehta’s words, it appears fairly obvious that Shikara could never be what it was advertised as by the makers of the movie. An individual who believes “The Indians have f**ked Kashmir” cannot be expected to narrate what happened to the Kashmiri Pandit community on the big screen. As such, the audience has every right to feel cheated and the Kashmiri Hindu community has every right to feel angry about the fact that someone decided to mint money from whitewashing the genocide they suffered.
Viewers have said that the movie empathizes more with the Jihadists than the Kashmiri Pandits. They have also said that there was a blatant distortion of facts and attempts were made to whitewash Radical Islam. The movie was also accused of romanticizing the Hindu Genocide. Kashmiri Pandits have said that it only adds further salt to their wounds.