Film: The Tashkent Files
Director: Vivek Agnihotri
Cast: Naseeruddin Shah, Mithun Chakraborty, Shweta Basu Prasad, Pankaj Tripathi, Mandira Bedi, Pallavi Joshi
Stars: 2 stars
The Tashkent Files directed by Vivek Agnihotri is the nth number of film based on the current and past political charade but it does bother to back its conclusion with any reliable evidence. The film runs a disclaimer saying they can’t prove authenticity of any documents or theories used in the film.
Hence while you can’t truly trust or believe what the film says, The Tashkent Files only claims to unearth the truth of India’s Second Prime Minister’s death while it takes a U-turn to establish that in 10 years since his death India was successfully colonised by a group for people aka then ruling party benefited from his forced untimely death.
Lal Bahadur Shastri’s death took place a day after signing the peace treaty between India and Pakistan while in Tashkent in the former Soviet Union on January 11th 1996. The mystery has led to many conspiracy theories and Vivek takes a dig at all of them, through this narrative told by a journalist Ragini (Shweta Basu Prasad). The film is dedicated to all honest journalists while we don’t see a single one of them in the film.
As if the heavy matter wasn’t enough to bring in the audience, Agnihotri adds a thrilling aspect to the film. Ragini who is known to write fake news in need for likes and retweets is given 9 days to bring in a good scope. Cue, an unknown caller to hand out all processed documented information so that she can present a story.
Ragini’s report as a front page story leads to government forming a committee and present the truth to the public. Committee sessions that have historian, social worker, judge and even Raw ex-chief seem like something out of a Parliament discussion or kids arguing over who started the fight. While everyone plays the blame game Ragini is left to fend for herself, kicked out from office and caught between political games, she is left alone to find the clues.
The makers have done extensive research and the actors also play their part impeccability, but what fails the film is the second half’s dramatic script. The first half of the film sails smoothly with Shweta dominating the screen time but the long pauses, dramatic outbursts and name calling in the second half makes it hard to take the film seriously.
One sided journalism is served on a silver platter right from the start which becomes stale by the time we get to the end of 144 minute movie. The vigour and heart needed to present a story like 2018’s ‘The Post’ and 2015’s ‘Spotlight’ is missing from ‘The Tashkent Files’.
Verdict: A flawed journalist falls prey to a political agenda much like all of us today.