Bollywood director Vivek Agnihotri is at it again – this time claiming that The Kashmir Files has been shortlisted for the Oscars. There are 301 films, including 11 from India, that are on the list which will be trimmed down to five categories. The chances of any of the 11 Indian films making the cut aren’t certain.
Agnihotri has attempted to play with the words.
“BIG ANNOUNCEMENT: The KashmirFiles has been shortlisted for Oscars2023 in the first list of @TheAcademy. It’s one of the 5 films from India. I wish all of them very best. A great year for Indian cinema,” Agnihotri tweeted.
In the second tweet, he writes: “Pallavi Joshi, Mithun Chakraborty, Darshan Kumar, Anupam Kher have all been shortlisted in the Best Actor category. This is just the beginning. The road is long. Bless everyone.”
The Academy Awards’ official website trashes Vivek Agnihotri’s assertion as untrue as the movie has been chosen for shortlisting only.
The only film from India to appear on the Oscars shortlist for International Feature Film is The Last Film Show. The information on the movies that made the shortlists for the remaining categories is yet to come.
Not only Agnihotri’s The Kashmir Files, Rishabh Shetty’s Kantara has also not qualified for the Oscars.
This is not the first time Agnihotri has made a false claim. In July last year, the Jewish Museum in Berlin refuted his claim that an event had been planned for the “Humanity Tour.”
According to a report on The Wire, the museum committee said in an email: “There is no event planned with Mr. Agnihotri from our side, nor are we aware of any official visit to the museum.”
The movie was in the thick of controversy when, in November last year, the comments of the Israeli director and International Film Festival of India (IFFI) jury chairperson Nadav Lapid, described The Kashmir Files as “vulgar and propagandist.”
His comments on the film came at the closing ceremony of the 53rd edition of IFFI in Goa.
Lapid stated in his statement at the IFFI 2022 closing ceremony that he was “disturbed and horrified” to see the movie being screened there.
“All of us were disturbed and shocked by the movie, The Kashmir Files. It felt to us like a propaganda and vulgar movie that was inappropriate for an artistic and competitive section of such a prestigious film festival. I feel comfortable to openly share this feeling with you since the spirit of the festival can truly accept critical discussion which is essential for art and life,” Lapid said.
Indian film director Sudipto Sen, who was part of the international film jury, distanced himself and other members from Lapid’s statement.
“Whatever has been said by IFFI 2022 Jury Chairman Mr Nadav Lapid about the film Kashmir Files, from the stage of closing ceremony of 53rd IFFI was completely his personal opinion,” Sen wrote in a note shared on Twitter.
However, in an interview, Lapid spoke to Karan Thapar on why he stood behind his statement and denied reports in the Indian media that he had later praised the movie.
“Why did I have this feeling? The only thing that I can tell is that we all jury members shared exactly the same impression about the movie. I’m not the first person, not the thousandth person who uses words like “propaganda movie,” Lapid said.
Lapid went on to describe those who played the roles of terrorists as some ‘bad guys in a cartoon movie’.
“When I watched those who played the roles of the terrorists, you know, for me it was ridiculous because they were playing like you know the bad ones in a cartoon movie for kids,” he said.
The global gross for the movie surpassed Rs 300 crore. The movie, which was produced tax-free in a number of states across the country, was subject to several international prohibitions due to claims that it gave a “one-sided depiction” of the Kashmir conflict.
Accused of whipping up anti-Muslim emotions, The Kashmir Files drew strong criticism from independent filmmakers and critics in India and internationally. Mumbai-based senior journalist Sidharth Bhatia alluded to the movie as “manipulative propaganda vehicle to rouse emotions against Muslims.” Referring to Agnihotri as the favourite filmmaker of the BJP, he said the director received the party’s full support, an assertion backed by the statements of the BJP leaders, including Prime Minister Modi, who did an aggressive campaigning for it. In a number of BJP ruled states, the movie was granted a tax exemption. Also, in several states, government departments sponsored the screening by paying for the tickets of the employees who were ordered to watch the movie. Anti-Muslim and pro-Hindutva slogans were raised inside the cinema halls, especially across North India in the middle of the movie and also when it was over. Many surcharged viewers were seen seeking revenge for the purported atrocities committed by Muslims against Hindus after watching the cooked-up and highly exaggerated scenes from the movie.
Speaking with the media, noted film director Saeed Mirza said: “For me, The Kashmir Files is garbage. Is the Kashmiri Pandit issue garbage? No, it’s not. It’s real. Is it just Kashmiri Hindus? No. Muslims, too, are caught in an incredibly vulgar trap of the machinations of intelligence agencies, nations with so-called national interests, and paid guys from across the border, who continue to create havoc. The point is not to take sides. Be human and try to understand.”
In August 2022, noted Indian filmmaker Anurag Kashyap, commenting on The Kashmir Files’ Oscar bid, said in an interview: “India might actually have the nomination in the final five if RRR is the film they pick. I don’t know what film anybody is going to pick. I hope not The Kashmir Files.”
The remark irked Agnihotri which triggered a war of words between the two. Jumping in Kashyap’s support, Canadian filmmaker Dylan Mohan Gray lashed out against the possibility of The Kashmir Files becoming India’s official entry for the Oscar 2023. “The Kashmir Files will be an embarrassment to India at the Oscars,” he said. Alluding to the movie as “hatemongering garbage”, the director tweeted: “Yeah, actually it’s (hatemongering revisionist) garbage of no artistic merit and will be further embarrassment to India.” In Kashyap’s defence, the filmmaker said: @anuragkashyap72 is just trying to preserve what’s left of the country’s good name.”
A section of the mainstream media that brazenly aligns itself with the Hindu right went all guns blazing against the detractors of The Kashmir Files and did everything it could to promote the movie and its political objectives even before its release.