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The Kerala Story review: How to bury the truth under propaganda

As a film, this Vipul Shah offering stinks.

The Kerala Story review: How to bury the truth under propaganda
The Kerala Story

Last Updated: 02.24 PM, May 05, 2023


Three clueless girls join a nursing college hostel in Kasargod, Kerala, and are immediately fed ‘Islam is great, other religions bad’ by their roomie. The Christian girl who refuses to get converted is raped by several Muslim men. The Hindu girl who refuses to leave India for Syria after conversion is insulted on social media. The Hindu girl who gets converted, impregnated, and runs away to Syria manages to escape and confesses at a UN facility. 


Is it 30,000 girls who have been forcibly converted in Kerala or 50,000? Or is it just 3? Or are the elections in Kerala the right time for the government propaganda machine to churn out this ‘Kerala will become an Islamist state with Sharia law unless you vote for us’ narrative? 


As a film, this Vipul Shah offering stinks. The first mistake: underestimating the audience's intelligence. No matter which Indian state you come from, it’s hard to believe that 17-year-olds who join BSc Nursing (the minimum requirement as of today is 50% marks with Physics, Chemistry, and Biology) have no clue about their religion. People pray before exams; people pray in the mornings and evenings (when the lighting of a lamp is a given in most homes), so when Adah Sharma asks the Muslim girl, ‘Why do you pray before food?’ - she sounds ridiculous. Even worse, she’s a Hindu girl who does not know that hell exists in Hinduism! How stupid is she that the concept of ‘paap and punya’ has never crossed her path?

Let’s say Vipul Shah’s heroine, Ms. Shalini Unnikrishnan, is super dumb. If I were Asifa (played by Sonia Balani), I wouldn’t work so hard to convert her to Fatima Ba. Adah Sharma has made some dodgy choices in her career so far, and this one is the oddest. Poor Asifa has to spout, ‘Only Allah is the right choice," every time she appears on the screen, you begin to wonder how teenagers whom she’s trying to recruit don’t say, ‘Bore mat kar’. In fact, the one time the Christian girl ‘Nimah’ says, ‘There she goes again about Allah’, I almost stood up and clapped. Obviously, subtlety has no place in the film when you are trying to spread some bizarre conversion epidemic story.

Fear-mongering about Conversion—whether it is Christian missionaries converting the Dalits, or the ‘love jihad’ stories—is nothing new. And films like Omerta have been made. The BBC has made a documentary on Shamima Begum, who ran away from home to join ISIS in Syria and who has now been denied British citizenship because she gave it up. So to watch Asifa and the creepy mullahs sending people to go to Syria makes you wonder why that country, and why not just spread God’s word here and convert more people in India? 

When the Christian girl Nimah (played with tear-filled melodrama by Yogita Bihani) tells the stone-faced cop, ‘Suicide bombers who jump in the middle of non-believers and blow themselves up are from Kerala, sir!’ I want to ask, ‘If they blow themselves up, how do you know they are from Kerala?

The jeeps going through Afghan and Syrian terrain should have impressed us. The scenes where the ISIS guys beheaded a husband and cut off a woman’s hand for wearing lipstick should have shocked us. But the audience is still digesting nonsensical dialogue like, ‘Hamare bodies ne kubool hai kubool hai bol diya hai’ (defies translation, this gem!).

You only have to watch movies like Zero Dark Thirty to know that peacekeeping forces or interrogating officers do not wear full uniforms when hearing confessions from a ‘suspected’ terrorist. Neither do they introduce themselves. Plus, you have to believe that all the Muslims shown in the film are rapists or watch rape; they are rabid conversion machines, and they are everywhere! Not to forget, they have unlimited access to meth (thankfully, we did not have a converted Walter White in an Allah ke naam pe meth lab). 


All South Indians speak Hindi with a ghastly accent, all women wear flowers in their hair, atheists are communists (we know because they have a Lenin mural prominently displayed in their home), and yes, if you want to shoot a film that calls itself The Kerala Story, you must have a Kathakali artist dancing with your heroine. Stay as far away from director Sudipto Sen’s asinine film as you can. It makes reviewers like me feel like Colonel Nathan R. Jessop from Sorkin’s A Few Good Men: we watch ghastly films so you won’t have to.  

About the author:

Manisha Lakhe writes on films and TV shows, is a poet, teacher, traveller and mom (and not necessarily in that order). Could sell her soul for Pinot and a good cheesecake.

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