Tag Archives: Vivek Agnihotri

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

My Bollywood’s Best of 2019

I cordially welcome to my 6th annual Bollywood honors report.

In the past three decades, I have observed that many showbiz platforms, especially the most prestigious Filmfare, do not do much of the justice with their Hindi-language films with their ultimate decisions about the nominations and wins. So, many ‘good’ work doesn’t get the credit.

Since 2014, I have been publishing an annual report on my blog about the Hindi-language film industry of India. The purpose of this report/blog is to inform my fellow cinephiles about the better prospects of filmmaking in the film industry and making them aware of the rich quality of films that either caught the viewer’s attraction and received the deserving praise or unluckily went unnoticed and unrecognized. Following are my previous reports about the best of Bollywood:

2014  2015  2016  2017  2018

My judgments are based on the realistic measures fetched from the films whether those are big or small budgeted, comprised of an ensemble or lesser-known cast. No compromise on quality. Every year, I dig around three dozen potential Hindi films, watch, and judge, pass the reviews and note down the artistic and technical excellence.

For 2019, the following 35 films were selected:

Gully Boy, Jaoon Kahan Bata Ae Dil, Badla, Bala, Chopsticks, Thackeray, Sonchiriya, Soni, Kesari, Hamid, Batla House, Bombairiya, Article 15House Arrest, The Accidental Prime Minister, Photograph, Laal Kaptaan, Upstarts, Mardaani 2, Saand Ki Aankh, The Fakir Of Venice, The Tashkent Files, Mission Mangal, Ujda Chaman, Mard Ko Dard Nahin Hota, The Body, Mere Pyare Prime Minister, Ek Ladki Ko Dekha Toh Aisa Laga, Super 30, Chhichhore, Posham Pa, The Sky Is Pink, Section 375, Manikarnika, and Kabir Singh.

Once I am done with all the selected films, I decide by finalizing the works and pick the winner.

So how this all works?

  1. 21 categories are segregating into three different sections. These sections are musical (5), technical (10) and major (6) sections.
  2. Each category has a winner and ‘maximum’ 5 honorable mentions which are unranked and labeled as ‘Other Notable Works’.
  3. If I require, I will provide a short detail for the category.
  4. After finishing with 21 categories, I will write down a total number of nominations and honors submitted in my report as stat fun.

The wait is over…

Allow me to honor Bollywood’s artistic and technical excellence of 2019 according to Sami Naik.


MUSICAL SECTION

BEST BACKGROUND SCORE

PETER RAEBURN (PHOTOGRAPH)

Other Notable Works:

Benedict Taylor & Naren Chandavarkar (Sonchiriya)

Andrew T. Mackay (Hamid)

Benedict Taylor & Naren Chandavarkar (Laal Kaptaan)

Karan Kulkarni (Mard Ko Dard Nahin Hota)

Mangesh Dhakde (Article 15)

 

BEST MALE PLAYBACK SINGER

B PRAAK (TERE MITTI – KESARI)

BEST FEMALE PLAYBACK SINGER

SHREYA GHOSHAL (GHAR MORE PARDESIYA – KALANK)

 

BEST SONG & LYRICS

AZADI (DIVINE & DUB SHARMA – GULLY BOY)

To be honest, I decided the winner between the three best songs of 2019 unsurprisingly from the same film; Doori, Apna Time Ayega, and Azadi. All three songs were the outcry on social problems and rebel rage. Azadi was the one I felt the best with much deeper commentary.

Other Notable Works:

Doori (Ranveer Singh/Javed Akhtar/Divine/Rishi Rich – Gully Boy)

Apna Time Aayega (Ranveer Singh/Divine/Ankur Tewari/Dub Sharma – Gully Boy)

Ghar More Pardesiya (Shreya Ghoshal/Amitabh Bhattacharya/Pritam – Kalank)

Ve Maahi (Arijit Singh/Asees Kaur/Tanishk Bagchi – Kesari)

Tum Hi Aana (Jubin Nautiyal/Kunaal Vermaa/Payal DevMarjaavan)

 

BEST MUSIC

ANKUR TEWARI & VARIOUS ARTISTS (GULLY BOY)

Other Notable Works:

