Tag Archives: Lal Bahadur Shastri

Film Review: The Kashmir Files (2022)

The film centers around Kashmir Valley in 1989 or 1990 when the hatred for the Kashmiri Hindu Pandits ignite and the Islamic militant terrorists begins to butcher them in their way. This is the story of an old teacher Pushkar Nath Pandit (Anupam Kher) who witnesses the riots and protects his grandson Krishna (Darshan Kumar) but loses everyone in the family who are murdered by his own former student Farooq Malik Bitta (Chinmay Mandlekar) who is now the militant commander of the terrorist organization there.

I assume ‘The Kashmir Files‘ is the second chapter of director Vivek Agnihotri‘s Files Trilogy because Vivek’s previous film was The Tashkent Files and his next project is The Delhi Files. So it is quite an interesting and bold step towards planning to make films in Bollywood in a particular direction that is out of stereotypical masala entertainment which is still the usual existence. Plus a type of casting in both Tashkent and Kashmir indicates that the director is selective to rope actors where he believes that they suit the roles. He is not prioritizing his options to commercialize the chances of generating a lot of money but addresses issues through his stories.

His previous film Tashkent was a necessary wake-up call to the audience for remembering India’s former PM Lal Bahadur Shastri whose death is still a mystery. And now he raises the political issue of Kashmiri Hindu Pandits in the latest film. A subject hardly anyone had been raising for decades. Genocide of Kashmiri Hindus that, to my surprise, is termed their exodus. Being impressed with how Vivek executed Tashkent, I was interested to see how he directed Kashmir. With a cordial disappointment, ‘The Kashmir Files’ heavily turns out to be some propaganda film.

I do not deny the sufferings of Kashmiri Pandits who became refugees in their own country nor do I whitewash the tragic chapters of Kashmir’s history. It is the awful screenplay that indicates that the intention of the director was more to highlight straight visible hatred for the Muslim community rather than addressing the political event’s bullet anecdotes. Almost all the sequences that involved a Muslim character portrayed some special kind of evil sent on the earth to uproot the existence of Hindus in the state.

A stereotypical portrayal of the Muslims was something else we have watched in Indian films for decades but this film looks intentionally clear sending a wrong message to raise hatred for the Muslims. In one particular scene, a woman seeks advice from an elder Muslim with a Jinnah cap and reddish-brown dyed beard about her son’s education. In reply, out of nowhere, the man goes pervert and starts harassing her. Crazy writing!

I can judge the film by considering any of the two possibilities. One is that the hatred of Kashmiri Muslims for the Hindu Pandits was as real as portrayed in the film and involved no intentional agenda of misleading the general population of India believing that the Muslim community is the root cause of the evil that aims to kill their race. Second, the director chose one side of the story to address the fate of Kashmiri Pandits by dragging the Muslims in a villainous nature and labeling it a religious matter rather than a political matter. I choose the latter.

Why? Because every single Muslim character had a negative portrayal that sparks the intentions of the director and raises eyebrows. There were no sides to the coin, the story of the film was genuinely one-dimensional which made me think if Vivek Agnihotri directed the film or Narendra Modi? Did RSS finance this film? At such a terribly slow pace of almost a three-hour film, I felt as if this was some experimental film where the makers decided to treat Muslims like Nazis and Hindus like Jews.

Again, I do not deny the historic events of the Kashmiri Pandits’ genocide and indeed Muslims were the ones involved in their killings but the film played a vital role in making this an issue of religion rather than politics. As compared to all the agenda films produced in Bollywood, The Kashmir Files got unusual publicity, media coverage, and endorsement from the ruling party despite mixed reviews from the critics. The film was screened at around 600 cinemas across India which speaks a lot. Narendra Modi himself endorsed the film by stating the film as a truth that was suppressed for years.

Coming back to my review, the motive of watching the film was not only to observe the nature and the aesthetics of the film but to judge the technical aspects that made my case for watching the film right. I feel that ‘The Kashmir Files’ was made personally for Anupam Kher who has his sentiments involved in the story. Not only is he a Kashmiri Pandit but the name of his father was also Pushkar Nath. It is like an offer for a lifetime he cannot refuse and this is why we watch a different Anupam Kher that we never observed in his past 500 films. Surely his best performance since ‘Maine Gandhi Ko Nahin Mara‘. Mithun Chakraborty also gave quite an impressive performance. At first, I was concerned about how come a Bengali actor will portray a Kashmiri as Mithun’s usual accent doesn’t change while playing any character at all. But the name of Mithun’s character is Brahma Dutt and Dutt are Bengali Kayasthas so his role in Kashmir fits. Cinematography is one of the film’s plusses.

The Kashmir Files is bleak, one-dimensional, and committed to factual inaccuracies with awful script and direction leading to nowhere but encouraging hate speech by generalizing Islamophobia.

RATINGS: 3/10

Book Review: Jo Dekha, Jo Suna.. (2007)

WHY I CHOSE TO READ THIS BOOK?

A few months ago, I happened to read Tariq Ali’s “The Leopard and the Fox” which was a script for the show BBC commissioned him in 1985 to write about the final days of Pakistan’s former Prime Minister and the founder of Pakistan People Party (PPP), Zulfikar Ali Bhutto. The project was shelved for being anti-Zia-ul-Haq.

