Vivek Agnihotri directed ‘The Kashmir Files’, which chronicles one of the darkest chapters of Independent India’s history—the bloodcurdling genocide of Kashmiri Pandits in Kashmir—was released to a rousing reception in cinema halls this past week. The movie became a runaway success, drawing audiences in droves to the cinema theatres, in defiance of the behavioural change wrought upon by the pandemic-induced restrictions.
According to reports, despite being released to a paltry number of screens, ‘The Kashmir Files’ recorded the best Monday Box office figures that any Bollywood movie, including Akshay Kumar-starrer Sooryavanshi, has managed to register after the pandemic, underscoring the love and affection the movie has received from the audience.
However, the magnificent success of the movie that acquainted the country with the unvarnished reality of the poignant tragedy endured by the Kashmiri Pandits did not sit well with some detractors, who proceeded to belittle the movie and accuse it of promoting hatred. One such detractor is film-director and producer Rahul Dholakia, who posted a cryptic tweet that appeared to many as an oblique attack against ‘The Kashmir Files’.
Rahul Dholakia says “hate sells”, launches indirect attack on ‘The Kashmir Files’
Taking to Twitter, Dholakia tweeted, “Hate sells. Love used to. Sleaze sells. Melodrama used to. Propaganda sells. Fantasy sells. Truth never did. Follow the crowd. Flow with the majority… the price of flowing against is high, doesn’t sell. #Random.”
The tweet was posted on March 13, two days after the release of ‘The Kashmir Files’, leaving little doubt as to whom it was meant for. As such, it is not the first time that disparagers have launched an attack against Vivek Agnihotri’s latest movie. Ever since he announced that he would be making a movie on the genocide of Kashmiri Pandits, assorted ‘liberals’ and Islamists have indulged in exercises that aimed to discredit the movie.
Those sordid efforts to pull the movie down reached a crescendo this past week when the movie was slated for release. A raft of ‘liberals’ and their army of blind supporters online ran a propaganda campaign to malign the movie and accuse it of being an attempt by right-leaning individuals to propagate Islamophobia.
Seen in this context, Rahul Dholakia’s tweet could be considered as one such effort directed at undermining the film, and by extension, denying the horrifying tragedy that befell Kashmiri Pandits as creeping Islamism swept the Valley. However, this is not the first time and neither Rahul is the first person from Bollywood to pull a veil over the sufferings of the Kashmiri Pandits.
Bollywood has a sordid history of bastardising facts and distorting reality to further their agendas. Perversion and distortion of facts to suit one’s narrative has, of late, become a hallmark of the Indian movie industry, particularly Bollywood. The moviemakers and producers use the ‘creative liberty’ at their disposal to pervert real-life incidents and twist facts to perpetuate propaganda that reinforces their political ideologies while undermining the opposing ones.
For years, this denial of Kashmiri Pandit genocide has been ossified into the collective psyche of the country, with the help of silence, apathy, counter-narratives and conspiratorial theories that pass the buck of the exodus on the shoulders of victims, i.e Kashmiri Pandits, instead of holding the perpetrators accountable. The issue of the Kashmiri Pandit exodus and the genocide they endured was treated like a hot potato, with no political party or eminent citizens bothering to speak the truth or raise their voice in support of the persecuted minorities.
And even when they mustered the courage to speak on the atrocities faced by the Kashmiri Pandits or make a movie on it, their efforts have been in accordance with the “secular” narrative that refrains from holding rising Islamism in the Valley responsible for the predicament of the Kashmiri Pandits. Instead, they blame Pakistan and politicians with vested interests for being responsible for the exodus of Kashmiri Pandits.
This spurious narrative of absolving the real culprits while pushing the blame on the authorities and governments is a clever ploy that has paid rich dividends to Bollywood, even if that entailed dehumanisation of Kashmiri Pandits and denial of their sufferings. In fact, this has been a pattern that has been observed in tragedies that have taken place across the country.
For instance, the Gujarat riots that took place in 2002 following the burning of a train bogey led to the deaths of 59 people, including children and women. Bollywood movies, with the exception of a few, show Gujarat riots but fail to mention the context or background in which they took place. In some cases in which directors bother to present viewers with context, either it is highly fictionalised or grossly adulterated.
Even as Rahul Dholakia attacks ‘The Kashmir Files”, he evaded questions when
Back in 2007, in his Rediff interaction, Dholakia brazened out his bias that was reflected in his movie Parzania, a film about how a Parsi couple attempted to find their son who tragically goes missing in 2002 during the Gujarat riots. When one of the users told him that his movie showed half-truth, which was more dangerous than a lie, Dholakia unabashedly admitted to it, alleging that he was not making a documentary but a movie from the family’s perspective.
When yet another user said movies like Parzania, which did not depict the truth in its entirety and maligned only Hindus for the riots, should not be released, Dholakia defended his movie by citing democracy, asserting that people should be allowed to decide whether they want to watch the movie or not instead of the authorities taking that decision on their behalf. Another Rediff user asked Dholakia to make a movie on the Kashmiri Pandit genocide, Rahul tartly responded, “Why don’t you make it?”
A large number of users who interacted with Dholakia on Rediff accused him of whipping up hatred against Hindus through the one-sided portrayal of Gujarat riots in his movie Parzania. However, Dholakia was then referring to democratic principles and rights to defend the screening of his movie. Ironically, about 15 years later, he is sanctimoniously sermonising others against “selling hate” while he was himself accused of doing the same at the time of Parzania’s release.
For Dholakia, a film based on the tragedy suffered by a Parsi family is an “anti-hate film” but a movie showcasing the genocide meted out on thousands of Kashmiri Hindus is akin to “selling hate”. These hypocritical standards yet again betray how the sufferings of Hindus are not only unsympathetically dismissed but also stigmatised, speaking or expressing about which attracts tags of “hatred”, “Islamophobia” etc.
