Israeli filmmaker Nadav Lapid’s comments about The Kashmir Files at the recently concluded International Film Festival of India (IFFI) have sparked a controversy in India, with everyone from filmmakers, diplomats, and the general public weighing in. The Golden Bear-winning Lapid, who was serving as the president of the jury at IFFI, described the polarising The Kashmir Files as a ‘vulgar’ piece of propaganda.
In a recent interview with CNN-News18, Lapid empathised with director Vivek Agnihotri’s anger at his comments, and said that if someone had said the same things about one of his own movies, he’d be furious too. Lapid said that many people have, in fact, attacked him in the past for having made what he described as ‘polemic’ films.
Based on the mass exodus of the Kashmiri Hindus from the Valley in the 90s, The Kashmir Files has polarised audiences. While it received poor reviews, it emerged as a major box office hit, and received endorsements from members of the ruling party. Agnihotri has accused Lapid of denying the suffering of the Pandit community, and challenged people to spot factual inaccuracies in the film.
Lapid said in the News18 interview that Agnihotri knows as well as he does that his comments weren’t about the Kashmir conflict, but purely about the ‘manipulative’ nature of the film. “Listen, I’m sure that the film director is furious. I also would have been furious if someone would call my films in the same way… The filmmaker knows very well that the question is not what exactly were the facts… I never doubted the facts, I don’t have the capacity, the tools, to say what happened in Kashmir… I was talking about the movie, and such a serious topic, in my opinion, deserves a serious movie.”
Lapid’s comments were also criticised by Israel’s Ambassador to India, Naor Gilon, who said that the filmmaker had abused his position as the jury head and disrespected the host nation. Lapid called Gilon and ‘manipulator’, and said that ambassador, like Agnihotri, is conflating two different issues. “He repeated the same manoeuvre. Although he was absolutely aware of the fact that I was talking about the movie, he blamed me for talking with disrespect about the tragedy of Kashmir, which is complete and total nonsense, and he’s aware of it.”
The Kashmir Files remains one of the most popular Hindi films of the year, with nearly Rs 350 crore in worldwide box office revenue. Lapid’s last film, Ahed’s Knee, won the jury prize at the Cannes Film Festival.