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Someone needs to speak up: A response to the Israeli filmmaker Nadav Lapid for calling a film on Kashmiri Hindu genocide “vulgar propaganda”

He called "The Kashmir Files", a film close to the hearts of millions of Indians in India and abroad, a "vulgar" and "propaganda" movie.

Let me begin with the line ‘Someone needs to speak’ which has become the flavour of the day. Sure you spoke, if you speak- you have spoken. This is the best part of the worldwide narrative and counter-narrative construct today. You tweet, you speak or you write- you said it. After that, there are arguments, justifications, juxtapositioning, extrapolations, derived meanings, understandings and misunderstandings, criticism, and of course propaganda which may benefit many. Thereafter you are quiet and others speak for you! Maximum bang for the buck.

I am reminded of the super hit number, ‘Tequila.’ 1958 Latin-flavored instrumental written by Chuck Rio and recorded by the Champs. Though in the entire number of a few minutes, spoken word is only one- TEQUILA! Repeated just thrice in the entire tune! And it became a No. 1 hit on the pop charts at the time of its release and continues to be popular. Even one word can make an impact.

Let me say what I am talking about. I am writing about a crass remark/comment by a respected Israeli film director who was at IFFI Goa, international jury chair Mr. Nadav Lapid who is known for his anti-establishment views. According to him, he felt it was his “duty” to speak his mind as the head of the international jury.

He called “The Kashmir Files”, a film close to the hearts of millions of Indians in India and abroad, a “vulgar” and “propaganda” movie. He further said that making bad films is not a crime, but the Vivek Agnihotri directorial is “crude, manipulative and violent”, in an interview with the Israeli newspaper Ha’aretz.

He didn’t stop at this. He says, “We learned that the film was pushed into the official competition of the festival due to political pressure… I feel as a foreigner who arrives there, you have an obligation to say the things that the people who live there may have a harder time saying.”

Oh my God! Can he substantiate this? And as a foreigner, you are also held accountable by the host country which was decent enough not to take any action on this.

The man who kicked up the dust

One cannot take away what he earned for his craft- several awards for his work on which most of us will not be able to comment- not me at least. He has made close to ten films, including short films. One would congratulate him for that. But the problem is ‘speaking out of turn and putting your foot in the mouth’ in front of the world at large. A man so seasoned a professional in the medium of cinema, and being a part of the jury- heading it- must not express his personal views in such a manner.

How would you take this Mr. Lapid?

International Holocaust Remembrance Day is January 27, commemorating the liberation of the Auschwitz concentration camp in 1945- where a large number of Jews were systematically killed ‘so we were told’ mostly through films.

This day (According to you and Western Media) is a time for reflection and education in honour of the approximately six million Jewish victims and five million non-Jewish victims of the Holocaust. Why should the world believe this? It could be clearly a case of propaganda for gaining the sympathy of the world by the Jews and justification for Allied actions of killing so many Germans who actually rose against the horrible treaty after the First World War. We know history is written by the victors.

The Treaty of Versailles, an armistice treaty, is very controversial. The treaty’s so-called “war guilt” clause forced Germany and other Central Powers to take all the blame for World War I. This meant a loss of territories, a reduction in military forces, and colossal reparation payments to Allied powers for the next 70 years or so. In a way, Germans were right in hitting out at the victors of WWI- Jews were victims of the Collateral damage. Anyone could justify this argument!

Yet the Holocaust has been the subject of so many films since the end of World War II, with various directors over the years depicting the enormous tragedy, shining a light on the strength of the human spirit in the face of the most horrific of circumstances, and showing the ways in which it is still felt today.

One can well say that some of these films glorified death and torture. Most of them were made by Filmmakers who sympathized with the Jewish community.

The first feature film to include footage of concentration camps was titled ‘Strangers’, made in 1946 immediately after the war, by Orson Welles, an American filmmaker. According to his longtime friend, filmmaker Henry Jaglom, Orson Welles had a little crush on the Jews. So be it. But someone must speak up.

