Filmmaker Nadav Lapid, who caused a stir with his comments at the recently concluded International Film Festival of India (IFFI), said in an interview that speaking out against The Kashmir Files was ‘not easy’ and that he was apprehensive about this. At Monday’s closing ceremony of the festival, Lapid, who was serving as the president of the jury, called director Vivek Agnihotri’s film ‘vulgar, propaganda’.
He made the statement before a crowd filled with dignitaries and eminent film industry personalities Immediately, the impact of his words was felt. In the ensuing hours, both Agnihotri and his Kashmir Files cast members slammed Lapid’s comments, as did Israel’s Ambassador to India. Apologies were issued, but not by Lapid, who told Israeli outlet Ynet that he was ‘happy to be on (his) way to the airport’. “It’s crazy, what’s going on here,” he said.
When he watched the film, he said, he was struck by how blatantly it adheres to the government line on Kashmir. The film is based on the mass exodus of Kashmiri Hindus in the 90s, and Agnihotri has claimed that not a single scene or line of dialogue has been fabricated. But Lapid said that ‘it basically justifies the Indian policy in Kashmir, and it has fascist features’. He also said that he wouldn’t be surprised if a film like The Kashmir Files is made in Israel in the next couple of years.
Asked what went through his mind before he made his political statement, and if he knew that his words would cause a storm, he said, “I knew that this was an event that is terribly connected to the country, and everyone stands there and praises the government. It is not an easy position, because you are a guest, I am the president of the jury here, you are treated very nicely. And then you come and attack the festival. There was apprehension, and there was discomfort . I didn’t know what the dimensions would be, so I did it with some apprehension. Yes, I spent the day apprehensive. Let’s put it this way: I’m happy to be on my way to the airport now.”
Lapid said that after his speech, people came up to him to thank him for what he said. Although he didn’t identify who exactly he was speaking about. “It was a hall with thousands of people, and everyone was ecstatic to see the local stars and cheer for the government. In countries that are increasingly losing the ability to speak your mind or speak the truth, someone needs to speak up. When I saw this movie, I couldn’t help but imagine its Israeli equivalent, which doesn’t exist but could definitely exist. So I felt I had to, because I come from a place that is itself not reformed, and is itself on the way to these places,” he said.
In his speech, Lapid said that the jury’s opinions about The Kashmir Files were unanimous, but fellow jury member Sudipto Sen said that he was hurt by Lapid’s decision to make public discussions that were had privately. He also said that this was Lapid’s personal view and not of the jury. The Kashmir Files received poor reviews upon release earlier this year, but positive word-of-mouth and glowing endorsements by members of the ruling party helped push it past the Rs 340 crore mark at the global box office.