#TheKashmirFiles. Why Bollywood And The Liberal Jamaat Hate The Truth

by R Jagannathan - Mar 16, 2022 01:04 PM +05:30 IST
#TheKashmirFiles. Why Bollywood And The Liberal Jamaat Hate The TruthPoster of the movie - The Kashmir Files. (Pic via Vivek Agnihotri)
Snapshot
  • #TheKashmirFiles is an important milestone in Bollywood’s history because it, for the first time, undercuts the vice-like grip the underworld and Left-Islamist forces have had on storylines and narratives.

The studied silence of Bollywood, “secular” public intellectuals, and the outright hostility of the Left-illiberal elite of India to a film on the ethnic cleansing and violence against Hindus in Kashmir Valley should be another eye-opener on how the dice is loaded against Hindus trying to tell their side of the story. If anyone talks up Hindu interests or narrates stories about their sufferings, it must be diminished, denied, demolished or ignored.

Renegade Bollywood director Vivek Ranjan Agnihotri’s The Kashmir Files, a low-budget, semi-documentary film that uses actual narratives of first-generation Kashmiri Hindus who witnessed the genocide of 1990 as part of the story script, has unexpectedly hit the box-office. According to Taran Adarsh, a close watcher of Bollywood films and how they fare at the box office, said in a Twitter post that #TheKashmirFiles has topped all other post-pandemic commercial releases by grossing Rs 15 crore in the first four days of screening, beating Sooryavanshi, Gangubai Kathiawadi and 83:The Film.

None of the ruling Khans of Bollywood (Salman, Aamir or Shah Rukh) or Big B has said anything about the film, and the best Aamir Khan could come up with was this neutral statement, according to this report: "Actually, I have not been able to see the film yet. I've heard it's been very flourishing. Congratulations to the whole team from me.'' One hopes that when he finally sees the film, he will talk about its content, not its commercial success.

There is little doubt why the “usual suspects” and Bollywood are silently trying to diss the film and its director Agnihotri, who broke with mainstream Bollywood and India’s 'Left-Liberal' ecosystem with his first non-commercial film, Buddha In a Traffic Jam. That film, made of a shoe-string budget with less than Rs 1 crore, focused on the hypocrisies of the Maoist Left academia, and no public intellectual has had anything nice to say about Agnihotri after that. Agnihotri’s book, Urban Naxals, which documented his journey with the film, also was a runaway hit in terms of sales. Now, with #TheKashmirFiles hitting the high notes with the people who really matter – the general film-going public – he will become Public Enemy No 1 for Bollywood and the “Left-Liberal” ecosystem.

The plain and unvarnished truth is that for all three – Bollywood, the “Left-Liberal” and the “secular” public intellectual – Hindus and Hinduism need to be put down, either directly or subtly. Thus, it follows, that Hindu victims of communal crimes must be shown as either the victims of their own follies (the Godhra kar sevaks who were burnt alive when their coach was set on fire by a Muslim mob in 2002), or attributed to unnamed criminals with no links to any religion (especially Islam). Only the negatives of Hinduism (caste, caste, caste) must be highlighted. What is sacred to Hindus (“saffron”) must be smeared with criminal intent or illegitimacy (“superstitious” and “unscientific” beliefs).

In almost all Bollywood films, even though the heroes tend to be Hindu, the attempt will be to silently diss Hindu values, Hindu beliefs or Hinduism itself. Where there is need to show Islamic terrorism, this will be whitewashed by showing another “true Muslim” who portrays “true Islam” as a patriot (Sarfarosh). Islam and Christianity will be shown as a truly benign faiths which help the poor and needy, while Hinduism will be underplayed. (Amar Akbar Anthony).

For decades now, Hindi filmdom has lampooned and demonised saffron-clad “dhongi babas” who are shown as cheats whom ordinary Hindus would want to beat; a “munimji” with a clear tilak on his forehead will be shown as not only a heartless moneylender, but a rapist to boot. But every Muslim and Christian will be shown as true to his faith, often helping hypocritical and undeserving Hindus.

Bollywood, originally in the firm grip of a Leftist group of scriptwriters and actors, is now firmly in the grip of Islamists and soft Hinduphobes. A Twitter handle called @GemsOfBollywood brings you excerpts of this subtle Hinduphobia that Bollywood tries to inculcate in the ordinary film-going public.

A few examples will show how Bollywood subtly denigrates only Hinduism.

In Aamir Khan’s Pk, an extra-terrestrial being, played by Khan, lands in India and loses his “remote” which is what will enable him to return to his planet of origin. In pursuit of this remote, he is told that only god can help him, and someone tells him Ganesha is god. He buys a Ganesha murti to help him acquire the remote, but nothing happens. Then he lands up in a play where he confronts an actor playing Lord Shiva to get him his remote, but then chases him everywhere. Shiva does not know how to deal with this alien. The audience gets its laughs, but at the cost of showing Lord Shiva cowering under a chair when Khan chases him. (Read Madhu Kishwar’s deep review of Pk here).

In 3 Idiots, again with Aamir in the lead, he is shown as a Ladakhi Buddhist with a scientific temper who is into engineering because he wants to invent things, but his Hindu friend is in it for a career, and a Muslim purely to honour his parents’ wishes when he actually wants to be a photographer. In the film, some Hindu students are shown wearing rings and doing puja in order to get good marks in exams, and others are shown feeding milk to snakes or making promises to god not to look at women with lustful eyes. The Muslim student’s family is shown as generous in enabling him to make his own career choices when he tells them the truth – that he does not want to become an engineer. Only the Hindu is shown in negative light as he abandons his lucky rings and puja to focus on just studying hard.