Let us not dismiss the movies like ‘Conspiracy’, ‘Schindler’s List’ and ‘Sophie’s Choice’ which give you goosebumps. Were these trying to portray something that never happened? Was Spielberg out of his mind making Schindler’s list, could it be a propaganda film? Arnold Spielberg, his father was born in Cincinnati, and he was of Jewish descent- Well anyone can speak up if he feels like it.

Outright denial of the Holocaust

What we learned through some scattered documentation, mostly through films, is that 6 million Jews were killed by the Nazis. How are you so sure? Did it really happen or is it a figment of some creative director’s crude, vulgar, and not violent but gruesome, overhyped manipulative propaganda? God alone knows.

There is a theory to this too. Holocaust denial is a form of genocide denial drawing on anti-Semitic conspiracy theories that assert that the Nazi genocide of Jews, known as the Holocaust, is a myth, fabrication, or exaggeration. Holocaust deniers make one or more of the following false statements – Nazi Germany’s Final Solution was aimed only at deporting Jews and did not include their extermination. Nazi authorities did not use extermination camps and gas chambers for the genocidal mass murder of Jews. The number of Jews murdered was just one-tenth of what is being told to us- 6 million, and the Holocaust is a hoax perpetrated by the Allies, Jews, and the Soviet Union.

In fact, most of the world does not look at Germans kindly- only because of these films. Can we say propaganda films?

So you poked Germany after the First World War with a horribly biased treaty and now you continue poking Germany after the Second World War with these propaganda movies. Anyone can say that as you said about Kashmir. No?

I recommend strongly that you make a movie- ‘How Hitler was compelled to do what he did’ in the wake of the treaty after WWI. See if you can show concentration camps without violence. That will get you accolades of a different kind. Similar treatment for Goebbels propaganda can be justified as they were pushed against a wall.

The Kashmir Files film

This really happened to Indians Mr. Lapid. We know what happened, it is well documented and with several testimonies. The Kashmiris never chased the perpetrators, like you guys hunted down Nazis as shown in several films- Odessa file is one.

Adolf Eichmann was captured by Mossad agents in Argentina on 11 May 1960 and subsequently found guilty of war crimes in a widely publicized trial in Jerusalem, following which, he was executed by hanging in 1962, and the world clapped as you looked happy.

You may not know or be convinced, as many are not convinced by the Holocaust theory! Was it a conspiracy? We don’t know. Yet the world gives you the benefit of the doubt. Lior Raz of “Fauda” fame said one mustn’t comment on issues they have little knowledge of. I feel he is right.

Even your Ambassador to India, Naor Gilon, and Consul General to Midwest India, Kobbi Shoshani, panned you Mr. Lapid. Barring a few actors, actually non-state ones, and a few opposition guys, nobody else stood by you. Taking a high creative ground, you wanted to create a political storm. But today India doesn’t care for motor mouths, and we speak up.

The Moghul period

Israel is a much younger country as compared to the Indian civilization. India had to suffer the Musim invaders for 800 years! You cannot even imagine this! There were mass massacres by Moghul rulers, and conspiracies galore. Movie Mughal-e- Azam glorifies Akbar and his kindness, but that is debatable.

American historian and writer Will Durant wrote in his 1935 book “The Story of Civilization: Our Oriental Heritage” (page 459) that the Mohammedan conquest of India is probably the bloodiest story in history.

Indian Historian K.S. Lal in his book ‘Growth of Muslim Population in Medieval India (1000-1800)’ gives further details. He estimates that about 60 to 80 million people died in India between the years 1000 and 1525 as a result of the Islamic invasion of the Indian subcontinent. He also observed that more than 2 million Hindus died during Mahmud of Ghazni’s invasions of India alone.

Don’t forget Tipu Sultan and Aurangzeb as heroes. The world needs to know.

Make a film on this- you are assured of an Oscar or we may honor you with the Dadasaheb Phalke award out of turn.

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Virender Kapoor
Virender Kapoor
Author, inspirational Guru. 'What you can learn from military principles' 'Excellence the Amitabh Bachchan way' 'Speaking the Modi way' 'Winning Instinct - decoding the power within' 'PQ - How it matters more than IQ'

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