'Kashmir Files' is A Film Against Terrorism, Not Political Propaganda, Says Star Darshan Kumar

© Photo : darshankumaar/instagramDarshan Kumaar
Darshan Kumaar - Sputnik International, 1920, 25.03.2022
Bollywood film ‘The Kashmir Files’ is based on the real story about the exodus of Kashmiri Hindus from the valley in the Nineties. Back then, around 62,000 Kashmiri Pandit families from Jammu and Kashmir were forced to flee their homes and hundreds of thousands were killed amid escalating violence against Hindus.
The recently released Indian film ‘The Kashmir Files’ has drawn hordes of viewers back to cinemas all over the world. It has entered an elite club of Bollywood films after becoming the highest-grossing Hindi movie during the pandemic, having exceeded $27 million in box office takings in its first week.
As the film smashes box office records internationally and several states in India have exempted the film from tax, the director, Vivek Agnihotri, is now planning to bring out a web series based on the 700 accounts of the victims’ families which he recorded while he was conducting research for the movie.
Actor Darshan Kumar, who played the role of a Kashmiri Pandit in the film, talks to Sputnik about receiving rave reviews for his performance and the challenges he faced during filming. He also confronts the accusation made by some that the film is political propaganda perpetuating divisions in India between Hindus and Muslims.
Sputnik: Your movie ‘The Kashmir Files’ has set a new benchmark worldwide after it exceeded $27 million in box office takings in its first week. Why has it been such a huge success?
Darshan Kumar: It’s the heart-wrenching real story of the Nineties about Hindu Kashmiri Pandits who faced exodus and genocide because of terrorism. People across the world found a connection with the human emotion and the pain experienced by Kashmiri Hindus as they were forced to live as refugees.
This movie taught audiences about a little-studied episode and obviously affected them as thousands have since come forward to demand justice for those who suffered.
Sputnik: How challenging was it for you to play the role of Krishna Pandit, a Kashmiri Hindu whose mother was gang-raped and sawn in two while she was still alive, and whose entire family was gunned down in the movie?
Darshan Kumar: It left me disturbed. I had several moments of breaking down on the set. It took me two weeks to switch off from my character after filming ended and I meditated to restore my calm. I came out of the character but there are victims’ families who are still suffering and fighting for justice, 32 years on.
The story of Sharda [Krishna Pandit’s mother who is butchered] is the real story of Girija Tickoo who was a laboratory assistant at a university in Kashmir valley. She was called by her colleague to return to Kashmir to collect her pay but was subsequently kidnapped, brutally gang-raped, and cut in half by a carpenter saw.
What you see in the film is only about 10 percent of the actual brutality which people went through. There are hundreds of such stories of the victims, and first-generation families of the Kashmiri Pandits who are still waiting for justice and living in fear.
Sputnik: Around 700 families of Kashmiri Pandit victims scattered all over the world were interviewed for this film. What did they say?
Darshan Kumar: When I watched video testimony of the victims’ families, they told of the horrors of exodus and genocide their family had to face. Some said that they couldn’t find the bodies of their relations who were brutally killed and thrown into the river or buried on the ground by terrorists.
The atrocities were so gruesome that their relations still live in fear and can't sleep alone and in the dark at night. Several of them continue to suffer depression and anxiety.
Sputnik: Your 13-page monologue in the film about the rich history of Kashmir which was once viewed as the Silicon Valley of the world and the epicentre of knowledge left the audience awe-struck. How did you prepare for it?
Darshan Kumar: It was the most important and challenging scene for me to do. It was a 25-minute monologue that the director had planned to shoot in parts over two to three days.
I wanted to touch the audience’s heart with my performance and convey the rich history and reality of Kashmir. Hence, I practised the scene every day for 40 days.
I wanted to convince myself before convincing my audience. So I went back to the history books to explore the historical references of Kashmir being a fount of knowledge and about all the scholars, researchers, scientists, and other eminent people who came from the state. I also wondered why the history of Kashmir wasn’t in our school syllabuses.
And I managed to deliver the 25-minute monologue in one take and we finished the entire shot in three hours. However, because of the length of the movie, Vivek sir had to chop 10 minutes and only put 15 minutes in the movie.
The scene has become so popular that Vivek is planning to release the entire 25=minute clip online soon.
Sputnik: Some people say that the movie is political propaganda for the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) to win 2024 elections and has perpetuated Indian divisions between Hindus and Muslims. What do you think?
Darshan Kumar: I am an actor and don’t understand politics. I did this film as I connected with the emotions. And the film is receiving rave reviews and provoking conversations worldwide because they too feel connected with the human emotions and want to know what happened.
Different people will have different opinions but I would like to urge people, please first to watch the movie. It is not against any community, caste, religion or political party: this film is against terrorism and is brutally honest about what happened there.
It’s not just Hindus who were the victims of the killings. Several moderate Muslims, Sikhs, and other community people, who raised their voice against terrorism, were also killed.
Sputnik: How have you been affected by this film?
Darshan Kumar: I’m not the same person anymore. We all talk about humanity and justice but the actual pain caused in Kashmir was meted out by humans only, and still awaits justice.
I feel blessed and honoured to have become the voice of the victims' families since Kashmiri Pandits have been fighting for justice for the past 32 years and nobody has listened to them.
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