Filmmaker Nadav Lapid’s comments about The Kashmir Files have ignited a controversy. At the closing ceremony of the International Film Festival of India (IFFI) on Monday, Lapid, who was serving as the head of the jury, called The Kashmir Files a ‘propaganda film’, and said that it should not have been made a part of the official competition selection at the festival.
In his closing remarks, Lapid said before a crowd that included dignitaries and prominent members of the film industry, “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.”
The Kashmir Files is based on the mass exodus of Kashmiri Hindus from the Valley in the 1990s, and generated significant controversy upon release earlier this year. Directed by Vivek Agnihotri, the film became a word-of-mouth hit, and earned nearly Rs 340 crore at the global box office. It also divided political lines, and drew support from members of the BJP.
Vivek Agnihotri: ‘Truth is the most dangerous thing’
Agnihotri didn’t comment directly on Lapid’s statement, but he posted a cryptic message on Twitter the following day. He wrote, “Truth is the most dangerous thing. It can make people lie.”
Anupam Kher: ‘Pre-planned comment’
The most prominent cast member of The Kashmir Files, actor Anupam Kher tweeted pictures of the film, and appeared to draw comparisons to Steven Spielberg’s Oscar-winning Schindler’s List. Outside a Mumbai temple on Tuesday morning, he told the news agency ANI that he wishes more ‘wisdom’ for Lapid, and said that the statement was ‘pre-planned’. He also said that the film’s team will prepare a proper response, which will be shared in due course of time. His co-actor Darshan Kumaar said, “Everyone has their own individual opinions on anything they see and perceive …. But one can’t deny the fact is that The Kashmir files is a film which has depicted the actual plight of Kashmiri pandit community… who are still fighting for justice against the brutal acts of terrorism… so this film is not on vulgarity but on reality.”
Ranvir Shorey: ‘Reeks of politics’
Actor Ranvir Shorey wrote in a tweet that Lapid’s actions reeked of ‘political opportunism’. He commented, “The singling out of a film and the language used to describe it is completely unbecoming of a film jury or critic. It reeks of politics. Cinema has always been the harbinger of truth & change, not an agent to stifle or snuff it. Shameful display of political opportunism at #IFFI.”
Prakash Raj: ‘Shame is official now’
Actor Swara Bhasker and Prakash Raj both shared news stories about Lapid’s comments. While Raj wrote on Twitter that ‘shame’ is ‘official now’, Bhasker wrote that ‘it’s pretty clear to the world’ what is happening.
Ashoke Pandit: ‘Lapid added salt to our wounds’
Filmmaker Ashoke Pandit said that Lapid ‘made a mockery of India’s fight against terrorism’ and said that his selection as the jury head ‘is a major lapse on behalf of I&B ministry.’ Tagging I&B minister Anurag Thakur, Pandit wrote that Lapid ‘has added salt to our wounds and hence should b made to tender a apology.”
An open letter to #NadavLapid following his criticism of #KashmirFiles. It’s not in Hebrew because I wanted our Indian brothers and sisters to be able to understand. It is also relatively long so I’ll give you the bottom line first. YOU SHOULD BE ASHAMED. Here’s why: pic.twitter.com/8YpSQGMXIR
— Naor Gilon (@NaorGilon) November 29, 2022
Israeli envoy demands Lapid’s apology
While Lapid hasn’t yet commented further, Israel’s Ambassador to India, Naor Gilon apologised to Indian authorities for the filmmaker’s statement. Addressing Lapid in a series of tweets, Gilon wrote, “My suggestion. As you vocally did in the past, feel free to use the liberty to sound your criticism of what you dislike in Israel but no need to reflect your frustration on other countries. I’m not sure that you have enough factual basis to make such comparisons. I know I don’t.”
He added, “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.”
IFFI jury member responds
IFFI jury member Sudipto Sen tweeted, “Whatever has been said by IFFI 2022 Jury Chairman Mr. Nadav Lapid about the film Kashmir Files, from the stage of closing ceremony of 53-rd IFFI was completely his personal opinion. In the official presentation of the Jury Board to the Festival Director and in the official Press Conference, where we 4 juries (the fifth jury had to leave for her personal emergency) were present and interacted with the press, we never mentioned anything about our likes or dislikes. Both were our official collective opinion”.