Bang in the middle of elections, releasing today is ‘Tashkent Files’ that brings up the controversy around the death of India’s second Prime Minister Lal Bahadur Shastri.
While the filmmakers and Shastri’s son Sunil and nephew Sanjay claim it isn’t propaganda, on Wednesday, two of his grandsons sought a stay on grounds that it was.
However, there was no news of it being granted at the time we went to press.
Director Vivek Agnihotri agreed Tashkent Files was a controversial film, not because it raised a controversy, but because it was “based on controversies”. “Maybe he did die a natural death but post that there has definitely been some foul play,” Agnihotri told Mail Today.
Pallavi Joshi who plays Aiysha Ali Shah, a member of the investigative team, added they decided to set the film in today’s time because “the events after his death are what are interesting”.
“We are unfortunately going through a time when everything we’ve been told is being proved wrong or at least coming forth as a half truth,” said Joshi.
“But more than that what we realised is the facts have been botched up, in this case at least.”
Agnihotri too feels that one “cannot trust any historian”, especially those writing post independence. “Most of them were on the payroll of someone or the other. I just don’t have reasons to believe so I can prove it on record,” he said.
Joshi will star with several biggies of the industry, such as Naseeruddin Shah, Mithun Chakraborty, Pankaj Tripathi, Vinay Pathak – to name a few. But the real star is the young National Award winning actress Shweta Basu Prasad who plays Raagini Phule, a character Agnihotri found really hard to cast.
“It was very important the characters look exactly as they’re supposed to otherwise you lose the credibility of the plot. So it couldn’t be Naseeruddin Shah or Mithun Chakraborty on screen,” said Agnihotri.
“The only problem I had was with the girl. I started with some of the top stars and most of them felt this was too hard-hitting and worried about how it would affect their career. Some felt it was too political for them while others backed out on the last minute after being ‘advised’ to do so. While watching her audition I felt Shweta had something no other Bollywood star had. I didn’t even know she is a National Award winner.”
What he does agree to is that if Shastri had completed his term, India would have been an entirely different nation.
“He was the first economic reformer. He brought the green revolution and white revolution. He was so connected to his roots unlike other politicians,” said Agnihotri.
“Shastri had Indian solutions to Indian problems where as other leaders – especially the Nehru-Gandhi family – they had Western solutions and that’s why this country has got stuck where it has.”