Amaal MallikMithoonVishal MishraSachetParamparaAkhil Sachdeva (Kabir Singh)

Arko Pravo Mukherjee, Tanishk Bagchi, Jasbir JassiChirantan Bhatt, GurmohJasleen Royal (Kesari)

Pritam (Kalank)


 

TECHNICAL SECTION

BEST COSTUME DESIGN

DIVYA GAMBHIR & NIDHI GAMBHIR (SONCHIRIYA)

Other Notable Works:

Manish Tiwari (Hamid)

Arjun Bhasin & Poornamrita Singh (Gully Boy)

Niharika Bhasin (Photograph)

Maxima Basu (Laal Kaptaan)

 

BEST PRODUCTION DESIGN

SUZANNE CAPLAN MERWANJI (GULLY BOY)

Other Notable Works:

Subrata Chakraborty & Amit Ray (Kesari)

Nikhil Kovale (Article 15)

Rita Ghosh (Sonchiriya)

 

BEST SOUND DESIGN

ANTHONY RUBAN (MARD KO DARD NAHIN HOTA)

Other Notable Works:

Anish John (Laal Kaptaan)

Kunal Sharma (Sonchiriya)

Anirban Sengupta (Badla)

 

BEST EDITING

MANAS MITTAL (THE SKY IS PINK)

Other Notable Works:

Charu Shree Roy (Chhichhore)

Monisha R. Baldawa (Badla)

Nitin Baid (Gully Boy)

 

BEST CINEMATOGRAPHY

SHANKER RAMAN (LAAL KAPTAAN)

Other Notable Works:

Tim Gillis & Ben Kutchins (Photograph)

Ewan Mulligan (Article 15)

John Wilmor (Hamid)

Ravi Kiran Ayyagari (Posham Pa)

Jay Oza (Gully Boy)

 

BEST ACTION

ANTON MOON & SUNIL RODRIQUES (SONCHIRIYA)

Other Notable Works:

Parvez Sheikh & Lawrence Woodward (Kesari)

Amin Khatib (Batla House)

Abdul Salaam Ansari (Laal Kaptaan)

Eric Jacobus (Mard Ko Dard Nahin Hota)

 

BEST STORY

AIJAZ KHAN & RAVINDER RANDHAWA (HAMID)

Yes, it has to be Hamid. People tell me that Bollywood doesn’t make good films. The point is if Bollywood is coming up with quality stories, yes. That is the other thing if viewers are ready to accept or not. Article 15 raised the equality issue and Upstarts was a much-needed push for the people who create a startup with dreams of building it big. Section 375 was a courageous effort of depicting a misleading part of feminism and Photograph was a situational drama about the meeting of two very different people. While Gully Boy was about the struggles of the street rappers.

Hamid is a completely different plot than any 2019 film I have watched. Hamid is an impressive, heartbreaking and emotional story about a 7-year-old kid in Kashmir who has lost his father and his relatives comfort him that his father has gone to Lord to do some work. Desperate to meet his father again, he quests for some source to speak to God in all innocence.

Other Notable Works:

Zoya Akhtar & Reema Kagti (Gully Boy)

Anubhav Sinha & Gaurav Solanki (Article 15)

Ritesh Batra (Photograph)

Udai Singh Pawar (Upstarts)

Manish Gupta (Section 375)

 

BEST SCREENPLAY

KETAN BHAGAT & UDAI SINGH PAWAR (UPSTARTS)

I am much focused on screenplays whenever I watch a film. The entire film can drop your emotions wherever the screenwriting falls flat. It is a very essential part of filmmaking. People hardly know about this film and astonishingly is the best screenwriting against many excellent writings of 2019 for me.

Let me tell you why. In almost 120 minutes of the screen time, writers Ketan and Udai (who is also the director) tell you about some friends who think about creating a startup and convincingly fit all the phases of business cycles. The film neither runs in haste not goes slow. The pace is neutral and the story easily grows on me. It is not easy to tell all the business phases in precision in given limited screen time. And that is why for me, the screenplay of Upstarts is the best.

