EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW! Vivek Agnihotri on unreported Kashmir files
Vivek Agnihotri believes that he feels it is important to tell true stories from the mouths of horses to show what the Kashmiri Pandits went through. He even talks about the Manipur tragedy and why he refuses to be part of the Bollywood mentality and considers it a dongi baba who is not interested in telling genuine stories. Being a product of JNU, he thinks that the institute has been brainwashing students for years and creating a certain type of student who opposes everything for the sake of it.
Edited excerpts from the interview:
Putting it in documentary format, how difficult was the process, the methodology and the time it took?
Vivek Agnihotri recalls Varun Dhawan’s attendance, says he ‘owes the actor a lot’
Why is Vivek Agnihotri wrong when he stated that Shah Rukh Khan’s Pathaan is the victory of high level nepotistic system?
I’d say it’s not everyone’s game. You have hundreds and hundreds of hours of footage and it all sounds so right and good that you want to keep it all. But you have to scan it and put it all together and give it some meaning. Ultimately, everything is storytelling and even an essay is storytelling. Everything has to make sense and it has to flow and you also have to weave the story in such a way that it is capable of transmitting everything. And then you have to maintain honesty and sincerity. It is a multi-layered job. It is a long process.
when did you The Kashmiri Archives there were many who loved her and there were many who hated her, but no one could ignore her. How did you deal with the reaction?
When we started shooting everyone said: ‘Pagaal ho kiya… maar jao ga‘ (You’re crazy, you’ll be dead) and that got me thinking why everyone says I’m going to be dead. If you have to write an article about Manipur tomorrow, but there will be people who say don’t do it. So if you tell the truth, you could die. This made me stronger and my conviction became full proof.
Again you said that many people loved him, many people hated him, but no one could ignore him. I feel like this is a clichéd observation. I don’t think even the one percent hated it, but yeah, a lot of people denied it. There are also Holocaust deniers and there are Manipur Deniers also. Even when the nirbhaya case it happened, people also denied it. So there are deniers in this country who do it for political reasons. Either they are supporters of terrorism or they have a political agenda. But why would anyone hate him? I feel like only an inhumane person can hate The Kashmir Files.
Don’t you think our country is full of inhumane people, considering what is happening in Manipur?
Yes, that’s why these movies are so important. This is what happens when you let inhumanity seep into your society.
You are a big part of Bollywood. But you keep a distance. How do you maintain a relationship with your fellow directors?
Contrary to popular belief, directors don’t have much trouble interacting with each other. But we are not part of the Bollywood mentality. For me, Bollywood is a mentality. Bollywood is like a’dongi baba’, so anyone who is not interested in telling genuine stories. Anyone whose story centers entirely on one star, people who create stars out of hype and not talent, people who disrespect everyone except the stars and whose writers are unknown.
You have been a product of JNU, how has the institute formed you?
My DNA is very different. I’m not the type of person who can be shaped by institutes. I also went to Harvard and there is a very famous saying, that this is the Harvard gate and they say, if a horse goes in, a horse will come out. But if a donkey goes in, a donkey will come out. So the thing is, I don’t think institutes can shape you and if it’s happening, it’s a failure on the part of the institute. Institute should help you in critical thinking instead of molding your mind in a certain direction.
The problem with JNU is that it has been brainwashing the students. This particular institute is creating certain types of students who think that opposing everything for the sake of it is cool. Sometimes you need to do good for society and just being critical doesn’t help. I too have been naxal and leftist and have a very intense politics, but I have learned one thing: it is useless to be critical. You end up a frustrated person and your contribution to society is nothing. I would say that I have spent so much time in Bollywood and JNU that it did not shape me in any way. I am who I am.