The Kerala Story is released amid a heated debate. Sudipto Sen, the director, and Vipul Amrutlal Shah, the creative producer, insist that their movie is based on the “true story of 32,000 young women” from Kerala who were imprisoned in ISIS camps on the border of Afghanistan, Turkey, and Syria after converting to Islam. The video has been criticised for being little more than a string of blatant lies and compared to hate speech by many who have been vociferously protesting, among them Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan.
This number of “32,000,” which was mentioned in the movie’s teaser, has been decreased to 3 during the last week. This fundamentally alters everything because the creators have all but conceded that their first estimate was greatly inflated, and extrapolating their expansive claim from such a little figure is nothing more than egregious distortion.
The movie itself is little more than a shoddy-made, shoddy-acted tirade that isn’t interested in exploring the socioeconomic nuances of Kerala, an Indian state that takes pride in its multi-religious and multi-ethnic character. It only wants to warn us that Kerala is in peril because its innocent, gullible Hindu and Christian ladies are being persuaded by bad Muslim males and radicalised to the point of no return by building the most flimsy, paper-thin personalities.
Adah Sharma’s (Adah Sharma’s) bright-eyed Shalini Unnikrishnan arrives at a Kasargod nursing college. One of her three housemates is a Hindu, the other two are Christians, and the third is a Muslim, a mix that is common in Kerala. Asifa (Sonia Balani) begins her goal to brainwash the other three right away: Other gods are powerless, and only Allah can save the “kaafirs,” who would otherwise have to endure (dozakh) hellfire and damnation. Girls who cover themselves with the hijab are protected from the lecherous gaze of men. In no time at all, Shalini, Nimah (Yogita Bihani), and Geetanjali (Siddhi Idnani), three charming young guys whose job it is to seduce and impregnate gullible young ladies, had fallen for the scheme.
An attempt to comprehend how young women who are ostensibly educated—Kerala has consistently boasted the highest literacy rates in the nation—can become so enamoured of an ideology so opposed to what they have grown up believing (or not: one of them is an atheist) would have added much-needed depth to “The Kerala Story.” This video, however, is not of that calibre. It contains inflammatory statements like “poore Kerala ko time bomb ke oopar rakha gaya hai; former deputy CM ne kahaa hai ki agle bees saal mein Kerala Islamic state ban jayega” (all of Kerala has been placed on a time bomb; Kerala would turn into an Islamic state in the next 20 years, according to the former deputy CM. Nobody seems to have checked to see if the real-life person being referenced ever said this or if it was taken out of context.
All of the Muslim characters in the movie are ominous and menacing, and “love jihad” is their preferred tactic. Shalini, aka Fathima Ba, learns she’s pregnant and immediately acts as if the world is ending: she is learning to be a nurse, this is modern times, has no one heard of medical terminations? Adah, a talented actor, is forced to wail and snivel throughout the movie. Her voyage from Kerala to Sri Lanka to the ISIS camps, where the Taliban rule, is replete with the most horrifying sights—men, women, and animals being chopped to pieces—and she eventually finds herself thrown into a group of women who are destined to be “sex slaves or suicide bombers.”
Nobody can claim that the horrific incidents that a small number of real-life women from Kerala and other women who were brutalised by the Taliban did not occur. However, it is blatantly false to assert that it is the complete “Kerala Story” with its 32,000 women.
You start to wonder why those who want to produce effective propaganda have not learned the trade from the master, Leni Riefenstahl, after spending more than two hours being battered by a barrage of bad Muslims who are finishing the job Aurangzeb left hanging (this is an actual line in the movie). We would have at least been interesting to look at then.
When a movie examines all facets of a subject, it makes room for reflection and discussion and leaves you with something to ponder. What about a movie that accomplishes the exact opposite? You get to choose what you want out of your movie as a viewer.
The Kerala Story movie review: Adah Sharma, Yogita Bihani, Siddhi Idnani, Sonia Balani
The Kerala Story movie director: Sudipto Sen