The Kerala Story: Why this film has become controversial in India
According to reports, the movie tells the story of four women who convert to Islam and join the Daesh
A poster of the movie ‘The Kerala Story’
A NEW film has sparked a row in India, with students, opposition parties and youth organisations, among others, calling for a stay on it being released.
The Kerala Story, directed by Sudipto Sen, is scheduled to hit the screens on Friday (5) across the country.
Produced by Vipul Amrutlal Shah, the movie’s cast includes Adah Sharma, Yogita Bihani, Sonia Balani and Siddhi Idnani.
Reports said it tells the story of four women who convert to Islam and join Daesh (the Islamic State group).
Its makers have claimed the film “unearths” the events behind “approximately 32,000 women” going missing in Kerala state in south India. These women were allegedly converted, radicalised, and deployed in terror missions in India and across the world, according to them.
Shah rejected allegations the film is funded by the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), led by prime minister Narendra Modi, saying they have “nothing to do with any political party” and anything spoken about the film without watching it is “conjecture”.
“We will choose not to respond to any political party. We are filmmakers and we have nothing to do with any political party stand,” the producer said.
Following criticism, the film’s teaser on YouTube – which initially read as “heartbreaking and gut-wrenching stories of 32,000 females in Kerala” – was changed to “true stories of three young girls from Kerala.”
A petition was also filed at the Supreme Court seeking a stay on the release of the film on the grounds of it being the “worst kind of hate speech” and “audio-visual propaganda”.
However, the Supreme Court on Tuesday (2) refused to entertain the request, with judges saying, “there are varieties of hate speeches. This film has got certification and has been cleared by the board.”
“It’s not like a person (is) getting on the podium and starts giving (an) uncontrolled speech. If you want to challenge the release of the movie, you should challenge the certification and through appropriate forum,” the judges said.
The Madras high court on Thursday (4) dismissed a petition against the release of the movie. The court also criticised the petitioner for approaching it at the last hour, seeking a ban on the release of the film.
Congress leader Shashi Tharoor has accused the filmmakers of indulging in “gross exaggeration” and “distortion” of the state’s reality. He even offered Rs 10 million (£97,283) prize money for those who prove 32,000 women in Kerala were allegedly forced to convert to Islam.
Tharoor’s assertion came in response to those accusing him of “double standards” over his criticism of the film. They referred to his 2021 Tweet in which he had he was approached by three Kerala mothers whose daughters were stuck in Afghanistan after they were apparently taken there by their “misguided husbands”.
Kerala chief minister Pinarayi Vijayan also slammed the makers of the film, terming it as ‘propaganda’ by ‘the Sangh parivar’ (an ideological organisation said to be close to the BJP).
The controversy took another political turn on Wednesday (3) when a BJP member of the Maharashtra legislative assembly (MLA), Nitesh Rane, said the film should be made tax-free in the state.
“The film titled The Kerala Story is releasing on May 5, In the context of Love Jihad, this is a relevant film. It shows the truth of how Hindu women are oppressed and made victims of Love Jihad. Everyone in Maharashtra should watch this movie,” he said.
Meanwhile, the Tamil Nadu intelligence services have warned the government of possible protests against the controversial movie and resultant law and order problems.
(With inputs from agencies)