The first reaction to Israeli filmmaker Nadav Lapid’s statement on ‘The Kashmir Files’ was that of shock and disdain. How could a tragedy be termed as ‘vulgar’ and pain as ‘propaganda’?
Questions at Lapid’s intentions and his comprehension of a tragedy stands manifested by the kind of remarks that he made at the 53rd International Film Festival of India (IFFI). Perhaps he did not know what happened in Kashmir three decades ago and what is happening there till date.
What he remarked in Goa cannot be dismissed by any means.
A video from the festival that went viral on social media saw Lapid saying, “We saw seven films in the debutant competition, and 15 films in the international competition, the front window of the festival. 14 out of them had cinematic qualities, defaults and evoked vivid discussions
“All of us were disturbed and shocked by the 15th film, ‘The Kashmir Files’. That felt like a propaganda, vulgar movie, inappropriate for an artistic competitive section of such a prestigious film festival.
“I feel totally comfortable openly sharing these feelings here with you at this stage. In the spirit of this festival, we can surely also accept a critical discussion, which is essential for art and life.”
What is essential for art and life? Certainly, criticality is acceptable, but not at the cost of someone else’s life and pain. What B.K. Ganjoo went through when bullets were pumped into the drum he was hiding in at his home in Srinagar’s Chotta Bazar on March 19, 1990, Lapid must go through the pain since a film director lives through scenes before making the actors enact.
When Girija Tickoo, a librarian at a University who had gone to collect her paycheck, was kidnapped, tortured, gang-raped, and then brutally murdered by cutting her alive with a saw. Lapid must talk to her family to understand the ‘vulgarity’ of the crime perpetrated by her own Muslim office colleagues.
Noted Kashmiri writer Sarwanand Koul Premi and his son, Verinder Koul, 27, were tortured and brutally killed by militants in April 1990 after they were abducted from their home in Soaf Shali village of Anantnag district. Can Lapid go to the village and find the truth himself?
The Israeli filmmaker can also visit the Nadimarg and Wandhama villages in Kashmir, which continue to be haunted by the cries of the Kashmiri Pandits who were lined up and shot dead one after the other. Wandhama massacre took place on January 26, 1998 in which 23 KPs were killed, and Nadimarg attack happened on March 23, 2004 in which 24 including two children were shot dead.
Perhaps, Lapid can get good reels in shooting abandoned homes of lakhs of Kashmiri Pandits.
He can visit the thousands of displaced KPs who continue to live in misery in the migrant camps in Jammu.
Lapid can surely find art and life in the dilapidated houses in Kashmir and struggles in Jammu and elsewhere.
His comments have created a storm with even the jury board of the 53rd International Film Festival of India distancing itself from its chief, Israeli filmmaker Nadav Lapid’s comments on ‘The Kashmir Files’ and terming them “his personal opinion”.
Israel’s ambassador to India Naor Gilon publicly denounced the filmmaker and also apologised to India in an “open letter” on Twitter. He equated the film on the exile of the Pandit community from the Kashmir Valley with Steven Spielberg’s Holocaust classic Schindler’s List and urged Lapid to ‘justify’ his criticism.
Lapid’s criticism is far and wide but it reflects the apathy of a whole big system that includes the human rights bodies in and outside the country which have failed to take up the plight of the persecuted Kashmir’s minorities. Why? The answer is equally baffling, much like what Lapid perceived about the film.
Lapid needs to understand why would lakhs of people from one community en masse leave their homes to live as refugees.
By terming the pain of Kashmiri Pandits vulgar and propaganda, Lapid has only exposed his own intellectual capacities.
(Deepika Bhan can be contacted at email@example.com)