The Kerala Story begins with a scene where a converted Muslim woman narrates her ordeal of how she once wanted to become a nurse but was brainwashed and manipulated by Islamic religious vanguards, turned into an ISIS terrorist and sent all the way to Syria. She reveals the details of her horrific and tragic past and the reason why she is in a situation of crisis after she landed in Afghanistan and is being interrogated by the cops.
Then the film goes back to flashback and begins with the story of three young girls, Shalini Unnikrishnan (Adah Sharma), Nimah (Yogita Bihani), and Geetanjali (Siddhi Idnani), who share their room with Asifa (Sonia Balani) in a nursing college hostel in Kasargod, Kerala.
The other three are unaware that Asifa is an aide to ISIS and that her mission is to brainwash non-Muslim girls and convert them to Islam. She plants two young Muslim men, Rameez and Abdul, who pretend to be college students and get close to Shalini and Geetanjali as part of a Love Jihad ploy. The film is centred around the alleged radicalisation and conversion of young Hindu women to Islam in Kerala, after which they are forced to join ISIS. It is a true story of young girls from different parts of Kerala.
In the process, Shalini becomes pregnant with Rameez, who is on a mission to impregnate Hindu girls. To marry her, he demands that she converts to Islam, but even after that, he abandons her. Another man named Ishaq enters the scene and marries her after converting and renaming her Fatima.
Asifa is a part of the Jihadist mission, whose ultimate aim is to take the girls to Syria as sex-slaves. The inhuman torture faced by the girls and their plight in the hands of Muslim Jihadists form the rest of the story, which is horrifying to watch. The Jihadists ensure that the girls are radicalised and indoctrinated into the religion using hallucinogenic drugs and incorporating terrible fear about Allah’s grants in their minds.
Adah Sharma’s brilliant performance takes viewers through the painful journey of numerous girls who fall trapped in the Jihadist mission and end up losing their families, their homes, their country and even their identities. Her transformation into the character of Shalini/Fatima is next to perfect. Right from getting the Malayali accent to getting the body language correct, she was simply outstanding. She nicely imbibed the nuances of a young girl, who’s just gone out to college being very naïve about the world. Slowly and steadily, she gets brainwashed into becoming a terrorist. Very innocently, her character simply got swayed into doing things she didn’t know were harmful. Adah’s depiction is worth applauding.
With a straight face and displaying no emotions at all, Sonia Balani manages to portray a character that anyone watching the film will invariably start to hate. The way she interjects sermons from Islam into regular conversations and talks ill about other religions and their Gods makes you, as an audience, furious. She makes for the perfect villain, and her innocent face and smooth talk make you develop hatred for the character.
Yogita and Siddhi are very good at their respective characters, of two different mindsets, and they both shake the viewers’ soul at two different points. Geetanjali (Siddhi) is the girl who understands the trap midway and decides to pull herself out, but cannot deal with the after-effects of it and finally quits her life. Yogita plays a Christian girl Nimah a very strong character who did not succumb to the brainwashing techniques of Asifa at all. She still gets trapped for a small period in her state of unconsciousness and gets brutally gang raped, but she keeps her fight on. The long dialogue of her explaining the facts and figures of this Jihadist mission running in Kerela in front of police authorities was disturbing and disheartening. But that was surely one of the best scenes in the film that draws your emotional conscience to the core.
Producer Vipul Amrutlal Shah and director Sudipto Sen have attempted the bold representation of a very sensitive subject. Their hard efforts are truly visible in the film and its scenes and dialogues. There is a famous game of choosing between a truth or a dare. The makers of the film opted for a daring delivery of bare truth. The thought of bringing out the harsh reality of God’s own country in a heart-wrenching manner is worth applauding. Both Vipul and Sudipto deserve high appreciation for choosing this subject and doing justice with its presentation.
The film highlights major notions that should be an eye-opener for the majority of the nation. Parents being ‘secular’ are not discussing or talking about their own religion to the kids, which is keeping them unaware of its heritage and glory. Secondly, it highlights the prevailing issue of Love Jihad, which simply arises out of the thought of ‘Love being pure and naïve of all other factors. And it questions the concept of crossing all boundaries or going to any extent just because you are in love! It also throws light on ‘Terrorism has no religion’ and prevails how people of one community are putting their heart and soul into exploiting and destroying other communities.
Mamata Govt Bans the Film
Since the trailer’s release, The Kerala Story has faced severe backlash. The film was released on May 5 and is doing decent in terms of box office collections. Still, the problems for The Kerala Story is not getting over. The Trinamool Congress Government banned the film in West Bengal on May 8. Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee said, “West Bengal govt has decided to ban the movie The Kerala Story. This is to avoid any incident of hatred and violence, and to maintain peace in the State”. While taking a dig at The Kashmir Files, the Chief Minister stated, “What was The Kashmir Files? It was meant purely to humiliate a particular section of society. What is The Kerala Story? It is a distorted story”. The CM instructed the State chief secretary to withdraw the film from all theatres where it was playing. The film’s producer, Vipul Amrutlal Shah, reacted to the ban and said they would seek legal recourse to challenge the State Government’s decision. Shah said, “If State Government won’t listen to us, we will explore legal avenues. Notably, filmmaker Vivek Agnihotri – in a tweet on May 9 said – that he, with Pallavi Joshi (actor), and Abhishek Agarwal (producer), have sent a legal notice to Banerjee for her alleged “false” and “highly defamatory statements” to “defame” them, and their films The Kashmir Files and the upcoming film, The Delhi Files.
Adah Sharma’s brilliant performance takes you through the painful journey of numerous girls who fall trapped to the Jihadist Mission and end up losing their family, their home and their country
Tax-Free in UP and MP
The Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath on May 9 announced that they will make The Kerala Story tax-free.
On May 6, Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister, Shivraj Singh Chouhan declared the movie tax-free. “The film shows how the (life of) daughters who get entangled in the trap of Love Jihad get destroyed. It also exposes the design of terrorism”, Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan said in a video message.
How public reacted
“To be very honest, This movie (Story) is A hard-hitting reality which is brilliantly covered in approximately 160 minutes #TheKerelaStory No false narrative has been creative , they have putted only facts in front of us. They use our innocent girls Target them and force them to convert to Islam”— @VImvinit007
“Devastatingly moving account! We’ve read similar narratives of girls frm UK,USA but watching n Indian girl’s factual story absolutely shook me.Leave your politics and watch this.Award winning performance by @adah_sharma” – Rajnigandha (@Rajnigandha)
“A big thankyou to the Kerela Story makers, this fiasco should be brought in open a long time ago.
Kerela is probably the next kashmir if nothing is done” –@BigEgoCo.