New Delhi: A private person with his own opinions would not affect the close bilateral relationship between New Delhi and Tel Aviv, Israel’s Ambassador to India Naor Gilon said Tuesday as his fellow countryman’s comment on the movie, ‘The Kashmir Files’, stoked a major controversy.
On Monday, Israeli filmmaker Nadav Lapid had criticised the Vivek Agnihotri-directed movie at the closing ceremony of the 53rd International Film Festival of India (IFFI) in Goa.
“I think one private person with his own opinions shouldn’t change anything here. The relations (between India and Israel) are much stronger than this individual,” Gilon told a group of journalists.
The envoy described the film event in Goa as a “positive demonstration of the wonderful relations” between the two countries.
“(Union) Minister (Anurag) Thakur was praising our cooperation. We had the cast from (Israeli web series) Fauda there too,” he said.
The statement came hours after the Israel ambassador slammed Lapid in a lengthy open letter on Twitter, accusing the filmmaker of abusing the Indian invitation to the judges’ panel in the “worst way”.
Lapid, chairman of the IFFI jury panel, had said that the jury was “disturbed” and “shocked” during the screening of ‘Kashmir Files’ at the film festival.
“It felt to us like a propaganda, vulgar movie, inappropriate artistic competitive section of such a prestigious festival. I feel totally comfortable to share openly these feelings here with you on stage since the spirit that we felt in the festival can surely also accept a critical discussion which is essential for art and for life,” the filmmaker said Monday evening.
Since the controversy erupted, some jury members have tried to distance themselves from Lapid’s marks. For example, Sudipto Sen, the only Indian member on the jury, said Lapid’s remarks were “completely his personal view”.
While Lapid has received criticism from the Israeli envoy and other critics, some personalities including journalist and author Rana Ayyub have come out in his defence. “Nadav Lapid said what should have been spoken by Bollywood artists, filmmaker’s and those who headed the censor board in India,” Ayyub tweeted.
Released in March, ‘The Kashmir Files’ tells the story of the killing and exodus of Kashmiri Pandits from the Kashmir Valley in 1990. Featuring actor Anupam Kher, a Kashmiri Pandit himself, the film has divided opinion among the people and intelligentsia alike from day one of its release.
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‘You should be ashamed’
In an open letter early Tuesday morning, the Israeli ambassador said Lapid should be ashamed of his remarks.
“An open letter to #NadavLapid following his criticism of #KashmirFiles. It’s not in Hebrew because I wanted our Indian brothers and sisters to be able to understand. It is also relatively long so I’ll give you the bottom line first. YOU SHOULD BE ASHAMED. Here’s why,” Gilon said in a series of tweets.
In Indian culture, he added, guests are considered like Gods but Lapid “abused in the worst way the Indian invitation to chair the panel of judges at @IFFIGoa as well as the trust, respect and warm hospitality” bestowed on attendees of the event.
The envoy further accused the filmmaker of falsely quoting him and Union Minister Anurag Thakur in an interview with Israeli media outlet YNet shortly after the event.
A report by YNet on Monday night quoted Lapid as saying that Gilon and Thakur discussed the similarities between India and Israel, since both countries “are fighting a similar enemy and are in a bad neighborhood.”
In the open letter, the envoy refuted these claims, saying that the similarities that were mentioned were about technology and the love for Bollywood.
“I understand your need in retrospect to ‘justify’ your behavior but I can’t understand why you told @ynetnews afterwards that the minister and I said on stage that there is similarity between our countries because ‘we fight a similar enemy and reside in a bad neighborhood’,” Gilon wrote.
“We did speak about the similarities and closeness between our countries. The minister spoke about his visits to Israel, it being a Hi-Tech nation and the potential of combining this with the film industry. I spoke about the fact that we grew up watching Indian films,” he added.
The ambassador indicated that he and other officials are facing online harassment due to Lapid’s remarks. “You should see our DM boxes following your ‘bravery’ and what implications it may have on the team under my responsibility,” the ambassador wrote.
(Edited by Tony Rai)
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