The Tashkent Files Movie Review : Crowd-Sourced Conspiracy Theories with vague claims about the alleged conspirators, you know who.
Last Modified On: 12 April 2019 | Reviewed By: Saurabh S Nair
On paper, the film takes upon itself the onus of cracking the 'mystery' of the death of Lal Bahadur Shastri, India's second Prime Minister, in Tashkent in early 1966. All it manages to put together is a painfully overlong, abysmally ham-fisted filmed political pamphlet ruing the supposedly ruinous path that India took in the post-Shastri years.
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One character in the film admits (with striking honesty, one must say) that "truth is a luxury". It certainly is in The Tashkent Files. Its crudely fictionalized world gives factual accuracy a wide berth but seeks legitimacy by incorporating recorded submissions by real-life figures - Shastri's political heirs Sunil and Anil, the late editor and Shastri's press secretary Kuldip Nayar and journalist Anuj Dhar. But no matter what it does, it is unable to conceal its blinkered, tendentious approach to history
The alt-history lesson is fatuously dedicated to “all honest journalists”. Agnihotri’s polemics are structured around Ragini (Shweta Basu Prasad), a reporter who is in the dock for dressing up the facts for her latest scoop. A mysterious source, this movie’s Deep Throat, gives Ragini a shot at redemption – the opportunity to tell the real story behind Shastri’s death, and the government cover-up.
Although Indira Gandhi isn't mentioned by name - one suspects the censors have had a role to play here - she is ever-present by implication. It is abundantly clear that The Tashkent Files is interested more in slandering Shastri's successor than getting to the bottom of the truth about the death of a Prime Minister. The latter is only a pretext to beat dead horses. The result of the exercise sucks.
The wildest of the theories involves Subhas Chandra Bose. Agnihotri weaves his fiction together with interviews with Shastri’s grandson, Sanjay Nath Singh, and former journalist Anuj Dhar, who has made it his mission to prove that freedom fighter Bose actually survived the air crash of 1945. Bose pops up as one of the supposedly unexplained elements in Shastri’s death – he was apparently around in Tashkent at the time.