The Kerala Story, a highly controversial movie directed by Sudipto Sen and featuring Adah Sharma, has been at the center of heated debates and discussions since its teaser was released in November 2022. The film claims that 32,000 women from Kerala have been converted to Islam. It also claims the converts were then recruited by the terror group Islamic State. It has ignited outrage and controversy right from the start.
Exploring the Controversy: Number Accuracy and Fathima Ba’s Story
There are two main points of contention surrounding The Kerala Story. Firstly, the film claims that a staggering number of 32,000 women have undergone conversion and joined the Islamic State. Critics have questioned the validity of this number, demanding evidence to support such a claim.
Secondly, there is a debate about the authenticity of the film’s central character, Fathima Ba. Is her story based on true events or merely a collection of fragmented information? These questions have added fuel to the already fiery controversy surrounding the movie.
Censorship and Backlash: Calls for a Ban on Screening
The Kerala Story is set for release in cinemas on May 5. Before its release, the film faced severe backlash from the Left government and the Congress in Kerala. Political leaders from both parties are calling for a ban on the film’s screening. They have branded it as hate propaganda aimed at defaming the state and targeting Muslims.
The film’s trailer depicts the journey of Shalini Unnikrishnan, a Hindu girl who is allegedly brainwashed and enticed into converting to Islam by her Muslim friends. It showcases her religious conversion, marriage, and eventual trafficking to Pakistan. Shalini’s character, portrayed by Adah Sharma, boldly states, “I am not alone. There are thousands of girls from Kerala who ran away from home.”
Targeting Religious Indoctrination: The Film’s Central Theme
The Kerala Story delves into the controversial topic of alleged religious indoctrination in Kerala. It specifically focuses on how Hindu and Christian women are targeted by radical Islamic clerics. The film asserts that these women are converted to Islam. After their conversion, these women are sent to countries like Afghanistan, Yemen, and Syria to fight for the cause of Islam.
Opposition from Political Parties: Claims of False Narrative
The Congress and the ruling CPI(M) in Kerala have been vocal opponents of The Kerala Story ever since the film’s release date was announced. They perceive the film’s narrative as false and designed to propagate hatred towards Muslims while defaming the state. Congress leader VD Satheesan insists that the movie falsely claims that 32,000 women in Kerala have converted to Islam and joined the Islamic State. He has subsequently called for a ban on its screening.
Senior Congress leader Shashi Tharoor shared his opinion on the film through a tweet. It stated, “It may be your Kerala story. It is not our Kerala story.” He emphasized that while freedom of expression is valuable, the movie misrepresents the reality of Kerala.
Debating the Film’s Intentions: Maligning the State or Targeting Terrorists?
The film’s title, “The Kerala Story,” has also been a subject of contention. Some argue that it maligns the state. However, producer Vipul Shah asserts that the movie revolves around a few individuals involved in conversion incidents that happen to take place in Kerala, hence justifying the title. Shah emphasizes that the film does not hold any ill will towards the state.
Responding to claims that the film targets a specific community, Shah questions why people assume Muslims are being targeted when the movie focuses on terrorists. He argues that if terror has no religion, then the film’s critics should not associate it solely with Muslims.
Validating the Film’s Claims: Evidence and Human Tragedy
Regarding the accuracy of the film’s claims, producer Vipul Shah emphasizes that there is enough evidence of conversions taking place in Kerala. He believes that instead of fixating on the numbers, the focus should be on addressing the issue and finding ways to prevent such incidents from occurring.
Director Sudipto Sen adds that the discussion about numbers can only be deemed valid once people have actually seen the film. He highlights that the primary focus of the movie is to shed light on the human tragedy associated with religious indoctrination.
Addressing Character Authenticity: Testimonies from Real-Life Women
Actor Adah Sharma, who portrays the character of Shalini Unnikrishnan, reveals that she spoke to some of the women involved in similar situations. She hints that her character is indeed based on true events. There will be testimonies from those brave enough to share their stories on camera.
Support from BJP: Acknowledging IS Recruitment from Kerala
While the factual basis and creative expression of the film remain under debate, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) voices its support. Kerala BJP chief K Surendran acknowledges the presence of Islamic State recruitment in the state. He claimed that it cannot be denied. He encourages individuals to watch the film and engage in discussions rather than attempting to halt its screening.
Conclusion: The Kerala Story’s Impact and Ongoing Discussions
As the release date of The Kerala Story approaches, the film is expected to generate further discussions and divide opinions on its content, accuracy, and portrayal. The controversies surrounding the film highlight the delicate balance between freedom of expression and responsible storytelling. It leaves room for debate and exploration of real-world issues.