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Darshan Kumar: “The Kashmir Files has changed me from within”

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Darshan Kumar

Suddenly,  Darshan Kumar is  one  of  the  most talked-about actors in India. Vivek Agnihotri’s The Kashmir Files has taken this talented  young actors from the sidelines  to the  centre of stardom.Darshan started well playing Mary ‘Priyanka Chopra Jonas’ Kom’s supportive husband  in  the  successful bio-com. Thereafter  in spite  of  brilliant  performances in films  like NH10  and Mirza Juuliet, Darshan was  marginalized in an  industry notorious  for its clannish nepotism. All that has changed  with  Kashmir Files.  Darshan tells Subhash K Jha how  this  revolutionary  film has altered his life.

The Kashmir Files is no longer a film its a movement.How do you feel being part of this movement?

Darshan Kumar: It’s surreal !!!  … This film has turned out to be the people’s film and they themselves are supporting and promoting the film. The kind of love and support I’m receiving from them is unmatched .My heart is filled with gratitude…their hugs and tears had moved me from within … I feel blessed to be their voice and do my little bit. This movie is and shall forever be very close to my heart.

Tell me how did you get this role?

Darshan Kumar: At first I got a call from our casting director Mr. Taran Bajaj.Later I met Vivek ji (director Agnihotri)  and Pallavi Ma’am(director’s wife Pallavi Joshi)  who showed me some heart wrenching videos of the 700 families and told me they are looking for a lead actor to justify this role and handed me the script. Without a second thought I said yes.

Did you have to audition?

Darshan Kumar: Not exactly .When I had a meeting with Vivek ji and Pallavi Ma’am we discussed the role and saw some videos. It moved me to the core.  I was handed over the script and after reading the script I found that everything what was told and shown to me was there in the script so I immediately agreed to do the film.

Were you the first choice? I hear Vivek Agnihotri had a tough time with the casting?

Darshan Kumar: Honestly I’m not aware because when I was offered the film I was given the script which I read and I thought it’s a true story which needs to be told, so I agreed to do the movie. I have no idea about the previous discussions held.

You are a Delhi guy.How much did you know about the Kashmiri Pandits before doing this film?

Darshan Kumar: Frankly speaking, I didn’t know much about Kashmiri Pandits …. saying this I really feel ashamed of myself. Just like today’s audience I too was confused and unaware . I only realised when Vivek ji and Pallavi Ma’am  showed me those videos of the first-generation victims. I was totally taken aback and that’s when I thought the truth should be brought forward and I wanted to be a part of this journey.

 How radically did the experience of doing this film change you?

Darshan Kumar: I feel I’m not the same person anymore. This film has changed me from within. Just like the pandemic where  one virus started in one country and spread all over the world … It taught us to love and care of each other … The recent Russian-Ukraine war led to a complete market crash which shows the world is one . Similarly this movie shows us the brutal truth and actual pain that inhumanity causes .It’s heart wrenching. So  this movie has enlightened not only me but the entire public and gives a message to live in harmony and make this world a better place to live in.

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It’s been a long hard journey for you since Mary Kom.How do you look back on your 7 years of struggle?

Darshan Kumar: It was a roller coaster ride indeed. Irony is that whichever character I played was loved by all but I was always offered the same kind  of  roles.  Whereas I wanted to do something challenging  and to get them ,it took time. Also, many A-List directors wanted me to play the lead but producers needed some good numbers in Box Office….I am crossing my fingers and hope it changes now .

 Do you think the Indian entertainment industry is tough on outsiders?

Darshan Kumar: Indian entertainment industry is like any other industry. One has to work really hard  to reach on the top. Around 4-5 years back it was a really tough to crack a good role in films but now thanks to OTT platforms, it has changed everything.There is demand for   real talent …Audiences are content-driven and  are willing and eager to watch realistic cinema. This has opened many avenues for actors as well as filmmakers and given rise to a good cinema which is beneficial for so- called outsider  and the insider.

 Coming to your magnificent monologue on the distinguished ancestry of Kashmiri Pandit , how much research preparation did it require? What was it like  shooting the monologue?

Darshan Kumar: The 13-page monologue was  the most important and challenging scene for me as an actor …Right from my first day when I read the script …I was excited and nervous about this scene because I had to perform scene in a way that I could convey the reality of Kashmir in  away  that everyone could connect with it. As  it was an extremely lengthy scene my director Vivek Sir told me that he would shoot the scene in patches in a period of two days so I need not worry. However I was worried about breaking the flow. I wanted to speak from my heart so that it reaches to the heart of the audience.  And I’m happy that I could deliver this monologue in one take.

One take? Wow!  What kind of responses are you getting especially to the monologue?

Darshan Kumar: I believe what comes from heart touches the heart. I am  getting some overwhelming response from the audiences, standing ovations, lots of hugs and moreover blessings in abundance has filled my heart with gratitude.

What next?

Darshan Kumar: I have finished shooting for Prakash Jha’s Ashram which is set to stream soon .I have  also completed a T-Series  film call Dhokha with Madhavan,  directed by Kookie Gulati. It’s a thriller and I’m excited about  it.