Rahul Dholakia’s movie Raees glorified terrorist Abdul Latif and portrayed him as a victim of wily politicians
While Mr Dholakia unabashedly revels in his hypocrisy and indulges in dishing out sententious lectures to others on what sells in Bollywood, it is worth noting that he is the same director who glorified terrorist Abdul Latif in his movie ‘Raees’. Bollywood actor Shah Rukh Khan played the role of Abdul Latif, who was erroneously portrayed in the movie as a beacon of Hindu-Muslim unity and a pitiful man wronged by wily politicians.
Of course, Mr Dholakia took great liberty to distort facts, contort real-life incidents to glorify Shah Rukh Khan’s character while in reality, Latif was nothing but a goon who was involved in all sorts of illegal activities, including smuggling, murders etc. Abdul Latif was also accused of facilitating the transportation of explosives used in the 1993 Mumbai blasts from Pakistan via Gujarat. However, in the movie, Mr Dholakia absolves the character of Shah Rukh Khan of any wrongdoing, showing that he was unaware of the content of the parcel that wreaked havoc in Mumbai, killing hundreds of people and injuring scores of others.
Towards the end, Mr Dholakia also tried to garner sympathy for the character played by Shah Rukh Khan by portraying that he was murdered in a fake encounter by the police. In a nutshell, Mr Dholakia presided over a colossal exercise of whitewashing the crimes of Abdul Latif under the pretext of “exercising creative liberty”, and humanising a dreaded terrorist as a victim of corrupt and immoral administration.
Therefore, Mr Dholakia’s latest tweet allusively disparaging ‘The Kashmir Files’ is not surprising. The man who had no qualms in lionising an Islamic terrorist and washing off his sins would naturally be perturbed when a movie runs counter to his narrative and tries to dislodge the lid off the pain, the trauma, the injustice suffered by the Kashmiri Pandits at the hands of Islamists.
During the 1990s, the Islamic terrorists in Kashmir gave an ultimatum to the Valley’s Hindu minorities to “Convert, leave or die”. The fact that these threats were issued from the loudspeakers of mosques shows the extent to which radicalism had metastasised in society. Many of them were killed, women were raped while several others like Girija Tikoo were subjected to unspeakable atrocities.
The treachery of ‘liberals’ in shielding Islamists and denying the genocide of Kashmiri Pandits
Yet, ‘liberals’ try to make light of the tragedy as if Kashmiri Pandits left the Valley out of their own volition and the tales of barbarity that emanated from Kashmir were nothing but a product of fecund imagination. However, the box-office performance and the heartfelt reaction that the movie has evoked, especially among the first generation Kashmiri Pandit victims, who have either fled the genocide or have lost their dear ones in it, is a testament not just to the authenticity and factual accuracy of the movie but also its artistic merit.
Detractors can continue to call ‘The Kashmir Files’ “Islamophobic”, “hate-filled”, “provocative”, etc. because they have realised that the truth they had suppressed for so long is finally out in public and has successfully managed to capture the popular imagination. They can no longer put up with the pretence that Islamism had no role in the exodus of the Kashmiri Pandits. So the only plausible way out of this quagmire for them is to discredit the movie as incendiary propaganda aimed to whip up anti-Muslim hatred.
However, in reality, the movie brings to bear the pain, the trauma, the suffering, and the shameless cover-up of the genocide of the Kashmiri Pandits. They can continue to slander the movie of being provocative and inciteful but that does not take away from the fact that Kashmiri Pandits were intimidated, targeted, massacred, and driven out from their homes just because their faith was different from the one professed by the Valley’s majority. The Left has, so far, made elaborate efforts to paper over this ethnic cleansing. So when a movie finally uncovered the meticulously concealed reality, there was obviously going to be a backlash from those who have played a pivotal role in hiding these facts.
Furthermore, it is also notable to mention that there have been countless movies made on the Holocaust, but no one accuses film directors of depicting the Nazis in a bad light or vilifies those movies as “provocative” and “inciteful”. Instead, they all appreciate such films for bringing truth on the big screen, so the world never forgets about the savagery meted out on Jews. However, in India, there are some belonging to the Left persuasion who are vigorously trying to discredit ‘The Kashmir Files’ and denying the genocide of Kashmiri Pandits.
‘The Kashmir Files’ is one of the few honest attempts in last three decades to chronicle the Kashmiri Pandit genocide
Far from admitting their apathy to the plight of Kashmiri Pandits, these detractors often pompously advise them to move towards reconciliation without harbouring the feeling of resentment and retribution. But they fail to grasp that the first step towards reconciliation is acceptance of truth, which have been denied to Kashmiri Pandits for more than thirty years. Even today, when a movie chronicling their genocide is being screened, members of the Left intelligentsia do not shy away from denigrating it.
Additionally, not a single Kashmiri Pandit has picked up weapons to avenge the wrongs wrought upon them. Instead, they have reposed their faith in the judiciary and law enforcement apparatus to deliver them justice. All they desire now is an acknowledgement of the genocide that was assiduously kept under wraps until now.
‘The Kashmir Files’ is one amongst a few honest attempts made in the last three decades to bring out in open the long-suppressed truth about the genocide of Kashmiri Pandits. And this is perhaps why it has struck a chord with the audience. The ‘Liberals’ can keep harping that ‘The Kashmir Files’ is a movie directed to gin up anti-Muslim sentiments. But by vilifying the movie, they are only whitewashing the crimes of Islamists and denying the genocide of Kashmiri Pandits, which they have been conscientiously doing for more than 3 decades.