Filmmaker and activist Vivek Agnihotri recently released his book, titled Who Killed Shastri? The novel is about the mysterious circumstances around the demise of Lal Bahadur Shastri, the former PM of India, in Tashkent, Uzbekistan. Talking to BollywoodLife, he said, “I always wanted to know the real history of India. History has many versions. I wanted to know the real history. When we made Tashkent Files, we did immense research over four years. We were sitting on a goldmine of material. This book is basically my journey and that of my assistants to chase the truth. It documents our struggle and pain. But, if you decide to find the truth, you can do it. The book is also about how to make a film like this, when you do not have a studio backing. It is about how we tried to chase the truth and Indian history from the Indo-Sino war of 1962 to the Emergency.”
Other prime ministers of India have found references in India. However, when it comes to Lal Bahadur Shastri, what Gen-Y knows is Jai Jawaan Jai Kissan. So, what attracted Agnihotri to Shastri? He replied, “Simplicity, sacrifice and spirituality. He sacrificed a lot for India. Did you know that his family paid the loan for one car that he had bought, a Fiat, after his death? His family had no bank balance. Shastri’s wardrobe had two dhotis and kurtas. And spirituality is a way of life. It has nothing to do with meditation and yoga. It is about how a person’s spirit is connected to the people, world and relationships. That is what attracted him to me. You hardly meet such people in political life. He was a reformer and the father of the Green Revolution, though other people are credited wrongly for it.”
Agnihotri says he started off as a commercial filmmaker, making movies that told stories people wanted to hear. However, he says being an independent filmmaker has brought out the best in him, as a director and human being. “It has made me more connected and simple as a person. A lot of studios wanted to back The Kashmir Files (his next movie), but I am making it independently,” he said.
After the death of Sushant Singh Rajput, Vivek Agnihotri was one of the first people to demand a CBI Enquiry in the matter. “See, he was a friend of mine. I started asking for a probe from the day he died. I just cannot believe it. He was brilliant and we shared interests like quantum physics and philosophy. I always wondered, he has done films, a hit show like Pavitra Rishta and a dance reality show. When you work on a project, you connect with 200 odd people. He must have known at least 2000-3000 people by those estimates. It is strange that only Kangana Ranaut and I are talking about it. The silence was very odd. See, even if our neighbour, who lives 10-15 houses away, dies, we talk about it. What did these people know about his depression to justify this? Kangana Ranaut, Ishkaran (Singh Bhandari) and some others wanted to know what happened. This has brought us close. We will make sure this finds a logical end,” he added.
There are a lot of people who have called out Kangana Ranaut as an opportunist and hypocrite. They have said that the Queen actress ‘roti saekh rahi hai’ on Sushant Singh Rajput’s tragedy. “When Rohith Vemula died, the whole industry started talking and crying on social media. Similar reactions happened on the Junaid lynching case. Kya woh roti nahi saekh rahe hai? Sushant Singh Rajput was closer to us. Seeing the silence, it was necessary to amplify your voice and Kangana did so. We should give her credit. It is better to voice out than be silent,” he concluded.
As always, Vivek Agnihotri shot straight and didn’t mince his words.