The Kerala Story: A Review by Jataayu

Bold, intense, disquieting, absorbing – that’s how the film The Kerala Story can be described. Director Sudipto Sen has chosen a very important and sensitive subject and has presented a brilliant film.  

The film is based on true incidents and portrays how the lives of three young girls are shattered due to Sex Jihad, manipulation, forced conversion and terrorism. The perpetrators of these crimes are still at large and are not punished. The testimonies from the affected families are played in the end to remind the viewers that this is *true* story and not some kind of fiction. While the exact number of victims affected and ruined in this manner is debated, the enormity of the issue is well acknowledged by the state government and the police of Kerala beyond doubt.  This is the reason why the film has been allowed to be screened without any restrictions, with courts quashing the pleas to ban it.          

How the three girls, two Hindu and one Christian studying in a Muslim run Nursing college at Kasargod are trapped systematically, is shown in vivid details as the story unfolds. Through pre-planned physical violence and molestation of the girls in a public place, a sense of guilt and insecurity is created in their mind by their hostel mate Asifa, a woman Jihadist aligned with the local Salafi center. The girls are first made to wear Hijab, on the pretext that it would protect them in the Muslim dominated town. Asifa introduces attractive young Muslim men to the girls, and then through a series of steps involving love proposals, drugs disguised as medicine, brainwashing, intimidation, cajoling into sex and blackmailing, the girls are led to the local Islamic indoctrination center which pressures them towards conversion, and one of the girls Shalini (alias Fatima) ends up in the ISIS territory eventually.

 All this is revealed through her narration, as she gets rescued by the UN forces fighting the ISIS terrorists in the Syria-Turkey-Iran region. The cruel methods and operations of ISIS terrorists and their brutality on the trafficked women turned into sex slaves is shown through short, shocking visuals. Among the other two girls, one ends her life in suicide and the other resolves to become a fighter to expose these criminal Jihadist gangs and approaches the police. 

All through this depressing tale, the striking difference between the cold brazenness and the conviction of Jihadi men and women on the one side and the utter innocence, ignorance and the vulnerability of the victim girls on the other side is evident at every stage. There is nothing “grey” here. There is no Good Muslim vs bad Muslim dilemma, as every player in the Musliml households and institutions appear to have a hint of what is happening and do not have any remorse or hesitation.

The screenplay is tight and gripping and revolves around the central theme, without losing focus even one bit. There is never a slow, dull or a non-serious moment any time in the film.      All the actors have given great performances, though many of them are not very popular or well-known. Adah Sharma in the lead role is noteworthy for her excellent acting. Cinematography is brilliant. The visuals are alive and sensitive, be it the landscape of the gory ISIS desert terrain or the Kerala countryside. Background music is haunting and gels totally with the different moods and the scenes that occur in the course of the film. Retaining the two short Malayalam songs as such even in the Hindi version shows the good aesthetic sensibilities of the director. 

There are already some comparisons with The Kashmiri Files (TKF). Both films have their theme as the effects and consequences of Islamism on India in recent times, though their canvases and backgrounds are vastly different. But, as a cinema The Kerala Story (TKS) is more focused, tight and well made compared to TKF. While TKF presents itself as an expose of a genocide that is forgotten, TKF just attempts to tell a human story. Perhaps the impact of the discourse created by TKS would be stronger and more personal on the minds of the viewers, due to this. 

The producer Vipul Amrutlal Shah deserves great appreciation from all of us for giving a film that is not just startling and shocking, but has the potential to bring an awakening. The film circles are already abuzz with talks on how the Bollywood “ecosystem” controlled by Islamist underground networks wants to distance itself from him, in spite of Shah being a very successful filmmaker in the industry. He has decided to bring out the truth through this film, in spite of big risks. Kudos to him. 

Amidst the motivated media noises that are debunking, ridiculing and running down the movie, the truths exposed by the movie are getting attested by some of the real victims. The women and men who were rescued from the !slam!c indoctrination centers of Kerala  thanks to the valiant efforts of organizations like Aarsha Vidya Samajam with help from RSS and other Hindu organizations have come out and spoken, not anonymously, but directly in front of the camera, attesting that their experiences were even more harsh and worse than what is shown in the movie. They are urging all the young girls and also their parents to watch the movie and be informed and vigilant. The links and have many *real life* stories in the form of write up and videos. I salute the courage of such heroic women like O.Shruthi who had already written a book “Story of a reversion”. May Ma Shakti give them all power.  

We couldn’t even have imagined in our wildest dreams that such a film on such a topic would even be made one day and shown in public in India. Kudos to the Censor Board and the present central government too, for this.