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Siraj Syed

Siraj Syed is the India Correspondent for and a member of FIPRESCI, the International Federation of Film Critics. He is a Film Festival Correspondent since 1976, Film-critic since 1969 and a Feature-writer since 1970. He is also an acting and dialogue coach. 



Sounds of The Kashmir Files: “Pray for all the oppressed people in the world”

Sounds of The Kashmir Files: “Pray for all the oppressed people in the world”

Royal Opera House was a surprising choice for the event. Once a landmark for big-budget film releases, it remained shut for about two decades, before it was revived, with plays and other events being held there, but no film shows. Makers of the film The Kashmir Files decided to kill two birds with one stone: reinforce their theme of oppression, persecution, brutal murders and more of Kashmiri Pandits in the early 1990s, and to share the success of the film with an invited audience and the media.

Organised by Zee Studios, ZEE5, and #IAmBuddha (Vivek Agnihotri’s production house), on the day of the digital launch of the film, Friday, the 13th (of May), Sounds of The Kashmir Files turned out to be a quite unexpected package. It began an hour late, with constant sounds of testing of the microphones, and there was some confusion as to who could sit where, the options being the high balcony or the ground level auditorium. Finally, I managed to find place downstairs, in just about the centre of the rows.

Director Vivek Ranjan Agnihotri came on to the stage, spoke for a while about what the film had achieved and what still needs to be done, to address the displaced and oppressed community of Kashmiri Pandits, asked everybody to rise and observe 30 seconds of silence for the departed genius musician, Shiv Kumar Sharma, got an orchestra to play the national anthem with the main instrument looking like a clarinet (I can’t swear by that), and then set-off the main event, which was the narration of first person stories by the two lead actors of his film, Darshan Kumaar, and his own wife, Pallavi Joshi. Incidentally, this is the silver jubilee year of their marriage, and though there is not even a ghost of a chance of me being invited for the celebration, if there is any, congratulations are in order.

Darshan and Pallavi narrated the heart-rending stories of Kashmiri Pandits, in turns, from the families of those who were either forced to leave the paradise on earth or were butchered, and now live in the USA or the UK. They seemed to have either memorised their lines or were prompted by an unseen device. Pallavi was the more fluent of the two, and was also more comfortable mouthing English words. After about an hour of such narrations, which were accompanied by a competent orchestra, the proceedings came to an end. Invitees were then treated to light refreshments and beverages. The Kashmir Files premiered on ZEE5 on 13th May in Hindi, Tamil, Telugu, Kannada, and Indian Sign Language, across 190 countries.

Vivek Agnihotri shared, “We performed Sounds of The Kashmir Files and we narrated true stories of the victims by Darshan Kumaar and Pallavi Joshi along with the huge symphonic orchestra. I noticed that the auditorium staff, which was standing near, since I was waiting backstage, were crying, just listening to it, and not even seeing it. This shows that everybody is getting connected to the pain and suffering of our brothers and sisters. The Kashmir Files was not just a film for us, it's our mission to tell the stories of Kashmir genocide to people in all art forms. We have used this Musical theatre kind of a mix for the first time in India as an experiment and we are going to take it forward with many other forms but we will not sit still until we tell the entire story of Kashmir.”

The Symphony Orchestra, with Rohit Sharma and artistes from the National Centre for the Performing Arts (NCPA), took up the stage in a semi-circle pattern, giving a perfect background score to the heart touching words written in the letters.

Written and directed by Vivek Ranjan Agnihotri, The Kashmir Files features Mithun Chakraborty, Anupam Kher, Darshan Kumaar, Pallavi Joshi, and Chinmay Mandlekar. Produced by Zee Studios and Tej Narayan Agarwal, Abhishek Agarwal, Pallavi Joshi and Vivek Ranjan Agnihotri, The Kashmir Files, written and directed by Vivek Agnihotri, released in theatres on 11th March, 2022.

Perhaps the most inspiring line that Agnihotri spoke that night was, “Let us pray for all the oppressed people of the world”, or words to that effect.


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About Siraj Syed

Syed Siraj
(Siraj Associates)

Siraj Syed is a film-critic since 1970 and a Former President of the Freelance Film Journalists' Combine of India.

He is the India Correspondent of and a member of FIPRESCI, the international Federation of Film Critics, Munich, Germany

Siraj Syed has contributed over 1,015 articles on cinema, international film festivals, conventions, exhibitions, etc., most recently, at IFFI (Goa), MIFF (Mumbai), MFF/MAMI (Mumbai) and CommunicAsia (Singapore). He often edits film festival daily bulletins.

He is also an actor and a dubbing artiste. Further, he has been teaching media, acting and dubbing at over 30 institutes in India and Singapore, since 1984.

Bandra West, Mumbai


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