The Kerala Story has been amid many controversies ever since its trailer dropped. And there was a major debate about the 32,000 number they referred to in the trailer. Even though they changed that number in the YouTube description of the movie’s trailer, director Sudipto Sen places that number as a “fact” in the climax of The Kerala Story. It is actually quite alarming how they are throwing these numbers in the air so casually without any factual evidence to instigate hatred against a particular religion. They are not even subtle about the hate they want to spread, and the movie was disturbing, not in the way the filmmakers intended.
Shalini Unnikrishnan, now known as Fathima after a religious conversion, is our main protagonist. She gets captured by international forces while trying to escape from ISIS. In the film, we see Shalini’s confession, where she explains how she was brainwashed to believe in Allah and eventually was made a tool for the holy war.
When you are making a movie based on real stories, your research needs to be authentic. The understanding of the makers about the basic things about Kerala itself is laughable. I am sure creative director and producer Vipul Amritlal Shah, who has co-written the film, has not really visited Kasargod. Because Kasargod was never this green in even Senna Hegde or Ratheesh Balakrishnan Poduval’s movies. Similarly, every time you see Shalini, as a Hindu, she has Jasmine flowers on her hair (even when she is wearing casuals at home, she has that!) The introduction scene obviously started from a temple, followed by a visual of the backwaters and Kathakali. Hollywood has shown some sensitivity in depicting India of late. But Bollywood is still stuck in that Yenna Rascala imagination (Be it Kisi Ka Bhai Kisi Ki Jaan or The Kerala Story). And why is a girl from Ernakulam explaining the geological position of her place to girls from Kottayam and Thiruvananthapuram? For the convenience of the targeted audience, I guess.
After repeating this pathetic stereotype about South Indians with a forced fake accent, they try to get to the core part of the movie. I am not saying that Kerala is a place where religious extremists are not present. But if you want to establish that, come with credible writing instead of creating protagonists with half the IQ of an average human being. When Shalini and Geetanjali are getting obsessed with Asifa’s description of Hell, I am like, did they really pass a credible exam to get admission for nursing? The characterizations are so laughable that calling it brainwashing might be offensive to the brain.
They have clearly interviewed some of the victims, and a bite from one of those interviews is shown in the film. And there is a cinematically shot version of a victim who says, please believe this story, even though it has no factual evidence. Kerala CM Oommen Chandi had said in the assembly that during 2006-2012 a total of 2667 people chose Islam as their religion. The makers cleverly rounded it off as 3200, and that too per year. Multiply that by 10, and you get 32000, and make a character say that “factual” figure with tears in her eyes; that’s how you sell a lie convincingly. I am sure if Joseph Goebbels was alive, he would have kissed Sudipto and Vipul Shah for making Kozhikode look like Karachi and Malappuram look like Kabul.
Adah Sharma, with her irritating naivety and fake South Indian accent, delivers an insufferable performance. Whoever made the decision to make them say Malayalam words randomly in the middle of a Hindi conversation, your decision-making skills are terrible. Siddhi Idnani plays the role of Geetanjali, and she also struggles to portray the character’s transition believably. Sonia Balani’s Asifa is supposed to be cunning and manipulative, and even if you are Islamophobic, that character’s plan of action might make you laugh.
Towards the climax, when the authorities ask Shalini her identity, she proudly says, “Shalini Unnikrishnan, a Hindu from India.” In another scene, a cheated Geethanjali asks her communist dad something like, “Why you never told me about our rich culture and history instead of asking me to copy Western culture?” And the recruiting head of the Muslim organization motivates the young men to impregnate Hindu women by saying they need to complete what Aurangzeb couldn’t finish. Looking at the font and styling of the opening and end credits, I won’t be amazed if this film gets an IFFI selection.
The characterizations are so laughable that calling it brainwashing might be offensive to the brain.
Green: Recommended Content
Orange: The In-Between Ones
Red: Not Recommended