As Kashmir Files wins the Nargis Dutt Award for Best Feature Film on National Integration, people are understandably questioning the criteria of the accolade. However, this decision raises more concerns about us as a society and the kind of cinema that India is producing. The award that stands for national integration, comes with the basic understanding that the winning film DOES THAT for the society.

Kashmir Files

A number of films that were given the same accolade in the past, managed to truly highlight issues. Some even tried to offer solutions.

Like these films:

1. Dharm

Based in Varanasi, the film revolved around the theme of communal harmony. It tried addressing the differences between Hindus and Muslims in the city. The major theme and moral of the film talked about how religion, when used to divide communities, can make us lose basic empathy. And the fact that all religions eventually talk about humanity, which is exactly why we can’t use it against each other. The film was also premiered in the Tous Les Cinemas du Monde section of 2007 Cannes Film Festival.


2. Dhappa

The 2019 Marathi-language film talked about how religious boundaries are forced upon the society, especially children. Dhappa emphasized on the innocence of childhood, and how we’re born without the idea of differences. Adult prejudice often plays a critical part in how children evolve and the opinions that they eventually form. This is one of the few films that focused on the complexities of adult behavior.


3. Thalaimuraigal

Thalaimuraigal also focused on childhood innocence, but with a different treatment. The film revolves around Subbu, a man who’s estranged from his son, when he marries a girl from another caste. Only, his perspective on life and caste-differences begin to change when he spends more time with the grandson. The film focuses on the need to look at our differences for the good that they can do. And it does that without being preachy.


4. Delhi-6

The film addressed communal disputes with utter subtlety, while also being real. It picked an incident that takes place in a small-but-significant area in Delhi, which in-turn highlighted the general issues that still exist. The plot revolved around a communal strife set off by an unrelated incident. What made Delhi-6 different from a lot of films is that it put emphasis on the impact of hearsay in a society like ours. In many ways, it was a mirror to our society and our ways – and still maintains relevance.


5. Shaheed Udham Singh

Shaheed Udham Singh is a Punjabi-language biographical film that revolved around the life of Udham Singh. There’s definitely something about patriotic films that do a lot to make people feel ‘one’. Set in times of the British rule, the film addressed the impact of the Jallianwala Bagh massacre. Certainly, the incident created a sense of urgency to act at the time, and Shaheed Udham Singh showed how the revolutionary managed to create a difference for the nation.

Shaheed Udham Singh

6. Ondalla Eradalla

This is another film that stressed on the relationship between innocence and societal ideas, specifically when they revolve around our differences. With the child as a protagonist, Ondalla Eradalla tried to show us what growing up around hate can do to a society. The film, in all its sweetness, tried to impart its simple message on ‘unity in diversity’.

Ondalla Eradalla
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7. Pinjar

While the India-Pakistan partition is something that we’ve read and watched a lot about, Pinjar talked about the other side of the story. It even managed to focus on issues like gender-discrimination and how women were seen at the time in the society. The partition impacted everyone differently, and there were too many differences that we hardly address. The film did that and more. It also focused on the crimes that took place during the partition, given that we were literally and metaphorically divided.

Prime Video

8. Mr. and Mrs. Iyer

The cultural and religious divide is something that has managed to exist, despite the changing times. Mr. and Mrs. Iyer was one of the films which tried to address our issues as a society. With simple scenes and conversations it also showed us how our differences impact our actions. For instance, a character frowning about sharing water with someone of a different caste is something that LOOKS basic, but it does a lot, when portrayed in a film.

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Mr. and Mrs. Iyer

A lot to introspect here.

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