“The Kerala Story”, the latest directorial venture of Sudipto Sen starring Adah Sharma, Yogita Bihani, Sonia Balani, and Siddhi Idnani, hit the theatres on 05th May 2023. The film is based on the forceful conversion of 32,000 women in Kerala to Islam out of which many of them were taken to ISIS-ruled-Syria. Despite altering the YouTube trailer’s description to the true stories of three young girls from different parts of Kerala, Director Sen continues to preserve it as an unquestionable ‘truth’ at the movie’s climax.
Shalini Unnikrishnan, Nimah Matthews, and Geetanjali are the main characters in The Kerala Story. They are nursing students at Kasaragod’s National Nursing Institute and roommates with ISIS agent Asifa Ba. Asifa is on a mission to indoctrinate and convert non-Muslim college girls to Islam. In order to convert Shalini and Geetanjali to Islam and send them to Syria as sex slaves, Ba manipulates them and introduces them to drugs and other intoxicants. The movie documents the girls’ hardships as they face this conspiracy and find out the truth of this deception.
The Kerala Story, claims to be based on “many true stories,” however it lacks a sincere concern for the whole truth. The film constructs a narrative that tries to portray Kerala which is said to be God’s own country as a breeding ground for ISIS recruitment, implying that hundreds of people had joined the organization from the region highlighting a few events of missing females.
The movie, attempting to capture the ambience of Kerala, falls short in its portrayal. In addition, the acting fails to communicate any feeling of authenticity or true connection to the inhabitants and culture of Kerala, and the acting performances do not do complete justice. The movie additionally incorporates a forced and unappealing Malayali accent and the dialogues are quite artificial-sounding. The movie also has some monotonous and uninteresting parts, especially when Asifa tries to radicalize and brainwash Shalini. It is questionable if Shalini and Geetanjali are competent to qualify for their nursing degree given their fascination with Asifa’s portrayal of Hell. Because of the exaggerated and perhaps unrealistic characterizations, some viewers could have second thoughts about the overall calibre of the movie. It is crucial to use caution both while watching the incredibly upsetting and disturbing violent incidents in the ISIS camps and elsewhere. Furthermore, it goes to a great extent to illustrate its point of view, which may be upsetting to viewers from a range of communities across India.
Although it may be compelling for some to think The Kerala Story is inferior because of what they believe to be its flaws in direction and narrative, it’s crucial to interact with this cultural product since it deals with topics that are frequently brought up in conversation. Even if one decides not to see the movie, it is of the utmost importance to understand that its stigmatisation of Kerala’s Muslim population and its implication that extremism is only an issue for one particular faith is problematic as well as potentially triggering.
How young, literate women from Kerala might adopt a philosophy that goes against their background and values is a fascinating subject that “The Kerala Story” should have addressed. It would have been intriguing to explore more into the causes and psychology of such a transition given the state’s high literacy rate. However, the movie falls short of achieving this promise, skipping the chance for deep reflection. Filmmaking involves more than simply conveying data; it also involves how the data is delivered. But, it becomes hype when artistic freedoms are used to spread unambiguous distortions. The Kerala Story, sadly, fits in this category.
The filmmakers have produced a work that is missing credibility and is challenging to see since they have altered reality to suit their own version of events. It ultimately comes out as a simple rant and is unsuccessful to convey a valid point. The film’s message is unclear and may even be called provocative in nature. Considering its inadequate way of demonstrating the facts and unambiguous intention The Kerala Story is a challenging movie to watch. In the end, as an audience, you hold the power to determine your expectations from a film.