Cinema as a medium of expression has a powerful outreach to bring into public relief the telltale signs of not so old historical events, which are dumped under the carpet for political expediency, continuing to simmer unebbed though waiting for the spotlight to turn the focus and bring the narrative into public space. ‘The Kashmir Files’ is an example of one such blotch in our historical timeline, which was simmering, and it has now come out to the surface thanks to the initiative taken by Vivek Agnihotri, Anupam Kher, Pallavi Joshi and Zee Films.
‘The Kashmir Files’ is a stark, gory and a black depiction of the trauma that the Kashmiri Pandits went through when on one fine night on 19 January 1990 when unofficially but sternly they were advised to leave the valley! In some quarters and in some thought processes there are murmurs of dissent about the timing and rather the need for releasing such a film at all and odious comparisons have been drawn to justify the viewpoint! Fundamental difference lies in the fact that around 4-5 lakh people had to move out from their certainties that they grew around for generations to a precipice of uncertainties on which they continue to slip and yearn for moorings even after more than thirty years.
The need for depiction and telling of this story also lay in the fact that the sense of betrayal by near and dear ones became the binding element of all the migrants who were forced to leave Kashmir. Betrayal arising from a student who was studying at his guru’s place for years on end and one fine day started having roving eyes on the daughters who used to otherwise tie rakhi to him. The betrayal of bosom pals who led from front or connived from back to ensure that the so-called cleansing was implemented meticulously.
While the generation that had to leave immediately redirected its energies to pick the straws from the wind to set an abode. The subsequent generation that grew up without moorings and a sense of ennui that developed started articulating it through a public expression- it was there, as a literary expression for quite some time, and now the cinematic expression in the form of ‘The Kashmir Files’ should soothe some frayed nerves!
The so-called voices who are not happy about the narrative of ‘The Kashmir Files’ forget about the fact that even after 75 years of Independence, partition still continues to be studied and expressed in as diverse forms and formats as one can imagine, and the outreach of such expression is able to turn a leaf that soothes. ‘Tamas’ is one such example whose impact even a Bhism Sahni may not have fathomed when he wrote the book and when it was telecast as a serial. Visual representation does trigger images of association or yank from the past combined with the memories associated with it.
‘The Kashmir Files’ is different, as it has presented the narrative from the perspective of migrants and not from the circumstantial vituperations, a template used in earlier films dwelling on the rise of militancy in Kashmir, which supposedly forced the youth of the valley to pick up arms, as has been the case in films like ‘Hyder’. Be it a ‘Hyder’ or a ‘Shikara’ they did not deal into the politics of it but ‘The Kashmir Files’ comments also on the politics behind the exodus.
Why now? Another question is circulating post release of ‘The Kashmir Files’. Well, the simple answer to that is if one of the second-generation survivors of the holocaust- Steven Spielberg could make a ‘Schindler’s List’ after 50 years of the holocaust, then same template has been utilized in making of the ‘The Kashmir Files’ as well! As has been written above, the first generation post-banishment was struggling to meet the ends, and with a semblance of reality for the second generation, the reliving of the past comes to live.
One has to relive the trauma as an expression, an expression that is a shared manifestation- a collective moment of catharsis. Most potent form of this manifestation is through a cinematic exposition as it has been done in the ‘The Kashmir Files’.
From marketing perspective, ‘The Kashmir Files’ is an outlier in recent times as marketing of the film has been through word-of-mouth publicity. Probably the producers did not burn any cash, but they did have a good product at their disposal, and they chose the alternate and they created the buzz around the product and subsequently fans of cinema picked it up and lapped it up.
Before the release of ‘The Kashmir Files’, the old model of film marketing had been given a burial under the razzmatazz of event managements and other marketing appendages. ‘The Kashmir Files’ has given a new lease of life to the old form of marketing a film by directly approaching the aficionados rather than relying on a marketing apparatus to place the product. An organic link between the producer and the consumer. One only hopes that ‘The Kashmir Files’ would inspire more such events of our historical edifice, which are talked about in hushed tones, but could see the light of the day fired by passion of an individual about the cause and the fire in the belly to tell the truth to the world!