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The Controversy at IFFI-53

The Kashmir Files Row: While the festival was successful, on the last day of the festival, the jury chair of the competitive section Nadav Lapid dropped a bombshell claiming that the Indian entry “The Kashmir Files” did not deserve to be the entry.

ByRK Nimai

Updated 6 Dec 2022, 5:46 pm

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IFFI-53 was celebrated successfully without any controversy till the last day. For Manipur, it was a major platform as 50 years of Manipuri cinema was recognised and a special screening of 10 Manipuri films; five feature and five short films were organised in a special section.

The initiative taken by MSDFS to ensure participation by the directors and producers of the 10 films screened is laudable as they have the opportunity to interact with other filmmakers, both Indian and foreign.

There were however, some delegates who unfortunately have little connection with the film industry and hardly attend the screenings, some with more focus on visiting casinos. Such delegates must be identified and should not be given any opportunity to participate in such events in the future.  

While the festival was successful, on the last day of the festival, the jury chair of the competitive section Nadav Lapid dropped a bombshell claiming that the Indian entry “The Kashmir Files” did not deserve to be the entry as it is vulgar and propagandist and inappropriate for an artistic competition section for such a prestigious film festival and added that this was the view of all the jury members.

Lapid said the other films in this section were of very high quality and this film just does not deserve to be there.

The Indian member of the jury clarified that it was the personal opinion of the Chair and did not reflect the views of the other members but who is being economical with truth later came out as the other three members supported the view of the Chair.

The reaction from the Indian member is expected despite the fact that he may have acquiesced during the discussion among the jury members as also the sharp reaction from the Ambassador of Israel as for them it is managing the fallout as the Chair is an Israeli, though living in France.

Unfortunately, the reaction of the Indians did not come on the quality of the film per se but it went mostly along political lines; the opposition supporting the Chair while those in the government and those following it berate him.

The issue has nothing to do with the politics in Kashmir but it is only about the film and one need not understand the complex political situation in Kashmir but rather on the presentation of a one-sided view in the film.

After a series of reactions, Lapid clarified a few days later that he didn’t mean to insult anyone and his aim was never to insult anyone or their relatives who have suffered and if his comments were interpreted as such he apologised.

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Lapid made it clear that his comments are not towards the real incidents but on the quality of the film, which he describes as “flat and doesn’t have any inner contradictions and complexities”. 

There is no doubt that the Kashmiri Pandits have been dealt a raw hand by the Indian Government in the past, corrections of which is yet to be made and they are made the political stooge in the whole drama. It is not only the Pandits which have faced extreme violence but many Kashmiri Muslims have also faced the brunt of the violence.

Although the director claims that the film depicts the truth of Kashmir and the exodus of Pandits as a genocide which was kept in the dark in history, it is but a fictional takes on actual events.

Unfortunately events which happened over a long period of time were shown as these happened in a short period.

The director of the film even claimed that all events were taken from real incidents and he will quit films if it is proved that there are fictional events. The film is nothing but a “fictional take on real events”.

The killing of Krishna’s father while hiding in a rice container is similar to the killing of BK Ganjoo in 1990 but the forcing of the wife to eat the rice soaked in her husband's blood is nothing but fiction as claimed by the victim’s brother. He further alleged that the family was never consulted while making the film.

The killing of Krishna’s mother by cutting her with a mechanical saw was a take from an event of the killing of Girija Tikoo also in 1990 but this was juxtaposed with the Nadimarg massacre of 2003.

The massacre was also shown in the film to have occurred in broad daylight in front of Kashmiri Muslims shown as passive onlookers though in reality it happened in midnight using silenced guns.

The claim by the director is despite the fact that the opening credits of the film carry the disclaimer “This film does not claim accurateness or factuality of historic events”.

A film on the violence of Kashmir without taking into account human right violations will always be treated as one sided and propagandist, as from 1988 to 2005, a total of 1583 Hindu civilians died in J&K in violent incidents while the number of Muslim civilians who died numbered 12,245 in similar circumstances!

Every person in J&K is in the middle of the chain of violence and to present that all Muslims either actively or passively support the insurgents in the film is totally divorced from the truth and thus make the film one sided. The worst is that in the film the characters blame the Congress-led Union government for the exodus of the Pandits while it actually happened during the NDA regime.

In fiction, there can be all good and all bad characters but in reality every individual possesses both good and bad qualities. To depict JNU as a hotbed of terrorism is uncalled for and use of the term genocide is rather hyperbolic.

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Commercially the film is a huge success, and the producer cum director must have felt unhappy with the comments of the jury chair; which is quite understandable. But why should the government and its followers feel so annoyed? Why can’t we Indians accept criticism and try to change for the better. Why try to rationalise mistakes by even telling untruths!

The film has nothing to do with the government which was not involved in its making. Perhaps, its massive commercial success was due to the support of the government where ET was waived off in many states besides giving leave to government employees who wished to watch the film.

The film was well shot with generally good acting by the actors but the story line is an admixture of facts and fiction. Many violent scenes are extremely disturbing to those who watch the film and the film does not portray the real condition in Kashmir. The victims as mentioned earlier belong to both the Hindus and the Muslims, especially those who are weak and marginalised.

The film is silent on the role of the then governor of the state who according to those in the know was mainly responsible for the mass migration of the Pandits, who were made the proverbial sacrificial lamb. Is it because he switched parties to suit his convenience?

Regarding the problems in J&K, has violence reduced after abrogation of Article 370 and the trifurcation of the state into three Union Territories?

The government felt that such measures will bring in peace but the result is otherwise with violent incidents happening even now. Many moderate Muslims have been killed by the insurgents and the Muslims are the target of both the insurgents as well as the security apparatus. They are in a situation like in the proverbial “between Scylla and Charybdis”.

The issue raised by the Jury Chair is not at all related with the events that unfolded in J&K but rather on the quality of the film, which many compared it with Nazi propaganda machinery. To be fair to the director he does not use the word Muslin for the villains but the visuals indicate otherwise.

The film is a result of an amateurish simplistic approach towards a very complex issue with a certain dogmatic perspective.

Its commercial success has nothing to do with its quality as many films which have been awarded or nominated with “Golden Raspberry Award for Worst Picture” simply known as Razzie Award have huge commercial success like Rambo: First Blood Part II (1985); Rambo III (1988); Star Trek V: The Final Frontier (1989); The Bodyguard (1992); Indecent Proposal (1993); Striptease (1996); Catwoman (2004); Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen (2009); Fantastic Four (2015) etc.

For commercial success, the film exploits the sufferings of the Pandits with a communal angle; cherry picking events and incidents glued together in an amateurish storyline and that the film will again make the Pandits in Kashmir feel more insecure and unsafe.

(The views expressed are personal)

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filmscinemaiffi-53m international film festival of indiathe kashmir files

RK Nimai

RK Nimai

The author is a former bureaucrat, Imphal, Manipur

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