Filmmaker Vivek Agnihotri, whose latest movie 'The Tashkent Files' revolves around the mysterious death of the then Prime Minister Lal Bahadur Shastri in 1966, says suppressing the truth is wrong in a democracy.
Agnihotri, who received a legal notice from Shastri's grandson ahead of the film's release, said his core motivation behind making the film was clear.
"Truth is the biggest victim in our democracy. And the basic right that people should have in a democratic country is the right to truth and freedom of expression. No matter how many buildings and roads we make, no matter how much talk is happening on infrastructure development, if the people are not fearlessly asking questions to the system and are not getting to know about political scams and murders, the intellectual growth of the population will remain stagnant," Agnihotri told IANS.
"In the last 53 years, despite knowing about the existing mystery around Shastri's death, the truth has remained inaccessible. I intend to bring that up," he said.
During the research for the film, Agnihotri had a conversation with Shastri's family members and got all their support. But just ahead of the film's release, he was served a legal notice on behalf of the grandsons of the late politician. It came as a shock to him.
"Some days back, we had the film's screening in Delhi where he (Shastri's grandson) watched the film, loved it and appreciated it. I don't know what happened, but I have a feeling that someone from the top family of Congress coerced him to send us the legal notice," said Agnihotri.
A part of criticism that the filmmaker has faced is how the narrative has tried to show the Congress in bad light. But he says he intended to state both sides of the arguments.
"I have tried to be as objective as possible. I have shown the versions put forward by both sides around the death of Shastriji. Most of the time, history has been written with an agenda and only accusable information lives in the memory of public. I am bringing the popular and the hidden side in the narrative," said the filmmaker.
However, he said that being objective does not mean being detached.
"I am not just presenting both sides of the argument, but in the end, I am expressing my opinion too, because it is not a documentary. It is a feature film. Life is not just about being objective. It is also about forming an opinion from wisdom. I am not just presenting facts in the film, but also expressing my opinion as a citizen," he said.
"On a serious note, I am not a politician, but of course, I am politically aware and strongly opinionated. I understand and react on politics. The world is a place where the war of narratives is going on. The idea is not just listening to one side of the narrative but knowing both sides and building a third argument and opinion," he said.
(Arundhuti Banerjee can be contacted at email@example.com)
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