The Bollywood trend of bringing in subtle Islamic themes goes way back to the first two decades of independence. In Baiju Bawra, for example, a song sung by Mohammed Rafi makes a casual reference to temples being destroyed (O Duniya ke Rakhwale), where a line towards the end says “Mandir girta phir ban jaata, dil ko kaun sambhale?” Now, there is nothing wrong in saying love is more important than a temple (and the film has an excellent song with a Hindu theme, too - Man Tarpat Hari Darshan Ko Aaj), but indirectly the O Duniya ke Rakhwale song suggests that the fall of a temple – something that was the norm during iconoclastic Islamic rule, the period in which this film is situated – means little.

In Naya Daur, which has Dilip Kumar (Yusuf Khan) in the lead, the hero (Shankar) is sometimes shown wearing a skull cap, and is fairly casual and irreligious (though his lady love is shown as devout). In Amitabh Bachchan’s Deewar, he refuses to go to a temple, but willingly believes a Muslim labourer’s claim that his “Billa No 786” – a number given high importance by Muslims – is somehow a lucky life-saver. In most of his angry-young-man routines, Bachchan is shown ranting against Hindu gods, but never the god of any other religion even when he plays a Muslim. No Muslim or Christian in any Indian film is shown ranting against religion, which indirectly sends the message that only Hinduism is worth denigrating. A lot of this actually does not rile many Hindus, for they do not make faith an over-serious affair, especially when it is done through humour. But the subliminal message is that Hinduism can be nothing more than a joke.

For Bollywood, every terrorism is a joke. In Shah Rukh Khan starrer Main Hoon Na, the villain is an improbable south Indian Hindu terrorist called Raghavan, who will stop at nothing to prevent a prisoner exchange between India and Pakistan planned by a Sikh general, whose daughter is kidnapped by the villain. Raghavan’s grouse against the prisoner exchange is that his son was killed by jihadi forces in Kashmir. In Sholay, the town of Ramnagar, which is besieged by dacoit Gabbar, loses its nerve when Gabbar’s men kill a young man. While the town wants to capitulate, the Muslim man (played by A K Hangal) who lost his son is shown to give them courage. Nothing wrong, but the messaging is clear.

Even when rendering the story of the Hindu ethnic cleansing in Kashmir, the Bollywood version of it underplays the Islamic angle to the violence and instead makes it about a human tragedy that is less than believable. In 2020, film-maker Vidhu Vinod Chopra, made Shikara, which tells a story of love and loss in the context of the Kashmiri genocide. In this film, the lead roles are all played by Muslims, and the film’s main protagonist, Shiv Kumar Dhar, a Kashmiri Pandit, falls in love with a medical student Shanti Sapru. Their marriage, facilitated by Lateef Lone, a mentor for Dhar, is shown as having been attended by Hindus and Muslims living in harmony in the Valley. Lone then falls in love with Shanti’s friend Arti (shades of Love jihad here?). The political monkey balancing starts when Lateef’s dad, a local politician, is shown as attacked by the police at the behest of the central government.

Even though Shikara was based on Rahul Pandita’s book on the Kashmiri Hindu genocide, Our Moon Has Blood Clots, the film bombed at the box office as it tried to pussyfoot around the essentially religious nature of the violence against Hindus. This is where #TheKashmirFiles scores. It makes no bones about the fact that the ethnic cleansing was the result of Islamist forces seeking to drive out Hindus from the valley. At one stage, this became obvious during the last phase of the film’s shooting in the valley, where a fatwa was issued against it. Luckily, the film shooting had nearly been complete by that stage.

The cold reception to #TheKashmirFiles from the “Left-Liberal” ecosystem, something commented on even by Prime Minister Narendra Modi yesterday (15 March), should have been anticipated because showing Hindus as victims is a strict no-no for this lobby. One got more than a whiff of it when the ecosystem made the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) about Muslim victimhood in India when the act was about fast-tracking citizenship to minorities oppressed in Afghanistan, Bangladesh and Pakistan. The fact that Muslims have murdered, raped and intimidated Hindus and other minorities in all three countries is simply unacceptable as narrative to India’s “Left-liberal” cabal. And Bollywood, too. So far.

In the media, stories where Hindus are victims must either be denied, or whittled down. Read this story by Scroll,in, which investigated claims by the Sangh Parivar that 23 of its members had been killed by jihadis in Karnataka. Scroll sent a reporter to check, and found that only “10” of the murders had a Muslim perpetrator angle. It would prefer to focus on the excess claims of Hindu victimhood rather than the violence itself which it could not deny.

At the level of the historian and the public intellectual, the Left-Liberal consensus involves white-washing Mughal history. Thus, frequent temple destruction is minimised, and put down to just political necessity. Aurangzeb was an enlightened ruler and Tipu Sultan a nationalist, never mind that they were anti-Hindu bigots of the first order.

#TheKashmirFiles is an important milestone in Bollywood’s history because it, for the first time, undercuts the vice-like grip the underworld and Left-Islamist forces have had on storylines and narratives. Bollywood is on test. Will it now seek to balance its “Experiments with Untruth and Fake Narratives” with something a little more honest?

Unlikely. Soon after the film released, the Kerala Congress used its official handle to put the “facts” of the Kashmir genocide upfront, and blamed Jagmohan, who later joined the BJP, for it. It deleted the tweet later, but claimed its facts were true.

The fight for a more balanced narrative in India still remains to be won.

Jagannathan is Editorial Director, Swarajya. He tweets at @TheJaggi.
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