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The Kashmir Files: A brutally honest film

After the release of Vivek Agnihotri’s much-awaited directorial ‘The Kashmir Files’, cast members Pallavi Joshi and Darshan Kumar open up about their spine-chilling experiences while preparing for their roles, initial thoughts about the script and much more

The Kashmir Files: A brutally honest film
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The exodus of Kashmiri Pandits is one of the most terrifying, bone-chilling incidents of the 1990s that still makes people question the nature and sanity of humanity. The tragic events that took place left its victims traumatized.

To bring out the long, hidden truth of this event in front of the audience, filmmaker Vivek Agnihotri has brought 'The Kashmir Files', a film about Kashmiri Pandits 'who did not raise guns' to protect themselves from the violent atrocities unleashed upon them.

Released on March 11 in theatres, it stars Pallavi Joshi, Darshan Kumar, Anupam Kher, Mithun Chakraborty and others in pivotal roles.

In an exclusive conversation, Pallavi Joshi and Darshan Kumar shared their thoughts about the film, their chilling experiences when approached for their roles and more.

Your character, as a university professor in the film, has been shown in the grey light. Do you identify with it at any level?

PJ: From an actor's point of view, it was a great character to play because it completely goes against the grain of what I am and what this character is! But that's the fun of it. As an actor, you get to explore different characters. You get to play people that you are not. So, while I enjoyed playing this character, there was no way that I could identify with her! Similarly, if you give me the characters of a drug addict, a prostitute or a rag-picker to play, then it would be impossible for me to identify with them! But still, I must understand those characters by getting into their skin and thinking like them to get the dynamics right. So, I love this entire process as an actor.

The film's trailer shows your character going through emotional turmoil. Did you go through similar emotions while shooting the film?

DK: To prepare for my role, I saw all the videos that Pallavi recorded of Kashmiri Pandits across the world. After that, I scrolled through a lot of videos that are available in the public domain to understand more about the horrible incidents of 1990. It was way too painful for me to live through the trauma while watching those videos.

I respect all the professions, but I believe that acting is the most difficult job in the world because it requires lots of emotional, mental and physical strength. As actors, we have to work very hard to stay under the skin of the character and create magic on screen. Faking emotions is not an option, we need to feel it.

Sp, to convey the pain and trauma of the real-life victims, I had to feel them and emote those emotions on the camera. Watching those videos day and night took a toll on my mental and emotional health. I had sleepless nights after watching the atrocities meted out on the Kashmiri Pandits. But at the end of the day, all these experiences helped me do justice with my character of Krishna Pandit in the film.

What were your initial thoughts when you were approached for this film?

PJ: One day, Vivek arbitrarily asked me to listen to a speech of a real-life university professor. Few minutes into the video, I was like, 'What's she talking about?!' and Vivek said that I have to play that professor! My reaction was, 'Oh my God! What's this?' I was so shocked that I jumped out of my chair! I couldn't be more excited to be part of a project that's not just spine-chilling but a true account of what happened with the Kashmiri Pandits in 1990.

DK: I remember my first meeting with Pallavi ma'am. She showed me the videos that she, Vivek sir and others had shot with the victims (Kashmiri Pandits) about their experieneces. It shook me inside out, so much so that I couldn't utter a word after watching those videos. Later I got the script from Vivek sir and while reading it, I could feel and imagine the same pain which I had seen in those videos. He had depicted all the incidents so beautifully in the screenplay and the dialogues that I was spellbound. 'The Kashmir Files' is a brutally honest film, which should come out as and people should know about the reality.

Do you believe educating today's youth and future generations about the long-hidden truths is something that needs to be done more in India?

PJ: I wouldn't use the word 'educating' because I think today's youth is very smart and well equipped to understand a lot of things. This generation has been raised in a free country, to parents that weren't dictated by anyone. And when you are born to the parents of a free country, you start taking ownership of your country. There is a certain way you want to run your country and there is a certain way you want people to behave. This generation is equipped, free and liberated enough to know exactly how they should take their country and the world forward.

Instead of educating them, I would say certain truths need to be told as they have been hidden from them for so long for a variety of reasons - be it political, emotional, financial or psychological. But mostly, the subjects that we deal with are hidden due to political reasons. So, if you are going to grow up in a society, especially in a country like India where we are constantly surrounded by politics, then every person needs to be a little politically aware. What has happened in the past needs to be shown to them so that they can decide how to behave in their today and pave way into tomorrow.

The audience has now become more accepting towards films like 'The Kashmir Files', 'Sardar Udham' and 'Gangubai Kathiawadi'. What's your take on this new change?

PJ: Such kinds of films have always been around but it's us who did not pay much attention to it. e introduced a very weird genre of films called mindless comedies. Nowhere in the world does anyone makes mindless comedies, but we started it. And when one film became popular, everyone wanted to make more meaningless films. Such projects can be fun to watch in the first time, but in the long run are not workable. You can't keep reading pulp fiction for life!

I don't mind song and dance numbers in Hindi films as they have been an inherent part of our culture but making Swiss Alps and NRI heroes the centre of every story was destined to fall flat after a certain time. These cliches eventually made the viewers question the lack of Indian representation. Such films became evident that filmmakers are only catering to the NRI audience and don't care about the locals, which made Indians feel very cheated. So, with time, people started realising there is not much takeaway in films without good content.

When we talk about art or 'filmmaking as a form of art', there is something to take away. If you listen to a classical song or watch a dance performance, there's some takeaway. Then why's there no takeaway from films? It's a pertinent question from the audience that needs to be answered. We need to make films that have a takeaway and help develop viewers' minds with meaningful lessons in the end.

If you see the timeline of Indian film history, there are evergreen classic movies from the 1960s with actors like Rajkumar, Nargis, Balraj Sahni and more. It was in the 1980s when everything went in the dumps: music was bad, filmmaking was down, the styling was atrocious, make-up was terrible and the film titles were unthinkable. So, the 1980s took films and the art of filmmaking downhill and now is the time when we are rising with content-driven films.

So, I have a lot of hopes from the new generation as they know that content is the king. That is why they have supported and made content-driven films successful like 'Dum Laga Ke Haisha' and 'Badhaai Ho!'.

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