The Kerala Story: State up in arms against Sudipto Sen’s ‘right-wing propaganda film’

The upcoming film has been criticized by politicians, youth organisations, and religious groups

The Kerala Story,
'The Kerala Story', starring Adah Sharma, was released in cinemas on May 5 I

A woman, who was either rescued or arrested from the custody of Islamic rebels in a West Asian desert, appears to be narrating her story about being trapped, enslaved, and made into a reluctant ‘terrorist’. Her story follows the usual right-wing troll narrative about jihadis and their newly discovered weapon, LSD: love, sex and drama.

According to her, innocent Hindu girls are being brainwashed and trapped by Muslim youth, who are aided by their sisters and instigated by mullahs. The only difference this time is that they have a number, the exact number of girls abducted by the jihadis, which is 32,000 from Kerala alone. That is what the upcoming movie The Kerala Storyis all about in a nutshell — or at least that’s what the trailer tells us.

The controversial trailer, which was released on April 26, had crossed 11 million views and was fifth on the trending list of YouTube at the time of filing this report. Judging by the script of the trailer, one can easily say that the hate-mongering storytellers of Twitter seem to be not tired, but they have changed their medium. When the teaser of the film was released, The Federal had run this story, after a case was slapped against the director and producer of the film under sections 153 (A) and (B) of the Indian Penal Code (IPC) for promoting enmity between communities, but nothing further happened.”

‘False propaganda aimed at nefarious political gains’

According to the RTI reply given to BR Aravindakshan, a Chennai-based journalist, neither the teaser nor the trailer of the film was censored by the Central Board of Film Certification. “The film is clearly propaganda to push the hate-mongering ideology of the RSS and the BJP,” says Saji Cherian, the state minister for culture and cinema.

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“What we could understand from the trailer is that the film is full of blatant lies. Even the intelligence report prepared by the BJP government admits that Kerala is the only state where not even a single communal riot has taken place in years. Yet Sudipto Sen is alleging that 32,000 girls were abducted and sent to Syria and Afghanistan, which is false propaganda aimed at some nefarious political gains for the future. I am sure the people of Kerala will reject it,” added Cherian.

“I urge the people of Kerala to boycott this film. I am not sure whether we could legally stop it from screening, but we would explore all the possible ways to prevent it from dividing the people,” added the minister.

“Earlier, the leader of the opposition, V D Satheesan, urged the government not to allow the film to be screened in the state. He further alleged that the movie is an attempt to carry out the agenda of the Sangh Parivar and to polarize society by casting doubt on minorities.

“The public is already aware of what the movie’s director, Sudipto Sen, told the media about the movie’s subject matter. It is obvious that the movie is attempting to disparage and insult Kerala internationally. This is a plan to advance the sectarianism that Narendra Modi has sown for political gain,” added the LOP. “The Sangh Parivar will never grasp the true meaning of humanity. I can never imagine that spreading the venom of communalism will split Kerala,” said Satheesan in his Facebook post.

Demands to ban the film

Democratic Youth Federation of India (DYFI), the youth wing of the ruling CPI (M), and the Indian Union Muslim League (IUML) have demanded a ban on the film. The film could insult religious sentiments and hence its screening should not be allowed in Kerala. “It is evident from the trailer that the film tries to establish love-jihad is real, which even the Union Home ministry had rejected. The film wants to create an impression that Kerala is a land of extremism by distorting facts and putting forward false narratives. This is part of the Sangh Parivar agenda,” read a statement by the DYFI.

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“We are thinking about going beyond issuing a political statement. The screening of this film could do irreparable damage to our secular fabric, which should be prevented by all means. We are thinking of legal remedies as well,” A A Rahim, the president of DYFI, told The Federal.

“It would only foster hostility between the different faiths. The movie creates the false impression that Muslims in Kerala are working to create an Islamic state in this region,” said P K Firoz, the secretary of the Muslim Youth League, urging the government to file a case against the makers of the movie.

The central character of the film, Shalini Unnikrishnan, a Hindu woman who has been converted and forcefully inducted into the ranks of the ISIS, is modelled after Nimisha Fathima of Thiruvanantahpuram, one of the three Kerala girls who married Muslim men and set off to Syria and reportedly ended up in an Afghan prison.

The ‘heroine’ of the film is seen somewhat misquoting V S Achuthanandan, the former Chief Minister of Kerala and senior CPI(M) leader, who had incidentally said that certain Islamic organizations were working to make Kerala an Islamic state way back in 2010.

Achuthanandan was referring to a pamphlet circulated by the National Development Front (NDF) — the previous avatar of the Popular Front of India — in the wake of the 2010 incident of hand chopping of a college professor in Kerala.