Date :30-Nov-2022

WHAT was on offer was a huge nonsense by the Israeli jury, Mr. Nadav Lapid, at the International Film Festival of India (IFFI) in Goa when he crossed all limits of the mandate as a jury as well as protocol by criticising the iconic movie The Kashmir Files as political propaganda. He had no business making those coarse comments that did not pertain to judging the movie on attributes of film-making. Yet, the Israeli jury crossed the rubicon of decency to mount a totally unwarranted criticism of the movie that set new records of business as well as critical acclaim. It may not be proper to suggest that such a jury be sacked immediately, since the organisers would refrain from any such action for obvious reasons of decency. However, the Israeli jury did not keep himself within those limits of decency and decorum.
It was only natural that the said jury got a terrible flack from all quarters, let alone those with political motives -- so much so that even the Israeli Ambassador to India blamed the jury for his obvious over-stepping of limits. True, every jury at such international festivals has his or her opinion that he or she brings to the table. True, every jury comes with his or her own biases -- which is perfectly legitimate. But what is galling is a jury’s politicised biases that tend to attack a country’s system of thought and its derivatives or variations, so to say. Israeli jury Mr. Nadav Lapid rammed into that very system in India that had accepted The Kashmir Files as a path-breaking movie. He could have given a complete ‘zero’ to the movie with appropriate comments to justify his decision. But Mr. Nadav Lapid went beyond the brief and entered a zone of political comment that was far off the mark of a jury at an international film festival.
Nothing could have been more unfortunate than this! Of course, the biased opinion of a jury does not affect the merit of a film per se. In the case of The Kashmir Files, the story has been altogether different. The film faced terrible opposition from what could be termed as establishment in the Indian film industry, so much so that it could not get screens for exhibition. Yet, the film made its way into public domain and then into public consciousness like no other film in recent times. That it made huge business, is only half the story. The other half of the story is that it offered a cathartic outlet to popular emotion across the land.
There were political lobbies that did not accept the merit of the film charitably. There were political parties, too, that lambasted the movie and its maker -- Mr. Vivek Ranjan Agnihotri -- for sort of blackmailing people emotionally by raising a fake narrative. For some time, upon its release, The Kashmir Files, therefore, became the centre of a national controversy the like of which no film in a long time had experienced.
What surprised non-partisan sections of the society was the politics that was sought to be woven around the film when it went into exhibition. The larger Indian society saw two clear-cut factions of public opinion on that movie and its contents. But factually speaking, every point in the contents of the film had a clear support in documents -- in official files, in journalistic writings, and societal memory of those times thirty-plus years ago. The events of those terrible days of the exodus of the members of the Kashmiri Pandit community from Kashmir were to become a scar on the national mind, giving serious jolt to the sense of well being of the larger Indian society. The film depicted all these in the most authentic and artistically credible way -- whose merit could not be denied. The merit of the film purely from professional point of view, too, could not be denied.
The jury was expected to judge the film on those attributes. Instead, the Israeli jury chose to make blatantly political comment on the film, possibly after lobbying by some vested interests in the country, possibly pushed by some unspoken political interest of a personalised kind. It was good, therefore, that the Israeli Ambassador denounced the jury’s criticism of The Kashmir Files. No matter the verdict of the jury, the movie once again made headlines -- naturally much to the discomfiture of its opponents. Once again, it will fetch another wave of public appreciation.