Other Notable Works:

Manish Gupta & Ajay Bahl (Section 375)

Ritesh Batra (Photograph)

Anubhav Sinha & Gaurav Solanki (Article 15)

Zoya Akhtar & Reema Kagti (Gully Boy)

 

BEST DIALOGUES

VIVEK AGNIHOTRI (THE TASHKENT FILES)

I don’t know if anyone will agree with me but this film actually had the most contrasting dialogues than any film last year. A young journalist gets an assignment to solve the decades-old mystery about the assassination of the former prime minister of India, Lal Bahadur Shastri. She gets a place in a committee to dig into this matter where different kinds of intellectuals sit and argue.

So for this kind of political thriller, the dialogues require a terrific momentum of an intellectual conversation, history talks, rumors, blames, heated arguments, bold and bullet criticism, and I believe Vivek Agnihotri nailed it. Impressive dialogues were the main reason that the loud performances of such an ensemble cast doubled the worth of this film.

Other Notable Works:

Manish Gupta & Ajay Bahl (Section 375)

Sumit Saxena & Ravinder Randhawa (Hamid)

Piyush Gupta (Chhichhore)

Anubhav Sinha & Gaurav Solanki (Article 15)

Aadish Keluskar (Jaoon Kahan Bata Ae Dil)

 

BEST SCENE

BASANTI DON’T DANCE (SUPER 30)

This may be unpopular or unexpected choice after watching all the films of 2019 but I found this 8-minute shot one of the best things ever happened in Bollywood in recent years.

This is when teacher Anand Kumar orders his students to perform a street act outside the school for 20 minutes strictly in English without uttering a single Hindi word. The next day, the kids strive out in front of the scores of students and get an outrageous response. The spectators roar to leave and the performers refuse. In repetition, the performers somehow finds the way to extend the act by giving an unexpected entertainment for which they didn’t prepare for. The beauty is that Basanti Don’t Dance naturally happens without the teacher’s instructions with the help of the spectators and angry response by floor beatings.

This crazy segment was deep, dark, bizarre and a remarkable commentary of class divisions. This was an astonishing presentation of a mind-blowing provocation against classism. Ganesh Acharya’s superb choreography and powerful performances by those youngsters gave that lengthy sequence a distinguished quality of filmmaking.


 

MAJOR SECTION

BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR

VISHAL JETHWA (MARDAANI 2)

Not MC Sher from Gully Boy? I am afraid not. I admit it was, without any doubt, a wonderful performance on his debut but my opinion is that it is the popularity of the character and the performances leading to his favor, especially in the awards function. Tremendous confidence in the role he played but there weren’t many minutes to invest for acting than the focus was on his performance. I think Murad’s other friend Moeen had a much sensible performance.

Another factor that the readers must understand is the comparison with the other supporting roles. There were other actors last year who I believe certainly did better than Siddhant. In my mind, two were the closest in this honor, Deepak Dobriyal, and Vishal Jethwa. Deepak’s case was highly physical and Vishal’s case was mental. Deepak has the experience, Vishal is a 25yo debutant whose incredible villainous role in Mardaani 2 caught our attention. Vishal’s facial performance and killer eyes brought horror in the script and gave a memorable performance which will certainly remind anyone of Ashutosh Rana’s earliest success in Dushman and Sangharsh. Imagine, both Dobriyal and Jethwa were not nominated in this category in Filmfare!

Other Notable Works:

Vijay Varma (Gully Boy)

Ranvir Shorey (Sonchiriya)

Manoj Pahwa (Article 15)

Deepak Dobriyal (Laal Kaptaan)

Varun Sharma (Chhichhore)

 

BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS

AMRUTA SUBHASH (GULLY BOY)

Other Notable Works:

Rasika Dugal (Hamid)

Farrukh Jaffar (Photograph)

Pallavi Joshi (The Tashkent Files)

Anjali Patil (Mere Pyare Prime Minister)

Mahie Gill (Posham Pa)

 

BEST ACTOR

RANVEER SINGH (GULLY BOY)

I never thought Ranveer will ever impress me but one thing was for sure that his energetic charisma can get the use of better promises. He needs a director who can develop his acting potentials and here we are. Zoya picked the right man for the role. Ranveer is naturally the perfect Gully Boy.

An escapist and socially furious Murad is lost in the troubles from his domestic life and love affair. Addicted to his passion, he raps his social commentary and inclines towards the changes in the coming times.

