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OpIndia talks to The Kashmir Files producer Abhishek Agarwal over Nadav Lapid controversy

Vivek Agnihotri’s The Kashmir Files, which has become the second-highest-grosser Hindi movie of the year, was involved in a recent controversy after Israeli filmmaker Nadav Lapid made unwarranted comments about the movie. Heading the jury of the recently concluded International Film Festival of India (IFFI) held in Goa, Lapid called The Kashmir Files a propaganda and vulgar film.

Lapid had said that he was “shocked” and “disturbed” by its inclusion in the competitive section, adding that it was inappropriate for an artistic competitive section of such a prestigious film festival. Nadav Lapid’s comments attracted strong criticism, both from Indians and Israelis.

Israeli Ambassador to India Naor Gilon wrote an open letter to Lapid, saying that Lapid should be ashamed of himself. He said that calling Kashmir Files was equivalent to doubting Schindler’s List, the Holocaust and worse. Gilon also apologised to Indians for the comments of the filmmaker. Israel’s Consul General to Midwest India Kobbi Shoshani said that he told Lapid that he made a big mistake and these remarks were not appropriate. He also met Anupam Kher to apologise for Nadav Lapid’s comments.

While Nadav Lapid said that his views were shared by all members of the jury, some jury members have already distanced themselves from the controversy. They have said that these were Lapid’s personal views and they don’t agree with him.

Amid this backdrop, OpIndia talked to Abhishek Agarwal, one of the producers of The Kashmir Files. He said that although it was slightly painful to see someone put down their work and the struggle of Kashmiri Hindus so easily on such a huge event, overall it seemed a petty issue to the makers of the film. He also called it a senseless comment of one individual, saying it can’t have any impact on Indo-Israel relations.

Here is the full transcript of the interview:

1) How would you like to respond to Nadav Lapid’s statement calling ‘The Kashmir Files’ vulgar and propaganda?

Firstly, it was very unprofessional of a jury member to criticise one specific movie at such a prestigious event. Nadav Lapid, being an outsider, would have had no idea about what our country has gone through or about the plight of Kashmiri Pandits. So calling the movie ‘propaganda and vulgar’ is not acceptable.

2) Various leaders and diplomats of Israel have slammed Nadav Lapid for his statement. What are your views on Jews & Israel? Do you think this will affect Hindu-Jews or India-Israel relations?

A senseless comment of one individual cannot change the relations between two nations. Mr. Kobbi Shoshani, the Counsel General of Israel to India in fact publicly condemned the comments made by Nadav Lapid. Mr. Kobbi shares a friendship with Shri Anupam Kher Ji and met him at Anupam Ji’s school to explain how the comment pained him. Every race and country has its own set of challenges and to overcome it by unity should be our goal. Be it the Jews or Hindus, we need to find strength in unity.

3) IFFI is organised by Goa govt & central IB Ministry. Do you think they made a mistake in selecting Nadav Lapid as jury head? What would you like to demand of Pramod Sawant & Anurag Thakur?

In hindsight, we could talk and argue about a lot of things. But the jury was selected based on particular criteria and the selection committee cannot be blamed now that one individual has gone rogue. What a person speaks or does on stage is uncontrollable in such events and the same is the case here. But to call a movie which shows the plight of our Kashmiri brothers as propaganda is a hard pill to swallow for every Indian and the comment is right being ambushed.

4) You too visited Goa during IFFI. What were the people there saying about Kashmir Files. Can you please recall?

It has been almost 10 months since The Kashmir Files released and has received great applause and appreciation wherever it was played and featured. The same is the case at the IFFI in Goa. People felt the pain and empathised with our Kashmiri Hindus while watching the movie. Our motive of making the movie was to tell the truth to the maximum number of people and we are proud that we achieved it.

5) Do the team have any apprehensions that Delhi Files and Vaccine would also be targeted like that. Will you do some special preparations this time? How will you deal with the liberal gang on the next two projects?

Absolutely not! Our job is to make movies and tell great stories. The Delhi Files and The Vaccine War are great stories which need to be told. Honest filmmaking is what we believe in and we would again deliver movies which would be loved far and wide. Coming to the so-called liberal gang, Indians would deal with them by making our movies blockbusters.

6) Can you please tell the people what Megastar Chiranjeevi & Mass Maharaja Ravi Teja said about Kashmir Files? Since they don’t speak publicly on every matter, people would love to know their view on the movie from you.

Both Megastar Chiranjeevi & Mass Maharaja Ravi Teja appreciated the movie. Appreciation from such huge stars always means a lot. Being such senior heroes, they understood the kind of film we have made and had nice things to say about it.

7) Is there any appeal from you to the central govt regarding selection of jury in such film festivals? Do you think some people in the bureaucracy are working deliberately to target movies like TKF? Being an eminent producer, you can give some suggestions through us.

There are eminent people in the central government who are doing a great job when it comes to promoting our film industry or thinking about the welfare of our industry. The only suggestion I’d like to give is that in such prestigious events with high stakes, people in charge should be chosen carefully. India is a diverse country and so is Indian cinema. So, people who are aware about the social, political and historical landscapes of our great country can always do a better job.

8) Did you talk to Vivek Agnihotri & Anupam Kher after Nadav Lapid’s statement. What was the discussion like? What did they say? Were they hurt or somewhere they feared that this could come.

We discussed it briefly but it seemed a petty matter for us. All of us believe that we should embrace the people who love us and love our cinema instead of giving heed to people who criticise and spread hatred. It slightly pained to see someone put down our work and the struggle of Kashmiri Hindus so easily on such a huge event. We told a story which needed to be told and we are extremely proud of ourselves.

9.) Can you please give data on ‘The Kashmir Files’ watch hours on ZEE5? Is there any spike in the number of people watching this movie after Nadav Lapid’s statement?

I do not have the exact data to give you but since our movie ‘The Kashmir Files’ started streaming on Zee5, there has been great viewership for the movie till date. I’m pretty sure that the viewership will continue to flourish as more and more people are now interested in watching the movie.

10) Are you expecting The Kashmir Files to rule in the next national awards? Do you think Filmfare will give nominations-awards to the movie?

We started and made the movie with one aim – to tell the plight of Kashmiri Hindus in the most honest way possible. The movie was released and became a blockbuster. We are not running behind awards but it is great to see our honest attempt getting accolades and appreciation. Awards are great but to have the support of the people of India and to have people advocate our movie is the greatest achievement.

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