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The Kashmir Files Review: Vivek Agnihotri’s Movie is Closest to the Truth, Unlike Any Other in the Past

The Kashmir Files

Director: Vivek Ranjan Agnihotri

Cast: Anupam Kher, Pallavi Joshi, Bhasha Sumbli, Darshan Kumaar

As I am sitting watching the timeline of the Kashmir Genocide fly by on the screen, I look at three men who are sitting beside me in the hall – one has got bitten twice by deadly scorpions in Muthi camp, one was born in Jammu having lived the aftermath of neo-poverty and one Dogra, who migrated when he was 10 years of age, his father shot in one leg. All of them cry incessantly as their past comes to life. Upon intermission, I head to the washroom where I meet a woman who is weeping and washing her face again and again. Another lady is consoling her and tells me, that the two KPs hanging from a tree in the middle of a frozen January of 1990, shown in the last scene before the interval, were her brother and father.

The Kashmir Files is the story of Pushker Nath Pandit (Anupam Kher) and his family. It is the story of rotting hope, hopeless system, the fight for one’s dignity and the cycle of deceit at the same time. Call me biased, but this is Anupam Kher’s finest contribution to cinema yet. PN Pandit isn’t just one person. It is all of us. It is the mirror of our misfortunes, shards of the glass that still haven’t come off from skin. It is pain in its rawest form because it is a movie that’s been closest to the truth, unlike any other from the past. None of the deaths were fictional, none of the tragedies coincidental, none of the wounds exaggerated or underrepresented.

I frankly do not have the courage to sit with my father to watch this movie and so I will ask him to go alone. I do not think I can see him weep in dark over his unfair life, his skewed lines of fate and his tragic present where his wife cannot walk, the same wife that caught speed ‘nanvouri’ while running towards that Jammu bound sumo with a daughter in hand on that night in 1990. I wish I could go back in the past, to just that day and help mom wear some nice comfortable shoes. Because her pain tells me blisters haven’t healed yet.

My friends in Kashmir, who will respond to my genuine emotions with their “humne wo sab nahi kiya” fall silent every time a KP is killed in the valley even today. And mind you, they will not watch the movie but still say it’s a web of lies because their co-approvals are more important than accepting truths.

As Shiva gives up and holds the gun closer to his chest and as Pushker Nath gives up in the hospital, their respective ends years apart but so eerily similar, there is a faint second when you see no light in their eyes – that tells me – how on the interim night of 1990 the sky broke into a million pieces of that misfortuned glass and punctured all our hearts, our heads and our feet, and we have all been bleeding since.

Five lakh Kashmiri Pandits had to leave everything behind in 1990 when Kashmir echoed under the announcements of Raliv Galiv ya Chaliv. The rest is history. Forgotten. The Kashmir Files, based on the genocide of KPs, releases on 11th March. Directed by Vivek Agnihotri, it has power packed performances by Anupam Kher, Pallavi Joshi, Bhasha Sumbli, Darshan Kumaar and all others.

(Khushboo Mattoo is a Consulting Editor with Network18 and a lifelong student of art. She loves sheer chai and the sound of rabab. She is vocal about everything that involves equality.)

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