By TKF Austin team
The history of the human race has largely been the history of weapons and religion. Death, genocide and decline of civilizations are as much a part of history as human prosperity and advancement. Archives, museums and school curricula record and remind us of our chequered past and grave atrocities. However, some atrocities are better-documented and spoken more about than some others. Kashmir is a tragedy that has found its way into the ‘others’ category and whisked away into the blindspot of history.
Director Vivek Ranjan Agnihotri has had an unhurried and interesting body of work - 7 films in the last 17 years. His movies have been political thrillers, biographies and even one erotic thriller.
Some of those were panned while some others were received well, just like the work of any other film maker. His latest movie, ‘Kashmir Files’ co-produced by his wife Pallavi Joshi is perhaps his most important and signature work. This movie is set for January 26 release, coinciding with India’s Republic Day. However, the Austin community had the privilege of sneaking a preview show of the film that talks about the murder,rape of and untold brutality inflicted on Kashmir Hindus. It was a story of those who managed to escape after they were threatened with murder or conversion leading to their permanent exile. The film was screened Dec 19 at the Southwest theaters Lake creek 7
The movie had a lot of material to cover and the director in his interviews had mentioned that 2 hr and 50 minutes cannot show everything that happened. When the film starts, it becomes evident that the director wastes no time to get into the issue.
As the movie unfolds, the question begged itself and raged - “What caused the Kashmir predicament?”
The question can be answered with another question - “What causes ethnic cleansing and decimation of people belonging to alternative faiths, race and religion?” The second question can be answered in two terms - religious intolerance and bigotry.
A book should not be judged by a movie based on it. The real plight of the Kashmiri Hindu pandits should not be judged by this movie, and is far more poignant. Imagine being ethnically cleansed in your ancestral homeland for the seventh time.
Though the motivations and persuasions of the perpetrators who inflicted these atrocities may be obvious, the failure or unwillingness to recognize it and address the issue at its root has resulted in a tragedy that could have been prevented in the post-independence era of India.
The sufferings of the victims that have been largely undertold and covered up, repeated denial of justice and dignity to those affected people are subjects that the film is able to discuss boldly.
The film should serve as a prelude to starting a conversation on this topic, and focusing attention on the most cursed victims that most people have never heard of. The film is a bare minimum tribute to them, even if nothing has changed on the ground for the last 30 years.
On the evening of Dec 19, a few hours after the screening ended, a select number of people among the audience got a chance to interact with Vivek Agnihotri and Pallavi Joshi over dinner organized at Zaika Restaurant by the local hosts. They were joined by Dr Surinder Kaul, an eminent physician from Houston,TX and a Kashmir Pandit himself who can vouch for the authenticity of what is shown in the film.
Many members of the audience, having been deeply moved by the film, were visibly emotional , and shared their feelings with the film crew.
There was lively interaction among the audience and the director with questions on how the crew embarked on this journey to make this film, what kept them motivated, and how the crew conducted their research.
The crew also had lots of information to share and it was well appreciated by the attendees. The audience felt deeply grateful at the end of the day for having watched a remarkable movie being made to serve humanity.