The Kerala Story Review: Distorted
Any aware viewer, who might wander into the film, will be repulsed by this unabashed spewing of communal hatred, feels Deepa Gahlot.
The idea of censorship is abhorrent in any civilised society but in times of easily fanned communal violence, a film like The Kerala Story just begs to be banned, or at least suitably criticised for its crude propaganda.
Director-writer Sudipto Sen made a documentary, In The Name Of Love, which claimed that thousands of Hindu and Christian women in Kerala and Mangalore are being brainwashed, converted to Islam to be sent to ISIS camps in Afghanistan and Syria, as sex slaves or suicide bombers.
There may have been a few cases and this could have been a cautionary tale but Sen demonises a whole community.
The religious leaders are evil, the men are hunters and the women are recruiters for the so-called Islamic cause.
The story is narrated by Shalini (Adah Sharma: sincere) to interrogators at the Iran-Afghan border post, where she has been found and arrested.
Through flashbacks, it is revealed that she enrolled in a nursing college in another town, where she shared a room with Geetanjali (Siddhi Idnani), a Christian girl (Yogita Bihani) and a Muslim, Asifa (Sonia Idnani).
Since Asifa is a local, she is extra warm and hospitable towards the homesick roommates.
She invites them home and introduces them to her ‘cousins’.
After an obviously staged molestation incident in a mall, the two Hindu women (Shalini and Geetanjali) are easily persuaded to wear a hijaab. Then she starts criticising their religion, insisting that only Islam can protect them and save them from hellfire.
The women are not young enough to be so gullible but they listen to Asifa, wide-eyed, and believe everything she says.
To make the indoctrination simpler, they are also drugged.
The trap closes fully when they are wooed by two Muslim men, who have been assigned to bed and impregnate them.
Shalini, renamed Fatima after conversion, finds herself pregnant, is abandoned by her boyfriend and made to marry the sadistic Ishak (Vijay Krishna).
Trapped and isolated — women are not allowed phones in a village in Afghanistan — Shalini witnesses the horrors of fundamentalism, where women are mutilated and men beheaded for not obeying Taliban rules. Her infant daughter is taken away and she is forced into sexual slavery.
The other two girls suffer a worse fate.
The disputed statistics of this mass conversion and exodus of women are bandied about; Sen and his writers (Suryapal Singh and ‘creative director’ Vipul Amrutlal Shah) have a one-point agenda: Paint the Muslim community as regressive and barbaric.
By exaggerating everything, tamping down any debate that could have arisen and shooting rapes in disturbing detail, the film ends up doing the opposite of what it intended. Any aware viewer, who might wander into the film, will be repulsed by this unabashed spewing of communal hatred.
A filmmaker has the right to pick the story they want to tell but not to twist and distort the way Sen has done in The Kerala Story.
Hopefully, films like this and The Kashmir Files will remain exceptions.
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