HomeArts & EntertainmentVivek Agnihotri: Rajkummar Rao, Taapsee Pannu say they make independent films, but...

Vivek Agnihotri: Rajkummar Rao, Taapsee Pannu say they make independent films, but they don’t! – Times of India

Vivek Agnihotri is all set to release his next ‘The Kashmir Files’ starring Anupam Kher, Mithun Chakraborty, Darshan Kumar and many others. While the film has already grabbed a lot of attention for several reasons, ETimes got in touch with the independent filmmaker who made explosive revelations about his film and more.


The trailer of ‘The Kashmir Files’ was quite powerful and different. Tell us what was the response from the audience, but you deactivated your Twitter account!

I deactivated my Twitter account because there were a lot of threats and I was advised by professionals to deactivate it for a few days to get rid of bots from Pakistan and Pakistan occupied Kashmir. There were also genuine threats but I have signed up for this. When I started this film, I knew exactly how it is going to play out. I knew that people in Pakistan would have a problem with the film, but I didn’t know that people from Delhi and Bombay would be threatened by the subject of my film.

As far as the trailer response is concerned, it has been extraordinary and overwhelming. I have been here for decades now with my first film in 2005, but I have never seen any film that people are asking ‘Trailer kab ayega?’ for more than a year. There was so much waiting for the trailer and it went viral in no time. Going viral is not a big deal for me because a lot of things without any substance can go viral, but the best part is that perhaps this is the most reviewed trailer ever. People from the US, Israel, Indonesia, Pakistan, Indian Muslims and all kinds of people are reviewing it and you will see at the end, there’s a pin drop silence where everyone cries. Now that is overwhelming, I never expected that!

You have been in the business for so long. Has this ever happened to you before?

See, there are two kinds of threats, first one is the trolls who write stupid things about you. Because of this, a lot of Bollywood stars and directors run away or quit Twitter, but I don’t have any problem with them. I love them. I understand it’s their personal frustration, they are not harmful people.

The real harm comes when someone starts targeting and stalking you. This is where the threat begins. I faced this thing last year also when they shot fatwas against me in Kashmir. They said, ‘We will never let you enter Kashmir. We will ensure this film never gets released’. When I was in the US to give speeches in top universities, I was heckled by Kashmiri Muslims or Pakistani boys. I understand all these things, but stalking is really scary because it’s about your young teenage daughter. These days she is on Instagram, so it’s very easy to find and connect.

‘The Kashmir Files’ is hitting headlines with so many controversies. Does that bother you?

It doesn’t! I was making commercial films and was there in the entire Bollywood club. I was also a part of nepotism domination, and other dirty politics. I have seen the underbelly of Bollywood very well. There are two kinds of films you can make, one is a sweet story which people want to hear and the second one is a film that only you can tell. These are discomforting subjects which will make people uncomfortable. It wasn’t an unprompted decision, I wanted to do it. It was a mature decision of my life. I knew there would be opposition, but what pains me is this is from the same Bollywood that talks about respecting independent filmmakers. Who can be more independent than me? Nobody! I love certain actors like Rajkummar Rao, Taapsee Pannu, but when they make a film and say it’s an independent one, it’s not! It’s supported and financed by big studios. They are doing the same thing and just naming it differently. While Bollywood media call them independent filmmakers, I am the only genuine independent filmmaker here in India. I do my research from all around the world, I put my money, and face struggles for the film distribution, so this is a journey of an isolated filmmaker. I do my own marketing. But Bollywood doesn’t recognise us and in fact, they boycott and isolate us. That’s painful.

Why only the topic of Kashmir for the film?

You tell me which is the most discussed issue in India than Kashmir? It’s the most discussed theme in the world and in 1990, 5 lakh people were forced to leave their motherland and people who came from outside killed 4000 Kashmiri Hindus, committed genocide. Who are these people? They came from Iran and Iraq for refuge and these Kashmiri Hindus gave them refuge. Today they have thrown them out. What can be a more interesting story than this? If the youngsters are not told about this story, believe me, it’s going to happen next to you, at your doorstep. This film is dedicated to all the minorities and the persecuted people of the world, whether they are Hindu, Christian, Buddhist, Dalits or anyone else. This is to tell people what happens when there is an absence of humanity or when we are indifferent to humanity.

But Hindus are not minorities in India…

Then it’s worse if you are committing genocide against the majority. This means that the majority has been made helpless and the minority has taken over the state. But, let’s not get confused between the majority and minority because the majority in one place can be a minority in another place. 4000 people were killed, women were raped, why don’t female journalists and Me Too groups talk about it? So many Dalits were killed. Why do these politically activated Dalit groups don’t talk about it? You see the hypocrisy.

They are more interested in Delhi politics than their own people. Everyone has made a film that was sympathetic to terrorists. Do they try to portray why they are killing people? Who cares about why they are killing? Nobody has a right to kill anyone. So many women were cut alive on saw machines, somebody has to make a movie on that. When I am doing it, the entire Bollywood and politically charged media are standing against me. I have been isolated as if I have committed a crime in my own country.

A report stated that a section of people and the media are trying to sabotage your film…

I was in Delhi recently with a journalist who showed me this. He said, ‘I just type ‘The Kashmir Files’ NDTV, and see what has come up’. They made a page for us and it only had four lines. It was the description of the film that said, ‘It’s a propaganda film.’ Nobody in the film, besides me, has seen the film, so how can they call it a propaganda film? They are the ones doing propaganda against the film. Later OpIndia did an expose piece on them and they had to delete the word propaganda. If they are true journalists then they don’t have to delete it. This means it was fake journalism. Similarly, Anupama Chopra’s ‘Film Companion’, on which I made a video that has now gone viral. I don’t have anything against anybody, but if someone is going to attack my film, I am capable enough to defend my own baby.

Film Companion did a vicious thing by using the keyword ‘The Kashmir Files’ to grab eyeballs. They had to acknowledge the trailer release because it went viral and then they released a 3-year-old review of ‘The Tashkent Filles’. It said ‘it’s a third-grade film of third-grade politics.’ ‘The Tashkent Files’ did 100s in business and was the biggest hit of 2019, it won two National Awards and was included in universities as a case study. If you go out and ask any Indian, ‘Have you seen ‘The Tashkent Files’?’ they get emotional. And, these people are calling it a third-grade film? The reviewer has written, ‘I was more interested in eating burger and fries’. What kind of journalism is this? I had to come out and attack these people and defend my film.

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