Have you watched ‘The Tashkent Files’?, asked one of my friend. I replied in negative and before I could have given him the reasons, he fumes at me, ‘Dude, you got to watch this one?’. I simply nodded my head in approval.
A week later, finally being able to manage time is when I decided to quickly rush to a nearby theatre. Frankly, I had more than one reason to go out and watch this one. Firstly, it is supposed to be a wonderful reasearch piece on the mysterious death of Lal Bahadur Shastri. The other reason is personal. Years ago, my mum was called ‘Pallavi Joshi’ in Kashmir by many. She had this uncanny facial resemblence and although, I was a child, I remember her blush when someone used to call her that. Hence, in many ways, getting to additionally see her on the big screen was a bonus.
As I walked into the multiplex with high expectations, I notice no large banners of the movie. Nor any small side posters were to be seen. However, near the ticketing counter, a page of printed paper with timelines of the movie was pinned on a softboard. A sudden realization of shortage of funds & resources dawns upon me. How unfortunate that such an important fact based movie gets lesser coverage, market & screens than some ridiculous dancing around the trees movies!
The movie starts with a full screen disclaimer of how it is not trying to hurt any political party, individual and displayed a long statement against hurting sentiments. It looked like a paradoxical message specially crafted for some intolerant liberals out there.
As the movie unfolds, you realize that the cinematic experience is like no other. ‘Who killed Shastri’ is the central theme of the movie. It is most definately a thinkers pad not just random song and dance setup. It takes an unapologetic dig at the hollowness of secularism. It questions Political, Media, Intellectual, Judicial and Historical terrorism.
Walking on thin ice, Vivek Agnihotri delivers a masterclass. He tears apart the narrative of anti-nationals and fake historians piece by piece. Sometimes, you wish like getting up & contribute by asking your set of questions, that is where the movie is a winner. It prods and engages you at multiple levels.
The movie also takes you down a guilt trip. Like how could you not know that Oct 2nd is also the birthday of the Nationalist PM Lal Bahadur Shastri? Why is this nation termed as a land of Gandhis & Nehrus alone? Why have we degraded other role models instrumental in building of this modern India? And, if the PM of this nation couldnt get justice & proper investigation into his mysterious death, how can a common citizen expect the same?
Terms like ‘Disneyland of Spies’, ‘The country for Sale’ and many others send a shiver down your spine. It makes you wonder why no flim-maker produces an intelligent & fact based movie like this one. What are their compulsions?
Being a Kashmiri Pandit Hindu, I wonder weather this erosion of the strength of our nation, paved way for our Genocide in 1990. The conspiracy of silence in the Shastri’s death is comparable towards the silence on our genocide and ethnic cleansing. This equivalence made me connect & worried at the same time.
The movie truely leaves you awestruck and numb. You feel cheated by the establishment and the education system in India. Once the credits start rolling, you realize that the movie has concluded and you must move out of your seat. Finally, you get up desperately hiding wet eyes and all the emotional drenching you have just gone through. Unfortunately, it leaves you with more questions in your head than answers.
Go, do yourself a favour. Watch this one, for no history book in India will give you this real, honest and factual perspective. Thank you Vivek Agnihotri, hope your efforts infuse the strength in other young flim-makers. Here’s a toast to your courage of conviction, Cheers!