The world of fiction has a lot of works that have their basis in conspiracy theories. The decades of the cold war is an era where the quantity of misinformation and propaganda was probably much higher than the true facts of any matter, what with spies and counter-intelligence agents working non-stop around the world. This era was also, therefore, ripe with conspiracy theories about the murders and assassination of world leaders, technological advancement in weapons or lack thereof and intelligence personnel who defected to countries that were better suited to their ideologies. The common theme of all these events was spreading misinformation such that the facts were obscured for good.
|Movie||:||The Tashkent Files|
|Produced by||:||Vivek Agnihotri, Pranay Chokshi, Anuya Chauhan Kudecha, Ritesh Kudecha, Sharad Patel|
|Written by||:||Vivek Agnihotri (Dialogues)|
Satya Mannik Afasr
|Production Company||:||SP CineCorp, Vivek Agnihotri Creates|
|Distributed by||:||Zee Studios|
|Release Date||:||12 April 2019|
|Starring||:||Naseeruddin Shah (PKR Natrajan), Mithun Chakraborty (Shyam Sunder Tripathii), Shweta Basu Prasad (Raagini Phulei), Mandira Bedi (Indira Joseph Royi), Pallavi Joshi (Aiysha Ali Shahi), Rajesh Sharma (Omkar Kashyapi), Vinay Pathak (Mukhtari), Pankaj Tripathi (Gangaram Jhai), Vishwa Mohan Badola (Justice Kurian Abrahami), Prakash Belawadi (GK Anantha Sureshi), Achint Kaur (Mrs. Natarajani), Yusuf Hussain, Prashant Gupta (Vivendra Pratap Singh Ranai), Ankur Rathee (Imran Qureshi), and others…|
While there are countless books and movies set in the cold war background around the world, Indian literature and cinema does not have many works that showcase conspiracy theories as such. So, last year when The Tashkent Files was released around this time, it was something different as it talked about the questions/allegations around the sudden death of our Prime Minister Shree Lal Bahadur Shastri.
The film was a success at box office and was liked by the viewers. Recently, we had a chance to view it and share our views on it here on Thinkerviews platform.
We meet journalist Ragini who is looking for a scoop to forward her career. Ragini is pragmatic and determined to succeed at any cost. On her birthday, she receives a phone call from an unknown caller and after a game of questions and answers, the caller sends her a package that encourages her to write about the unanswered allegations regarding Shree Lal Bahadur Shastri‘s death.
Her scoop is published, she gains popularity on media channels and is also picked up us a member of the committee constituted to look into the death of Shastriji. The committee is chaired by politician Tripathiji and includes a historian, a social activist, members of Government intelligence fields, e-Supreme Court judge and popular political representatives.
Although Ragini starts as a wild card entry, she soon gets intrigued by the discrepancies in the documentation that raises a lot of questions. She starts digging into the matter not only through internet research but also by meeting a spy called Mukhtar and ex-journalism star Bakshi. Soon enough though, she finds hindrances at every step, she is threatened and persecuted and Mr. Bakshi dies right in front of Ragini’s eyes.
The committee drops her as a member, so Ragini applies to come in front of them as a witness. She thinks she has enough proof for the committee, but is she successful in convincing the committee about her suspicions regarding the death of Shastriji?
As it is natural, a film like this generates a lot of interest on popular media in election year. Most critics slammed the film as politically motivated and poorly made, full of Internet research and fake facts but the viewers still went to theatres to watch it, so they must have liked something about it 🙂 .
The cast is good – Naseeruddin Shah, Mithun Chakraborty, Pallavi Joshi, Mandira Bedi, Shweta Basu Prasad, etc. and everyone does their job well, in their realistic and mostly non-glamorous get-ups. Vinay Pathak is almost non-recognisable in his garb as a secret service agent. Shweta Basu Prasad has the meatiest part and she does convey the passion of a young journalist very effectively. But it is also nice to see Pallavi Joshi in such an interesting character after a long time.
It is a conspiracy theory thriller and you may or may not agree with the central conspiracy theory here, but there are many other aspects featuring current scenarios from real life that include politics and journalism that are not so far-fetched. The segment where Mithun Chakraborty’s character points out that everyone on the committee also has an agenda to drive and is not there just to investigate the mystery in front of them, is what happens very often in real world. Personal goals and gains may override the communal gains very easily.
A character in the film says at one point that a country cannot move forward if it continues to look into its past. But, if there are unanswered questions in our past, then we are bound to look back and speculate. And asking questions is no crime. The “right to Information” (popularly referred to as RTI) act allows everyone to do so and there are people who have asked for the documentation pertaining to Shastriji’s visit to Tashkent and the time after their death. Not all information has been released in the public domain, so the questions remain. And that is probably the appeal of this film. It brings together information in the public domain, efforts from various people to obtain such details, data released in the years after the disintegration of the USSR and so on.
The film refers to books like The Mitrokhin Archives, Talking to the Crow, Mr. Kuldeep Nayar’s autobiography, Anuj Dhar’s various efforts, and also points out how everyone who was with Shastriji in Tashkent died in an accident not long after. A lot of co-incidences or a convoluted conspiracy?
The film has a lot of food for thought, however, it does not claim that everything portrayed here is a fact. A lot of these questions will probably always remain unanswered…
We are trying to avoid all the spoilers here, at least as many as possible, so we must skip mentioning various aspects of the movie. I will suggest you to watch the interview of Vivek Agnihotri with The Lallantop, where you can find that the first question of the Q/A game was actually taken from his real-life experience.
Another good thing about the movie is, all the deleted scenes are made available by Mr. Agnihotri on YouTube’s public domain.
You may or may not agree to what the film puts as motivations, but the film does remind us of a humble and decent leader the likes of whom are rare these days.
The older generation still remembers the Shastri vrat, the white revolution and other such good initiatives that happened under his leadership. At least “The Tashkent Files” is a good reminder of re-visiting the memories of “Bharat ka Laal” better known as “Dharti Ka Laal”…
Over To You:
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