Indian movie 'The Kashmir Files' won film festival award, not Indian cinema's highest honour

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An announcement from Indian director Vivek Ranjan Agnihotri in February 2023 that his movie "The Kashmir Files" had won best film at the "Dadasaheb Phalke Awards" has spawned misleading claims in social media posts that the movie was given the Dadasaheb Phalke Award, the country's highest cinematic honour. The movie, which has been accused of stoking religious tensions, in fact won best film at the similarly named Dadasaheb Phalke International Film Festival Awards. The organisers of the Dadasaheb Phalke Award say it recognises the contribution of an individual -- not a film -- who has contributed greatly to the growth and development of Indian cinema.

"Breaking: 'The Kashmir Files' wins the prestigious Dadasaheb Phalke Award. Best film of 2023," reads a Hindi-language post shared on Facebook here on February 21, 2023.

"The Kashmir Files", which was released in March 2022, depicts in harrowing detail an exodus of several hundred thousand Hindus from Indian-administered Kashmir in 1989-90.

Hindu hardliners have jumped on the film, endorsed by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, to stir up hatred against minority Muslims.

According to official figures, up to 219 Kashmir Hindus -- known as Pandits -- may have been killed in violence that began in the late 1980s, with around 200,000 Pandits fleeing.

Redressing this "genocide" and "exodus", as right-wing Hindu groups call it -- likening it to the Holocaust -- has long been a central theme of Modi's Bharatiya Janata Party.

The Dadasaheb Phalke Award, considered Indian cinema's top prize, was first awarded in 1969.

A screenshot of the misleading Facebook post, captured on March 6, 2023

Similar claims were also shared on Twitter here and here.

The claims circulated after a tweet by Vivek Ranjan Agnihotri, the director of "The Kashmir Files", on February 21 that said: “ANNOUNCEMENT: #TheKashmirFiles wins the ‘Best Film’ award at #DadaSahebPhalkeAwards2023. 'This award is dedicated to all the victims of terrorism and to all the people of India for your blessings."

"The Kashmir Files", however, won best film at the similarly titled Dadasaheb Phalke International Film Festival Awards, an independent film festival.

Agnihotri later tweeted that the correct name of the award could be read on the trophy, a photo of which he included in his original tweet.

Dadasaheb Phalke Award

Both the film festival and the Dadasaheb Phalke Award are named after Dhundiraj Phalke, the father of Indian cinema.

The Dadasaheb Phalke Award, however, is organised by the Directorate of Film Festivals (DFF), which operates under the Indian government's Ministry of Information and Broadcasting.

The deputy director of the DFF, Indrani Bose told AFP that the "Dadasaheb Phalke Award is in no way connected to the Dadasaheb Phalke International Film Festival Awards."

"It is a national award that is given to individuals every year to honour their contribution to Indian cinema. This year it was given to actress Asha Parek," she said on March 14.

The Ministry of Information and Broadcasting said in September 2022 that a five-member jury had decided to confer the award on Parekh, a "legendary actress" who had starred in more than 95 movies.

Anurag Thakur, the minister of information and broadcasting, also tweeted a video about the decision here on September 27, 2022.

The Dadasaheb Phalke International Film Festival Awards, where "The Kashmir Files" won the best film award, took place in Mumbai on February 20, 2023.

Confusion about the awards previously surfaced in 2018, according to an article in The Hindustan Times newspaper.

But a ministry official interviewed by the newspaper indicated there was nothing the government could do, saying: "What can the ministry do? And under what rule can we take action? You can’t stop them, since they're not exactly copying the name. They twist and use the name and organise a function. It's up to the invitees whether they want to attend such functions or not."