Before deconstructing the narrative presented in Sudipto Sen’s The Kerala Story, let’s jog our memory about Bosnian Swedish writer and director Goran Kapetanovic’s thriller Caliphate. For the uninitiated, the eight-part series, shot in Stockholm and Jordan, was a fictionalised account of the happenings in the life of three girls who were indoctrinated to imbibe the ISIS cause. Interestingly, the writer took a leaf out of real happenings (the proof was a photo in the international press of three British teenage girls running away from their families to join ISIS) and built a fact-based work out of it. In the process, Caliphate retained an edge-of-the-seat tension as events careered towards the terrorist attack in Sweden.
At the same time, Pervin’s (one of the protagonists) plight in Syria became ever more endangered. More importantly, the show constantly harped on how religious fundamentalism can seduce individuals and destroy lives. That seemed a perfect structure to mix both psychological drama and a thriller edge, with the series focusing less on the logistics of the attack as the seduction of its potential female perpetrators.
Viewers got lured by the classic terrorist plot, after which the director let the drama about the radicalised girls be more dominant and emotionally engaging. If you have watched the fantastically made series, you would have to agree that it’s a fascinating and plausible depiction of what it’s like to be a Muslim immigrant in Sweden and how easy it is to be led astray without making it sound like the hideous, liberal-left Scandinavian apologia for Islamic terrorism. The ISIS jihadists of Caliphate seen in Raqqa are misfits, losers and psychopaths getting off on legitimised rape, licensed misogyny and ultraviolence; their sympathisers in Sweden are sinister, cynical and devious. But still, you understand why and how they attract recruits such as Pervin, the sweet Turkish-Swedish ISIS bride we first meet in Raqqa, dearly wishing she could escape. Then an opportunity presents itself when a friend passes her an illicit phone, and she speaks to Swedish intelligence.
Well, neither is Sudipto Sen a master storyteller like Kapetanovic, nor Adah Sharma’s histrionic skills as fine as Gizem Erdogan, who plays Pervin in the series, but that is not the prime factor that should drive Indians to watch The Kerala Story, I guess. The movie aims to unravel a truth that has been conveniently brushed under the carpet for a while now and which, if not revealed, might cost the Bharatiya civilisation peace in Kerala and the lives and sanity of innumerable Hindu as well as Christian girls. At this juncture, I am convinced even to say that the film is also not against Islam. As Justice Nagaresh said while squashing the call to ban the film, “What is against Islam as a religion or against Islam in India in this movie? The allegations are against an organisation. It is for ISIS to come and say that it’s not true.”
Honestly, once you watch how the Islamist handlers operate to ensnare gullible, vulnerable young girls to become ISIS brides and sex slaves, you will also find rationality in this statement. For no sensible Muslim in India can support the acts. At least, they shouldn’t. It would only mirror their lack of integrity and an understanding of basic humanity. As for the ban, we cannot help but cheer Justice Nagaresh’s statement again, even as we feel the lawmakers stand helpless without concrete evidence against the ISIS recruits. Hence when he opines, “There is umpteen number of movies where Hindu sanyasis are depicted as smugglers or rapists. Nothing happens and no one protests such Hindi and Malayalam films”, you can just ensure to watch the film to understand the odiousness of what is happening and be warned and informed. As for those who call this a divisive, defamatory treatise on Islam or propaganda (just like they lashed out at The Kashmir Files), the hypocrisy is just too evident. Or should we say, the jitters are for real now at being blatantly exposed.
The film that has already courted a plethora of controversy from radical Islamists and the left-liberal cabal of the country is a clarion call of sorts egging the ‘secular’ junta to wake up from the slumber of complacency and heed this vicious, fundamental indoctrination towards terrorism that ISIS has unleashed to decapitate the world bit by bit.
The narrative seeks to present facts and explanations about the strategy involved with the hope that Hindus of Bharat understand how it is in their hands to ultimately imbibe the rich values of our Sanatani culture (the film also underlines the idiocy in communism) in their progeny so that no terror organisations can shake their core beliefs enough to fall into ghastly traps in the name of love, for either a Muslim man or Islam. Because ultimately, the goal is not only to bring the entire world under the aegis of Allah, but ISIS is on a war footing to unleash terror, disrupt world peace, ruin the lives of innocent people, ransack the basic dignity of women and destroy civilisations to fulfil their selfish agenda. They will not have any remorse for butchering, raping or misleading impressionable youngsters. Every hour, an army of monsters is created to take up the devilish cause. Sadly, as seen in Caliphate and somewhat in The Kerala Story, too many young girls are brainwashed to believe it’s an honour to be chosen for the ‘holy war’.
At this juncture, the mind thinks of another film. Ashutosh Gowarikar’s Jodhaa Akbar presented bubble-gummy myths about a Mughal emperor who committed Hindu genocides. Ill-informed movie lovers got easily duped by Bollywood’s serving of distorted history with sugar-coated prophecies of Akbar’s love for Jodhaa, a Rajput princess he forcibly married. It seems the Hindu consciousness has finally grown a backbone, where we watch movies such as The Kerala Story depicting the reality of Islamists grooming Hindu women as weapons of Jihad. Jodhaa Akbar was made at the peak of the Mughalisation of Bollywood, with a predominantly Hindu cast and millions of Hindu purses, making it a hit.
Beyond fringe groups, the Hindu society had no problem with it. But such an Islam revisionist movie won’t even pass the ideation table of any production house today.
That’s the success of the Hindu political consciousness finally learning to assert itself in the past decade. A Jodhaa Akbar can no longer be made in today’s India, but more Kerala stories will keep emerging. And it is up to the aware and resurgent Hindu junta to ensure that a debilitated and defanged Bollywood doesn’t dare to create mischief again. You could have issues with the technical flaws in films such as The Kerala Story, but for the truthful message to roar loud and clear, ensure you give it your wholehearted support.
Sharmi Adhikary is a senior lifestyle journalist and columnist with a yen for exploring interesting concepts in fashion, culture and cinema.