In the times where outrage has become new normal, boycotts are a daily affair, Israeli Filmmaker Nadav Lapid’s comments at the closing ceremony of IFFI-International Film Festival of India led to a storm in a teacup. Nadav Lapid spoke of The Kashmir Files. He called the movie vulgar and propaganda and that it was inappropriate for the competition as prestigious as IFFI. The Kashmir Files was selected for the Indian Panorama Section and was screened at 22 November. The special screening was attended by Anupam Kher, who also stars in the movie. He added that he is making the comment on the stage since he feels the spirit of the film festival can take a critical discussion.
Before going further let’s hear what did he say:
Now, if you look at it, in any other case, this would be perceived as a filmmaker, fraternity member criticizing and openly expressing his view about a movie made by another filmmaker. But all hell broke loose after his comments. The usual members of boycott gang were triggered, some even asked the Govt to take strong action in this regard, Some said what a massive blunder this was and questioned whether the MIB did its due diligence before calling Nadav? Some said heads must roll in the MIB for this embarrassment. The Jury swiftly distanced itself from his comments, the makers of the Kashmir files slammed Nadav and to top it all, even the Israeli envoys lambasted their citizen for apparently “Abusing the invite of Indians”.
The meltdown happened probably because the time and venue where the comment was made. On Sunday, the team of popular webseries Fauda attended IFFI in Goa. The enthusiasm of the MIB minister for the Fauda team was clear from the welcome extended to them. The Union Information & Broadcasting Minister Anurag Thakur tweeted in Hebrew. And also shared a video of himself jumping from the bus along with the lead actor in the series Lior Raz. The Israeli side looked equally thrilled with the Envoy Naor Gilon asking Thakur to join the Fauda team.
At the closing ceremony Anurag Thakur in his speech also mentioned India-Israel ties and the webseries. Thakur stated, “After watching Fauda, I realise it’s the right time to forge a relationship with Israel”.
On one hand, the MIB minister was talking about forging India-Israel ties and few moments later an Israeli Filmmaker criticized the Indian movie when the minister was sitting in the front. It was the same movie that was promoted by the govt vigorously, making it tax free and even in many cases urging people to watch the movie. that might explain the meltdown.
But let’s address the larger issue here. Many who criticized Nadav for his comments on the Kashmir files alleged that by criticizing the movie he mocked the Kashmiri Pandit killings in the valley depicted in it. Actor Anupam Kher went even compared Holocaust with Kashmiri Pandit killing and said if holocaust is right then exodus of Kashmiri Pandits is real too. He then also tried to draw a comparison between Oscar winning movie the Schindler’s list and The Kashmir Files.
Let’s address the first argument. Well, Nadav Lapid’s comments on The Kashmir Files were as much a commentary about the Kashmiri Pandit Exodus as much Richa Chadha’s Galwan tweet was about soldiers. The fact is straw man argument has become so common, that its easy to miss the point. Nadav lapid called the Kashmir files propaganda and vulgar movie. But does it mean he mocked or deny the Kashmiri Pandit exodus? Him calling the movie vulgar and propaganda isn’t equal to him denying that Kashmiri Pandit’s plight. And if anybody is presenting it as such they themselves are reducing the suffering to a movie which is open for critical evaluation.
Nadav called this movie vulgar and propaganda. There isn’t a textbook definition of what propaganda movie is. But generally, a propaganda film is a film that involves some form of propaganda. They spread and promote certain ideas that are usually religious, political, or cultural in nature. The first such use of the term we broadly remember is from Nazi Germany. Hitler had a propaganda minister then called Joseph Goebbels for this. The movies usually glorified hitler and Nazi party. There are many case studies available to understand how these movies played a crucial part in hypnotizing the masses. The criticism of the Kashmir Files is, it doesn’t present the Kashmir issue objectively and that it blames a particular community for the Kashmiri Pandit exodus. Nadav while justifying his crtiticism also said that the film tries to vindicate the Govt position in the Kashmir.
But here’s a question: isn’t in a way every movie some sort of propaganda? Aren’t they promoting certain ideas or certain beliefs? For example: Doesn’t Amir Khan’s 3 idiots send out a message an idea that our educational institutions are producing herd mentality and encouraging rat race, Movies like Asuran, Jai bhim, Karnan, Article 15 don’t they display atrocities on Dalits? Likewise, Schindler’s list: The movie centers around Oskar Schindler, a German industrialist who saved more than a thousand mostly Polish-Jewish refugees from the Holocaust by employing them in his factories during World War II. The director of the movie Steven Spielberg refused to take money for the movie and even called if Blood money. However, his share of the profit went to Shoah Foundation that used it to collect audio visual testimonies from survivors of holocaust.
So what’s the difference between these movies and The Kashmir Files? Why are these movies hailed and the Kashmir Files is called vulgar and propaganda? I haven’t watched The Kashmir Files so I won’t comment on that but I have watched the movies I cited here, so I will speak about that. Take for example: Jai Bhim, Asuran, Article 15 they depict the atrocities on Dalits, but they do so in a manner that forces the viewer to acknowledge the issue. The art in these movies is unmissable. Moreover, the movie though, depict a conflict, it also brings out a logical end to the movie more often than not suggestive of conflict resolution. In Jai Bhim much impetus is also on finding justice through democratic manners, through judiciary; In Asuran, the protagonist tells his kids to follow the pricipals of Dr Babasaheb Ambedkar. It doesn’t in any way encourage the viewers to generalize the community on the basis of crimes committed by the few members of it, it doesn’t invoke hate towards anyone. And I think that should be the motive of any creativity. That it makes the viewers conscious move and makes him aware/acknowledge the issue. That makes these movies masterpiece.
Lastly, So should this movie not exist? Well that’s not for me to decide, In a democracy everyone has creative freedom, freedom of expression. But if this movie can exist so can the criticism of the movie by Nadav Lapid.
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