Bhutto’s leadership in Pakistan has always been a talking point whenever the country’s political history has been reflected. During the entire political fiasco the country has suffered, it is worth observing that Zulfikar’s political career was confronted with three of the four military phases. Under Ayub Khan, Bhutto was the Foreign Minister. Yahya Khan handed over his presidency and his government to Bhutto after the fall of East Pakistan. Zia-ul-Haq was Bhutto’s second Chief of Army Staff who later became the reason for his death.

Zulfikar’s political legacy and fresh memories of reading the previous book on Bhutto-Zia prompted me to read Qayyum Nizami’s political analysis of the PPP’s prime era and the memoir of Bhutto in the shape of almost a 500-page book, ‘Jo Dekha Jo Suna’ (What I Saw, What I Heard).


WRITING STYLE AND DETAILING

Although, a book with such lengthy detailing does not really buy me as a reader as I feel that the author has heavily sugar-coated Bhutto’s heroics and overpraised him. I adore Bhutto’s style of addressing and his leadership, the man had the courage to raise his voice against the military dictatorship and address eye-to-eye with the United States. But the flaw is in the style of writing that makes ‘Jo Dekha Jo Suna’ look like some propaganda project.

On page.192, there is a detailed chronological timeline of the Bhutto government’s activities. In these pages, I noticed that a lot of times Bhutto government got loans from Saudi Arabia, the United States, Russia, etc. Why the author doesn’t explain the reason for asking for loans? Pakistan in 2022 still continues the tradition of receiving loans from the IMF and other countries but this history book should have highlighted, why Pakistan was receiving loans fifty years ago.

Bhutto was, without a doubt, a great leader but the author being his disciple has glorified Bhutto and made me think if I was reading a biography of God but not Bhutto. Almost every turn of a page has dramatic praises for him. There is literally a line on page.176 where the author compares Bhutto’s martyrdom with Hussain’s by writing that “Pakistan and third world countries regret Bhutto’s martyrdom just like Islamic world regrets with Hussain’s.”

And then there are various incidents or statements that make you think if the authenticity compromises. The author writes on page.119 about one night during the times of Pakistan military and government officials’ humiliating surrender before the Indian Army, Bhutto’s daughter Benazir enters her father’s room and notices that he is lying on the floor instead of in bed. When she asks the reason then Bhutto replies, “How can I sleep on the bed when 90,000 soldiers sleep on the floor of Indian camps?” Maybe this reads very inspiring to the other readers but I feel as if this is a reel incident but not real.

On page.38, the author states that former Indian Prime Minister, Lal Bahadur Shastri, died of a heart attack. He didn’t bother to clarify that Shastri’s death is still a mystery despite the reason for his passing being announced to be a heart attack. But the author finds it more important to inform the readers that the-then Foreign Secretary Aziz Ahmed called Shastri a bastard.


INTERESTING HIGHLIGHTS

‘Jo Dekha Jo Suna’ is not really full of a disciple glossing his party and the leader in its entirety, there are many pages that are either of some critical significance or heartwarming. I really liked reading about the relationship between Bhutto and his wife, Nusrat. In the earliest pages, there is a chapter where Nusrat Bhutto gives details about how she and Zulfikar came to know each other and tied the knot. In the middle of the book, a chapter reflects on the entire meeting of Nusrat and Benazir with Bhutto in prison a day before he was hanged, and that was pretty heart-boiling to read, picturizing and imagining how things would have gone between these Bhuttos.

‘Jo Dekha Jo Suna’ also offers to read Bhutto’s memorable speeches that are stretched to around fifty pages. The book has documented a lot of letters that Bhutto father and daughter wrote to the author and vice versa. There, also, are letters by famous British philosopher Bertrand Russell to different global leaders of that time praising Bhutto and sharing his point of view about his political vision. There also are over a hundred rare pictures of Bhutto, Benazir, and Qayyum Nizami during various political events.

One of the last chapters of the book covers politicians, journalists, and people from other fields of work briefing their own ‘What they saw, What they heard’ to the readers. Some events and incidents are interesting.


LAHORE, PAKISTAN, APR 08: Punjab Assembly Opposition Leader, Hamza Shahbaz leaving
after court case hearing, at High Court in Lahore on Monday, April 08, 2019. The Lahore High
Court (LHC) granted Punjab Assembly Opposition Leader, Hamza Shahbaz pre-arrest bail till
April 17 and restrained the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) from arresting him in cases
pertaining to ownership of assets beyond means. (Babar Shah/PPI Images).

CLOSING REMARKS

Qayyum Nizami is a veteran politician and columnist who played an important role in Bhutto’s party. He had close political relations with both Bhutto and Benazir. ‘Jo Dekha Jo Suna’ is his extensive insider about the struggling times of his leader and the party.

The motive for reading the book is that the reader acquires knowledge. Bibliophiles cannot remember every word or page of the book they read but naturally, our brain has the obvious capacity to store at least one to twenty percent of the information that is collected from the book. By reading ‘Jo Dekha Jo Suna’, it doesn’t matter whether I liked reading this book or not, I get some clues and rough ideas about the existence of the party, the Bhutto administration, and the political conflicts of his time, and that is what is valuable for me.