“The Kerala Story” is a 2023 Indian Hindi-language drama film directed by Sudipto Sen and produced by Vipul Amrutlal Shah. The movie revolves around the lives of three young girls from different regions of Kerala, with a primary focus on Shalini, who is abducted, converted to Islam, and subsequently radicalized, leading her to join ISIS as a terrorist. The film touches upon the sensitive issues of forced religious conversion and the alleged recruitment of women from Kerala into ISIS. However, it is important to note that the movie has been widely criticized for promoting false information and perpetuating Islamophobic propaganda.
The storyline of “The Kerala Story” centers around a group of women from Kerala who are coerced into converting to Islam and eventually joining ISIS. The film’s narrative draws inspiration from the real-life stories of Nimisha Nair, Sonia Sebastian, and Merin Jacob, who converted to Islam and traveled with their husbands to Afghanistan to join ISIS between 2016 and 2018. However, it’s crucial to highlight that the film exaggerates the number of such cases and misrepresents the scale of forced conversions and ISIS recruitment.
Controversies and Backlash:
Upon its release, “The Kerala Story” became a commercial success, ranking as the second highest-grossing Hindi film of 2023. Nevertheless, critics heavily criticized the film for its Islamophobic undertones and the spread of misinformation. Experts from the Observer Research Foundation have debunked the film’s claims, highlighting that the number of Indians who joined ISIS is far lower than the figures suggested in the movie. In fact, people from Kerala accounted for less than a quarter of the Indian individuals who joined the terrorist organization.
The film’s promotion by the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) during the Karnataka assembly election further added fuel to the controversy. The BJP’s association with the film caused it to face allegations of being a tool for political propaganda. The Indian National Congress and the Communist Party of India (Marxist) accused the filmmakers of defaming the state of Kerala and promoting the agenda of the Sangh Parivar.
Litigation and Protests:
“The Kerala Story” faced legal battles and widespread protests, primarily in Kerala and Tamil Nadu. In Tamil Nadu, the film was reportedly pulled from further screenings due to its poor reception, although the filmmakers disputed this and alleged political censorship. In Kerala, the film had a limited release, but poor audience turnout led multiplexes like PVR and Cinepolis to withdraw screenings.
The kerala story movie box office collection Rs 224.47 crore & it’s now heading towards 240 crores.
“The Kerala Story” generated significant controversy due to its portrayal of forced religious conversion and the alleged recruitment of women from Kerala into ISIS. While loosely inspired by real-life accounts, the film exaggerates and misrepresents the extent of these issues. Critics have labeled it as Islamophobic propaganda, contributing to the film’s overwhelmingly negative reviews. It is essential to critically evaluate the information presented in movies and rely on credible sources for a more accurate understanding of complex social and political issues.
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