Vivek Agnihotri: If The Kashmir Files was supported by BJP, why did the Narendra Modi biopic fail?

The filmmaker refutes popular perception around his controversial film. Pins failure of Laal Singh Chaddha and other recent big Bollywood films on their inability to connect with the people.

Source: Vivek Ranjan Agnihotri Instagram

By Our Correspondent

Vivek Ranjan Agnihotri has hit out at fellow filmmaker Anurag Kashyap for suggesting that his film The Kashmir Files [2022] shouldn’t be sent to Oscars as India’s representation. Though The Kashmir Files raked in over Rs250 crore nett at the box office, critics are still divided over whether this business was organic. Some believe that the film on Hindu genocide in Kashmir in 1990 was backed by the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party After few weeks, it was made tax-free in some BJP ruled states.

Though there is no official confirmation, but there were murmurs of influential right wing members bulk buying tickets for The Kashmir Files.  Even with this allegation, one cannot deny the devil its due, especially considering that big-ticket Bollywood releases this year have all flopped.

Noted journalist Rajdeep Sardesai of India Today Television didn’t hesitate in pointing out that Agnihotri’s film was supported by the BJP government. Agnihotri was quick to dispel this notion in his interview to Sardesai.

“If the BJP could support any film, then the biographical film on Mr. Modi [PM Narendra Modi (2019] would have been a blockbuster. Samrat Prithviraj [2022] would have been a blockbuster because everybody [including top BJP leaders] was promoting that film. Films don’t work like that. Tell me have you seen these films? Are they good films? If they were good films, then nobody could have stopped them. So, please, stop playing this victim card.  Make films on common people, in stead of ridiculing them every time,” fumed Agnihotri.

The filmmaker reminded Sardesai that he had started promoting The Kashmir Files [2022] in November 2021, before it even came to India on the 11 March this year. Agnihotri claimed that no one within the BJP knew what he was making. The buzz that the film generated in the select international screenings before helped to spread the positive word back home. Despite the buzz, the filmmaker rued that his film only got 600 screens. But once the box office soared, it is only then that the Indian media, politicians took notice.

Agnihotri makes her a fair point, but perhaps we’d also like to remind him that the Election Commission of India had debarred the makers of PM Narendra Modi [2019] from releasing the film before the Lok Sabha Elections as that would have been deemed as a PR film aimed to influence voters. Once the film’s release date was pushed after elections, the film didn’t matter to the BJP. In fact, to the best of our knowledge, we don’t recall the Prime Minister saying a single word or being associated with his [official or unofficial?] biopic in any manner whatsoever. The Vivek Oberoi-starrer film eventually failed to win over the audiences and was largely panned by the critics.

Coming back to the issue of Bollywood’s drought phase in 2022, Agnihotri didn’t hesitate in saying that the industry had taken the audience for granted.

“They assume that audience is stupid and they can pack anything and sell it to them.  Then slowly they stopped caring about audiences, because their films were going to OTT,” said The Kashmir Files filmmaker.

Agnihotri felt that the Hindi film industry had lost base with the common man.

“Go to any middle class, semi urban Indian household ask them, do research and you will find that people hate the arrogance, the lifestyle, the disconnect of Bollywood with the real life. This is the problem. There is nothing relatable. The hero’s problems are all first world problems,” said Agnihotri.

Aamir Khan’s Laal Singh Chaddha [2022] has failed to appeal both the critics and the masses. However, the long smear campaign against Khan over his past political comments, and alleged Hindu phobic content in previous works, was perhaps instrumental in the #BoycottBollywood lot turning the heat on the film and Khan.

Agnihotri had defended the right of people to boycott in a democracy. He pinned the blame on Bollywood’s selective social, political stance.

“You comment on every social issue, national issues which suits you, you stand up against CAA [Citizenship Amendment Act], but you don’t defend Nupur Sharma, or you don’t criticize the beheading of a person in Udaipur,” says Agnihotri, “People say you are political but you have an agenda. All this hypocrisy, arrogance, flamboyant lifestyle, paid PR campaign… people [audience] has seen this in the last two years. They are not accepting it anymore. This is a good thing as it will help the Hindi film industry to reform.”

Meanwhile, without dragging on the Oscars debate, Agnihotri surprised all when he downplayed the chances of his own film, but in stead rooted for R. Madhavan’s Rocketry [2022] to be India’s pick for the Oscars.

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