Months before its release, Sudipto Sen’s ‘The Kerala Story’ had claimed that over the years 32,000 young Christian and Hindu girls from the state have been brainwashed to join the Islamic State (IS). The director reiterated the claim in a widely seen interview, and the movie’s trailer pointed to this figure as well. However, just a few days ago, the filmmakers backtracked, by altering the trailer description on YouTube, and bringing down the number to just three, in effect taking the wind out of the claim that it was indeed a ‘Kerala’ story. While neither the political opposition nor the legal approach could stop the release of the movie on May 5, undercooked facts and the negative portrayal of Muslims are most likely to turn the audience away from theatres.
Passable acting and propaganda-level dialogues will only aid in the rush to the exit. The movie revolves around three girls – Shalini (played by Adah Sharma), Geetanjali (Siddhi Idnani) and Nimah (Yogita Bihani) who study at National Nursing Institute in Kasaragod and are roommates. They are joined by Asifa (Sonia Balani) who deviously plans their conversion to Islam Asifa’s intolerance towards Hindu gods and Christian beliefs makes her appear pitiable. This unfair treatment seems not an attempt to create a character with gray shades, but intended for religious polarisation.
The Left is also not spared. At the beginning of the movie, one of the girls, Geetanjali, proudly claims that her father is an atheist and a Communist. She even quotes ‘Religion is the opium of the masses’, often attributed to Karl Marx. However, towards the end, she accuses her father of keeping her away from religion, hinting that her Hindu background could have kept her safe. This is not creative freedom, but religious propaganda at its best. The idea of the whole movie does not seem to expose how the IS has infiltrated the state. But by keeping IS in the background, the director has painted a whole community in a bad light. The title itself is too far-fetched as the protagonist, though shown as a Malayali, does not speak fluent Malayalam. Just because three Malayalis from different parts of Kerala join an institute and become victims of radicalisation, it cannot be termed ‘The Kerala Story’. Though initially based in Kerala, the filmmaker has not been successful in conveying that the film is set in Kerala, though he included a few elements to depict it as a story set in the state. We can’t relate to the Malayali girls, nor the story despite Sen’s best efforts.
The Kerala Story (Hindi)
Director: Sudipto Sen
Cast: Adah Sharma, Yogita Bihani, Sonia Balani, Siddhi Idnani, Pranav Misshra,
Runtime: 138 minutes
Storyline: Follows three nursing students in Kerala who are brainwashed by an extremist group into thinking that their gods are no good and that only Islam can be the guiding light