New Delhi: A day after International Film Festival of India jury president and filmmaker Nadav Lapid called Vivek Agnihotri’s Kashmir Files a “vulgar” film and labelled it “propaganda,” expressing shock at the fact that it was presented in the competition category at all, several reactions have come in, including from Agnihotri, a fellow jury member and the Israeli ambassador to India.
Written and directed by Agnihotri and produced by Zee Studios, The Kashmir Files seeks to depict the exodus of Kashmiri Hindus from Kashmir following the killings of people from the community by terrorists. Following its March 11 release, the film was called out for its hateful representation of Muslims by a wide section of critics, but it performed well at the box office and minted over Rs 330 crore. In various BJP-ruled states, watching it was incentivised by the government.
At an address where Union Minister of Information and Broadcasting Anurag Singh Thakur, Goa chief minister Pramod Sawant and Union Ministers of State L. Murugan and Shripad Naik were present, Lapid tore into the film.
“All of us were disturbed and shocked by the 15th film, The Kashmir Files. That felt like a propaganda, vulgar movie, inappropriate for an artistic competitive section of such a prestigious film festival. I feel totally comfortable to openly share these feelings here with you on this stage. In the spirit of this festival, can surely also accept a critical discussion, which is essential for art and life,” Lapid said.
On Wednesday, Israel’s ambassador to India moved to limit the damage the Israeli director had wrought on a film that has the full backing of the Indian government. In a series of tweets, Naor Gilon said Lapid should be “ashamed” as he had “abused in the worst way” the Indian invitation to him to chair the panel of judges at the film festival.
Over multiple tweets which he captioned as an ‘open letter to Nadav Lapid’, Gilon said he is hurt by Lapid’s reactions and that it was clear that he also disapproved of the way Israel is run.
1. In Indian culture they say that a guest is like God. You have abused in the worst way the Indian invitation to chair the panel of judges at @IFFIGoa as well as the trust, respect and warm hospitality they have bestowed on you.
— Naor Gilon (@NaorGilon) November 29, 2022
Gilon also said that the backlash has involved comments that have questioned the genocide of European Jews.
“As a son of a holocaust survivor, I was extremely hurt to see reactions in India to you that are doubting Schindler’s List, the Holocaust and worse. I unequivocally condemn such statements. There is no justification. It does show the sensitivity of the Kashmir issue here,” he said.
The ambassador also appeared to say that there would be some repercussion in India against the embassy’s staff – he did not specify in what form but appeared to allude to social media harassment.
“You will go back to Israel thinking that you are bold and “made a statement”. We, the representatives of Israel, would stay here. You should see our DM boxes following your “bravery” and what implications it may have on the team under my responsibility,” he tweeted.
Jury member says Lapid expressed personal opinion
Meanwhile, Indian filmmaker Sudipto Sen, who was the only Indian on the five member international film jury, distanced himself and other members from Lapid’s statement.
“Whatever has been said by IFFI 2022 Jury Chairman Mr Nadav Lapid about the film Kashmir Files, from the stage of closing ceremony of 53rd IFFI was completely his personal opinion,” Sen wrote in a note shared on Twitter.
Sen said he and other jury members Spanish documentary filmmaker Javier Angulo Barturen and French film editor Pascale Chavance “never mentioned anything about our likes or dislikes”.
Comments by Lapid were made in his “personal capacity”, he stressed.
“As juror, we are assigned to judge the technical, aesthetic quality and socio-cultural relevance of a film. We don’t indulge in any kind of political comments on any film and if it is done, it is completely in personal capacity – nothing to do with the esteemed jury board,” Sen added.
His tweet, on which he tagged I&B minister Thakur, was shared by multiple rightwing commentators.
— Sudipto SEN (@sudiptoSENtlm) November 28, 2022
Agnihotri wrote a message on Twitter without alluding to the matter but appearing to say that his film spoke the truth.
“Truth is the most dangerous thing. It can make people lie,” Agnihotri wrote.
Truth is the most dangerous thing. It can make people lie. #CreativeConsciousness
— Vivek Ranjan Agnihotri (@vivekagnihotri) November 29, 2022
Anupam Kher, who was in the film, told the news agency ANI in a video interview, “…If holocaust is right, the exodus of Kashmiri Pandits is right too. This seems pre-planned…I don’t know much…but it seems pre-planned…because immediately after that the toolkit gang became active…It’s shameful for him to make a statement like this…
The reporter, presumably of ANI, then says, “Sir, his statement is very wrong but still you…”
“From a community who have suffered Holocaust, Jews have suffered Holocaust and he comes from that community and for him to sort of make a statement like this, he has also pained these people who have been a victim of this…May Lord Ganesh give him wisdom so that he doesn’t use the tragedy of thousands and lakhs of people to fulfil an objective,” Kher said.
#WATCH | Anupam Kher speaks to ANI on Int'l Film Festival of India Jury Head remarks for 'Kashmir Files', "…If holocaust is right, the exodus of Kashmiri Pandits is right too. Seems pre-planned as immediately after that the toolkit gang became active. May God give him wisdom.." pic.twitter.com/cUQ1bqzFs7
— ANI (@ANI) November 29, 2022
On Twitter, Kher propagated the same ‘Holocaust’ comparison with a series of stills from Steven Spielberg’s Holocaust drama Schindler’s List along with a picture from The Kashmir Files.
“No matter how big the lie is, it’s always smaller than the truth in comparison,” the actor, who had attended the special screening of the film at the 53rd IFFI on November 22, wrote.
झूट का क़द कितना भी ऊँचा क्यों ना हो..
सत्य के मुक़ाबले में हमेशा छोटा ही होता है.. pic.twitter.com/OfOiFgkKtD
— Anupam Kher (@AnupamPKher) November 28, 2022
Bharatiya Janata Party’s Goa spokesperson Savio Rodrigues in a media statement said, “The statement made by filmmaker and IFFI jury head Nadav Lapid over ‘The Kashmir Files’ is an insult to the horrors faced by Kashmir Hindus (in the past).”
“You can critique a film artistically but to term the truth about the brutality faced by the Kashmiri Pandits propaganda is shameful,” he added.
Lapid, in fact, made no comments on the forced exodus and plight of the Kashmiri Pandits but only criticised the manner in which Kashmir Files sought to present the issue.
Hate gets called out, eventually, said Congress spokesperson Supriya Shrinate.
“PM Modi, his govt, BJP, the RW ecosystem feverishly promoted The Kashmir Files’. A movie rejected by International Film Festival Of India. Jury Head Nadav Lapid called it propaganda, vulgar movie – inappropriate for the film festival’,” Shrinate tweeted.
PM Modi, his govt, BJP, the RW ecosystem feverishly promoted ‘The Kashmir Files’
A movie rejected by International Film Festival Of India. Jury Head Nadav Lapid called it ‘propaganda, vulgar movie – inappropriate for the film festival’.
Hate gets called out, eventually pic.twitter.com/VJ5dFRKnaT
— Supriya Shrinate (@SupriyaShrinate) November 28, 2022
Shiv Sena MP Priyanka Chaturvedi shared a video link of the Israeli filmmaker’s speech.
“A sensitive issue of justice for Kashmiri Pandits was sacrificed at the altar of propaganda. This is a must listen segment at the #IFFIGoa2022,” Chaturvedi said.
Actor Swara Bhasker, known for being vocal about her opinions, shared a link to the news story about Lapid’s remarks at the closing ceremony of the film gala.
“Apparently it’s pretty clear to the world…” Bhasker wrote in the caption.
Actor-filmmaker Nandita Das shared a news report on her Twitter page.
(With PTI inputs)