‘The Tashkent Files’ – Prejudiced, Amateurish and Cringe-Worthy
It’s sad to see brilliant actors like Pankaj Tripathi and Rajesh Sharma in such unbearably shrill territory.
‘The Tashkent Files’ is So Prejudiced and Amateurish
Written and directed by Vivek Agnihotri, The Tashkent Files tries to solve the 'mystery' behind our second prime minister Lal Bahadur Shastri’s death.
For years now, many theories have floated about the suspect timing of the death.
Did foreign powers have a role to play? Was it murder or just a case of natural heart failure? These questions and conspiracy theories, various versions and 'alternate truths' find a way into the narrative.
We meet Raagini Phule aka Shweta Basu Prasad – a young journalist desperate for a scoop. Almost on cue she receives an anonymous call which leads her to 'unravel' the truth behind the death of Shastri – strong evidence hinting at foul play.
Tashkent Files opens with a disclaimer saying the film is inspired by the true incidents related to Lal Bahadur Shastri’s death as recorded by a whole host of sources – the parliament of India, national archives, books by experts, news reports, intelligence reports, personal interviews and various RTIs under the supervision of expert Anuj Dhar and Shastri’s grandson Sanjay Nath Singh.
However the filmmaker does not claim any historical authenticity of those references.
Yours truly can also not claim to know anything about the truth, but purely cinematically, the film fails to engage the viewer in the way a political thriller should ideally do.
Contrived, Prejudiced and Amateurish: It’s a Challenge to Keep a Straight Face
The plot machinations are so contrived and simplistic it’s difficult to invest in on-screen proceedings .
The crowdsourced research that the film banks on cannot make up for the cringe-worthy execution and lumbering, uninspiring storytelling.
Various conspiracy theories make up the plot are either backed or debunked by the various members of the 'committee’ set up to examine the truth.
Mithun Chakraborty plays an Opposition leader who has his own axe to grind. Then there is Naseeruddin Shah as a manipulating politician vying for damage control. The committee further has a historian, a social worker, a scientist, ex-intelligence chief and a retired judge all blabbering various kinds of conspiracy theories.
It’s just sad to see brilliant actors like Pankaj Tripathi and Rajesh Sharma pitched in such unbearably shrill territory.
While the viewer would give up by the halfway mark, the film refuses to. It takes us to more flabbergasting territories.
The sight of Vinay Pathak in an oversized Russian fur cap allegedly ‘hiding’ from authorities but casually strolling the streets with Raagini to provide her with more ‘truth’ – it’s a challenge to keep a straight face.
In the politically charged times that we live in, the film is very clear about which side it wants to back. Without taking actual names of parties or leaders, it gives us enough and more hints about who to blame for the 'foul play'.
But the whole attempt is so prejudiced and the execution almost amateurish that one is none the wiser about Shastri ji’s life and death.
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