The Kashmir Files
The much talked about film of the weekend is here. Every now and then, a film comes up either on a so called “propoganda” or on a sensitive subject which is bound to have extreme opinions. And as a reviewer it is easy to kick in your set of values and almost dismiss a film altogether. But this is where most reviewers faulter. It is important for all films to be made across the spectrum irrespective of it being a pro-government vehicle or otherwise. It is most imperative for a reviewer to watch it and rate it with an open mind without any preconceived notions. The film here being talked about is The Kashmir files which dealt with the shocking genocide of Kashmiri Pandits in 1990. The issue of Kashmir is sensitive, it is complex and requires a deep study. That said, I cannot even imagine the plight of the Kashmiri Pandits who have gone through so much. So I was quite curious to watch The Kashmir Files which had a terrific word of mouth(and an imdb of 10) before I stepped into the theatre. So then, is The Kashmir Files worth your time, lets find out.
Story & Screenplay
The Kashmir Files follows the story of the first generation victims of the genocide of 1990. First things first. You cannot unsee what had happened in 1990 and the pain of literally living through hell. In his Youtube Video, Anmol from Tried & Refused Productions had rightly said that when it comes to Bollywood, Kashmir is known for its scenic beauty. However, the one shown in this film is a layer of grime buried beneath the snow, just like a corpse. And that is the essence of the story here. It is grim, shocking yet extremely hard-hitting. For some of you if you are interested, this is not quite agenda driven either. Instead to the writers’ credit, they have thrown in opinions from the other side which act as a strong counter. The non linear screenplay works in the films favour brilliantly.
The 20 minute opening sequence was nightmarish and almost instantly has you glued to your seats. While the current day scenario which brings some friends together, adds perspective to the incident which had happened, considering all of them were of different occupations and stratas of life, the timely flashback just sends a shiver down your spine everytime(with so many sequences that stay with you too). The screenplay is informative and it gives an account of the stand of the media, police, administrative officials and authorities too during that period. If I had to pick a drawback, I would say probably its length. In the second hour specially, certain sequences and talks seem slightly stretched and they could have been trimmed. But the soul of the film is intact in a terrific pre-climactic speech which holds your attention(whether or whether not you agree to it) followed by that hard-hitting and raw final act which is so devastating that it has the potential to give you nightmares for many nights. The sheer brutality is there for all to see in an unabashed and unapologetic sequence by the writers. Terrific! Overall, quite a brilliant screenplay this!
Dialogues, Music & Direction
The dialogues are conversational but they hold your attention throughout. The music is decent but the makers opt for raw cries instead of a melancholic BGM in most scenes that becomes so brilliantly overwhelming at times. The cinematography features almost every other frame moving almost to give it a guerilla type execution. Most of it works, maybe at times it falters too. It is easy to dismiss the work of Director Vivek Agnihotri. His views are pretty much in the public domain. But sticking strictly to his craft, it is difficult to ignore his skills as a director. Not only does he go all in, but he makes an impact which is unparalleled here. He is terrific in every sense of the word, adding the right amount of emotions too in every scene!
The performances are gut-wrenching here. Prakash Belawadi as Dr. Mahesh, Atul Srivastava as Vishnu and Puneet Issar as DGP Hari all have their moments to shine. Mrinal Kulkarni as Laxmi also is first rate. Pallavi Joshi as Radhika is quite brilliant and I was very impressed with her characterization as well. Mithun Chakraborty as Brahma Dutt delivers a heartfelt performance filled with helplessness. Prithviraj Sarnaik as Shiva is outstanding. Bhasha Sumbli as Sharda is absolutely brilliant and she displays so much of her pain through her eyes especially in the gut wrenching final act. Chinmay Mandkekar as Farooq is just so ruthless so much so that he doesn’t even blink while performing the act, a performance which will send a shiver down your spine. Anupam Kher as Pushkar has a very textured role with so many shades of grief and he delivers an astonishingly brilliant act, almost making the audience sit through his trauma and emotions. And this is perhaps the best performance of Darshan Kumaar’s career. As Krishna, a youth belonging to a generation which may not have seen the genocide himself and is just forming an opinion based on all talks around him, he is simply terrific. Watch him in an incredible pre-climactic scene where you can feel his emotions(whether or whether not you resonate with it again depends on your point of view). But such an incredible act!
The Kashmir Files is overwhelming, shocking and quite brilliant. Available in a theatre near you and highly recommended.