Rajat Sharma

The Kashmir Files: Lapid’s remark is vulgar, not the movie

AKB30 The disparaging remark made by an Israeli filmmaker Nadav Lapid about the movie ‘The Kashmir Files’ triggered a strong backlash in India and the Israeli ambassador had to tender an apology. This incident has reopened the wounds of Kashmiri Pandits who had to suffer exodus from the Valley during the Nineties.

Lapid, as chairman of the jury at the just concluded International Film Festival of India in Goa, said at the closing ceremony, “There were 15 films in the international competition – the front window of the festival. Fourteen out of them had the cinematic qualities and evoked vivid discussions. We were, all of us, disturbed and shocked by the 15th film, ‘The Kashmir Files’, that felt to us like a propaganda, vulgar movie, inappropriate for an artistic competitive section of such a prestigious film festival.”

Lead actor Anupam Kher, director Vivek Agnihotri, Goa chief minister Pramod Sawant and several top personalities lashed out at Lapid for making this remark, and the Israeli ambassador to India Naor Gilon had to issue a statement which amounted to a virtual apology.

The Israeli ambassador said, “I am no film expert but I do know that it is insensitive and presumptuous to speak about historic events before deeply studying them and which are an open wound in India, because many of the involved are still around and still paying a price.” The ambassador said, Lapid should be “ashamed” for abusing India’s invitation to chair the jury at IFFI. The ambassador said the friendship between India and Israel is very strong and it will survive the damage done by Lapid’s remarks.

At a joint press conference with Anupam Kher in Delhi on Tuesday, Israeli Consul General Kobbi Shoshani said, the film carried a very strong message about Kashmiri Pandits and it was not a propaganda movie. Anupam Kher, the lead actor in The Kashmir Files, said, this seems to be the remark of “a sick mind and mentally unstable person”. After the Consul General apologized, Anupam Kher said, “My anger has now subsided. The manner in which Lapid made this objectionable remark appears to be part of a well-calculate conspiracy to tarnish the success of IFFI and India’s image.”

Member of IFFI jury, Indian filmmaker Sudipto Sen issued a statement on Twitter: “Whatever has been said by Jury chairman Nadav Laid about the film The Kashmir Files…was completely his personal opinion.”

Filmmaker Ashok Pandit said, Lapid has made a mockery of the sentiments of seven lakh Kashmiri Pandits who suffered inhuman travails in the Valley. Screen write Manoj Muntashir said, the remarks display the foolishness of the Israeli filmmaker.

On the other end of the social media spectrum, actor Swara Bhaskar tweeted: “(What Lapid said) Apparently it’s pretty clear to the world ….The thing is if you have jury for film festivals you’re inviting them specifically to judge the films..now you are getting mad when they judge the film.”

Shiv Sena MP Priyanka Chaturvedi tweeted: “A sensitive issue of justice for Kashmiri Pandits was sacrificed at the altar of propaganda. …The comments he made were about the way one movie that was nominated, namely, The Kashmir Files, has treated the subject of the unfortunate events and made it a propaganda film, he spoke of the discomfort of the other jury members too.’ Shiv Sena leader Sanjay Raut alleged the filmmaker made his money by making this movie but the travails of Kashmiri Pandits are yet to be over.

‘The Kashmir Files’ made by director Vivek Agnihotri tells the story of the exodus of Kashmiri Pandits from the Valley in 1990, when Pakistan-backed terrorism was at its peak. Anupam Kher and Mithun Chakraborty played lead roles in it.

An angry Anupam Kher said about Lapid: “There are some people who do not want to listen or watch the truth. They are targeting this movie only because it shows the bitter truth of Kashmir Valley.”

The director of the movie Vivek Agnihotri said, “Lapid is encouraging the narrative of terrorists. Each and every single frame of my movie depicts the truth. Let anybody come forward and point out one single incident in the movie which was untrue, I will stop making movies.”

Goa chief minister Pramod Sawant said, “Nadav Lapid tried to run his agenda at the film festival, which he should not have done.” Assam chief minister Himanta Biswa Sarma said, “Lapid has no right to make such comments about The Kashmir Files. His remark should not be taken seriously. Members of the jury are not gods.”

The main question is: Is The Kashmir Files a propaganda film? I have met Kashmiri Pandit families and have seen their near and dear ones, soaked in blood. They were forced by terrorists to leave their homes. Most of the Kashmiri Pandits who watched the movie said it has honestly depicted their pain and the atrocities that they were subjected to. I have seen Kashmiri Pandits weeping while seeing this movie. Then how can a filmmaker call it a “propaganda movie”? How can it be called “vulgar”?

Nadav Lapid has made a mockery of the exodus of Kashmiri Pandits and the atrocities they were subjected to. Lapid’s remark is vulgar, propagandistic and a crude joke.

The next question is: Who made Lapid the chairman of the IFFI jury? Was his background checked before he was selected as chairman of the jury? This Israeli filmmaker made similar outlandish remarks in the past too. His career has been consistently controversial.

I asked some top personalities in Israel about Lapid. They said, nobody in Israel takes Lapid’s remarks seriously. They expressed surprise over the importance that is being given to him in India about his outlandish remarks.

The Kashmir Files move has narrated the truth about the exodus of Kashmiri Pandits. There can be no doubt about that, whatever others may say. This movie portrays the searing pain that Kashmiri Pandits were subjected to.

I hold Kashmiri Pandits in great esteem. Despite being homeless and even after facing atrocities, they never begged assistance from others. They walk with their heads high. They want to return to their home and hearth, and kiss the sacred soil of Kashmir. Watching this movie always reminds us of the dire need to send Kashmiri Pandits back to their homes, so that they can live a safe life. This is our collective responsibility, which we must fulfill.

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