Other Notable Works:

Ayushmann Khurrana (Article 15)

Talha Arshad Reshi (Hamid)

Anupam Kher (The Accidental Prime Minister)

Hrithik Roshan (Super 30)

Akshaye Khanna (Section 375)

 

BEST ACTRESS

BHUMI PEDNEKAR (SAAND KI AANKH)

I don’t know how did Alia Bhatt win Filmfare in this category. Technically, Alia’s role in Gully Boy is more of supporting as the film is completely centralized on Ranveer as Gully Boy. More bizarre was Bhumi not being nominated for her performance in Saand Ki Aankh but won the critics award.

Anyway, why Bhumi? She plays the role of an old villager and the portrayal is spot on. She brilliantly gets hold of the Haryanvi dialect and superbly adopts the mannerism of an old woman. Observe her walking style, rage, facial expressions and all funny scenes with Taapsee. This is Bhumi’s best performance to date and I found her to be the most impressive in executing her role. 

Other Notable Works:

Rani Mukherjee (Mardaani 2)

Vidya Balan (Mission Mangal)

Sayani Gupta (Posham Pa)

Priyanka Chopra (The Sky Is Pink)

Taapsee Pannu (Badla)

 

BEST DIRECTOR

SHONALI BOSE (THE SKY IS PINK)

This was a difficult decision. The tie was between Zoya and Shonali. Why I chose latter is because she took a very sensitive subject to its utter depth and also directed a few shots which hit straight to the heart like the couples arguing over transplant in the hospital, Aditi’s first mental collapse, Niren falling on his son’s lap and crying and many more. Shonali had a tough time in developing the characters due to different time periods.

Other Notable Works:

Ajay Bahl (Section 375)

Ritesh Batra (Photograph)

Anubhav Sinha (Article 15)

Abhishek Chaubey (Sonchiriya)

Zoya Akhtar (Gully Boy)

 

BEST FILM

GULLY BOY

What other film wins this honor than Gully Boy? There is no strong competition. There do are excellent films as mentioned below but none comes close to this. Gully Boy is the outcry from the slums of Mumbai where Murad is stuck in his tense domestic life and for escapism, tries to focus on rapping and does the social commentary.

Gully Boy, from all sorts, was a unique cinematic achievement where the voice of a lower-middle-class common man was whispered and the struggle of street rappers was depicted. I wish Gully Boy had made to the final round of the Academy Awards for the foreign-language category because this film was the most potentially acceptable film from all standards to reach the Oscar.

Gully Boy is full of energy and covers a few significant aspects like parent abuse and child labor. The story, screenplay, and dialogues are so carefully worked that the film easily grows on the viewers. Then the characterization also goes in favor to apply on remarkable writing. Some very impressive characters in the support develop the plot. The brilliance in the musical numbers does the rest.

Other Notable Films:

Sonchiriya

Hamid

Article 15

Upstarts

Section 375


 

MULTIPLE NOMINATIONS
NOMS FILMS
15 Gully Boy
10 Article 15
8 Sonchiriya
8 Hamid
7 Photograph
6 Laal Kaptaan
6 Section 375
5 Kesari
3 Mard Ko Dard Nahin Hota
3 Kalank
3 Badla
3 The Sky Is Pink
3 Chhichhore
3 Posham Pa
3 Upstarts
2 The Tashkent Files
2 Super 30
2 Mardaani 2
1 Marjaavaan
1 Kabir Singh
1 Batla House
1 Jaoon Kahan Bata Ae Dil
1 Mere Pyare Prime Minister
1 The Accidental Prime Minister
1 Saand Ki Aankh
1 Mission Mangal

 

MULTIPLE HONORS
HONORS FILMS
6 Gully Boy
2 Sonchiriya
2 The Sky Is Pink
1 Photograph
1 Kesari
1 Kalank
1 Mard Ko Dard Nahin Hota
1 Laal Kaptaan
1 Hamid
1 Upstarts
1 The Tashkent Files
1 Super 30
1 Mardaani 2
1 Saand Ki Aankh

Thank you for reading my annual Bollywood honors report. I will return with a new report next year. Share your opinion below. Stay safe.