‘The Kashmir Files’ pre-release screening takes the US by storm

Global Kashmir Pandit Diaspora, led by Dr Surinder Kaul, partners with Sunil Hali, publisher and promoter of the largest single media power-house in the US, an exclusive pre-release private screening of Vivek Ranjan Agnihotri’s film road show in 16 cities across the US; Vivek, Pallavi Joshi and Mithun Chakraborty join the show

Our Bureau
New York, NY

“The Kashmir Files”, the much-awaited film on the Kashmir genocide of January 19, 1990 when hundreds of thousands of Kashmiri Pandits were forced to leave their homes overnight, has already become a sensation in the US. The movie brings to life those days when the slogans of “Raliv, Galiv ya Chaliv” (Join us, Die or Leave) was resounding all over Kashmir and the community was shocked when they had no options but to leave their motherland. Heartrending stories have left the community in a state of shock since 1990. And somehow the story was never told. Even barbaric incidents, when little babies to old people were brutally killed, have remained buried in government “files” with no action.

Vivek Ranjan Agnihotri with his team, led by his wife Pallavi Joshi, took the task and carried extensive research, despite being under the threat of fatwa over last three years. The team studied each story and finally set out to make a feature film. Vivek was challenged by Covid-19, yet he didn’t relent on his mission and completed the research and wrote an engaging story and screenplay that has transformed into an epic film on screen spanning over two hours and fifty minutes with no songs.

The film is set to be released worldwide on January 26, 2022, by Zee Studios and IMBUDDHA Films.

The Global Kashmir Pandit Diaspora (GKPD), led by Dr Surinder Kaul, has partnered with Sunil Hali, publisher and promoter of the largest single media power-house in the US, with Radio Zindagi Network, The Indian EYE Newsweekly, Divya Bhaskar North American Edition, JEE Punjabi, Indian Eye Television and global diaspora portal (www.TheIndianEYE.com), to design and launch a first of its kind, an exclusive pre-release private screening road show in sixteen cities across the US. The team, led by Sunil Hali, who is a Kashmiri himself, built a plan to screen the film for a mix of “Influencers”. This comprises Indians, from various parts country, the Kashmiri community, students and policy makers. 

The US has played a major role in shaping the world opinion on Kashmir, especially on the removal of Article 370 by current Prime-Minister Modi on August 5, 2019. Kashmir is an integral part of the state of Jammu and Kashmir with three regions, Leh-Ladakh, Kashmir and Jammu. The region joined India with special conditions which have been contentious, especially the requirements of being a state subject for anyone to be a resident. This creates an unbalance in community mix where more than 90% people are Muslims. And neighboring Pakistan has been trying to annex the state from India since 1947 but in vain. The two countries have fought several wars and Pakistan uses this region as a front to create disturbances.

The film captures the real-life incidents and it is an eye-opener for the world on what transpired in the 1990s. Kashmir is known more as a tourist paradise and heaven on earth. Even since 1990, tourism has continued though in a much scaled down level. But none has told the story of the Kashmiri Pandits who were uprooted from their land where they lived for hundreds of years for multiple generations. With characters that are close to life and adapted from various stories and enacted by legends like Mithun Chakraborty, Anupam Kher and Pallavi Joshi among others, the film grips the audience. The first two screenings were held in Long Island. New York and Edison, New Jersey on November 27 and 28 at Bombay Theatre and BIG CINEMA to a sold-out theatre. New Jersey added one more screen due to extra demand.

The audience watched the film in complete silence and gave a standing ovation to the three stars, Mithun Chakraborty, Pallavi Joshi and Vivek Ranjan Agnihotri who are all touring with the film for private screenings. The screenings are to be held in different cities in full version including Long Island, New York, New Jersey, Maryland, Florida, Atlanta (GA), Boston (MA), North Carolina, Denver (CO), Chicago (IL), Austin (TX), Dallas (TX), Seattle (WA), Fremont (CA), LA (CA), Houston (TX) and Manhattan (NY), and an Impact Events with a special version for universities and policy makers in Washington, DC.

Speaking about the importance of the movie, Sunil Hali said, “This story had to be shared with the global audience. People have opinions on Kashmir and India in general without any knowledge of its rich history, pain and suffering and now re-emergence as a world power. Kashmir has been the single biggest issue that world has used against India, especially our neighbors since 1947. But what happened in Kashmir in 1990 is pure butchering and the community needs to be resettled in their homeland. And the world powers need to have a better understanding before sharing opinions about a land which they have never even stepped on. This film achieves these objectives in all its honesty as the best narrative. I am proud to take a lead on this project that was so close to my heart”. 

Talking about the movie, noted film actor Anupam Kher said: “The Kashmir Files is more than a film for me. My performance in this film is dedicated to all the Kashmiri Pandits all over the world who were victims of terrorism in Kashmir. Also dedicated to my father whose name I adopted in this film: Pt. Pushkar Nath.”

Speaking at the event of screening of movie, Dr Surinder Kaul thanked the filmmaker and his crew for the film. “We thank you from the bottom of our hearts for what you have done for us, that has remained hidden for the last 32 years from the world and from Indians, and the whole community is very much thankful to you all,” said Dr Kaul in his address. “I am very thankful to Ramesh Kapur. He arranged a meeting recently with Senator Mark Warner a few days ago and it was a wonderful meeting and a lot of clarity was brought in regarding the Kashmir issue. Also, we are thankful to Ramesh Kapur for organizing the event as a co-sponsor,” said Dr Kaul before reading out a statement received from Senator Mark Warner who co-chair of the Senate India Caucus.

Talking about the feelings generated by the movie, Dr Kaul said, “I was rendered rootless and homeless. I did not cry.  I was unsure where my next paycheck would come from. I did not cry. I saw my parents and grandparents and extended clan struggle and pass on with the yearning to return. I did not cry. I had to leave my janmabhoomi and matrabhoomi to make a foreign land of opportunities my karmabhoomi. I did not cry. My children have grown in this country that they call home, without knowing the sacred geography that I call my home. I did not cry. There are so many things that have happened in my life as a Kashmiri Pandit Hindu – a victim of a focused genocide. I have withheld my tears and channelized my pain into productive measures for the greater good.”

“But today as I saw my lived experience, stark and unabashed on celluloid and heard muffled sobs all around, I felt held by my own and in that moment of catharsis, I did cry and how! The Kashmir Files is an experience!”

“The brilliance of the plot lies in the inclusion of all narratives mainstreamed in the last 32 years. It allows the audience to make up their own minds even as it presents facts sans any cover-up. It follows the ancient literary tradition of itihasa (this happened) in Cinema. All the actors, veteran and new, have breathed lives into the characters. We see our lives depicted there,” Dr Kaul said. “Actors with no connect with Kashmiri culture or acquaintance with Kashmiri language use Kashmiri words and phrases like a local. They have transformed into Kashmiris!”

“Every actor in this movie, including supporting cast, deserves applause, appreciation, and awards! The Kashmir Files will give rise to more National Film Awards Winners in days to come.”

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