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'The Kerala Story' Controversy: Everything you need to know

Updated on: 04 May,2023 04:03 PM IST  |  Mumbai
mid-day online correspondent |
Written by: Athulya Nambiar |

Sudipto Sen's 'The Kerala Story' has been making headlines every day since its trailer was released on April 26. The film's premise and the claims made in the film have been questioned by several, including Kerala ministers. Ahead of its release, here's everything you need to know about the controversy

'The Kerala Story' Controversy: Everything you need to know

The Kerala Story poster

Sudipto Sen and Vipul Amrutlal Shah's upcoming film 'The Kerala Story' has been embroiled in a controversy ever since the teaser of the film dropped in November 2022. As the protest against the film intensifies ahead of its May 5 release date, here's looking at what the controversy is all about:

So what is the film about and who is making it? 

Directed by Sudipto Sen and backed by Vipul Amrutlal Shah who has made films like 'Namaste London' and 'Aankhein', the film stars Adah Sharma in the lead. The film highlights forced conversions of women in Kerala and how they are recruited in the ISIS. The film's teaser claims that as many as 32000 women were victims of forced conversion to Islam and many were taken to ISIS-ruled Syria. 

Legal matter: 

The film landed in a legal soup after the release of the trailer in the last week of April. A petition was filed at the Supreme Court seeking a stay on its release on ground of "worst kind of hate speech" and "audio-visual propaganda". However, the Supreme Court refused to take up the matter, saying, "There are varieties of hate speeches. This film has got certification and has been cleared by the board."

"It's not like a person getting on the podium and starts giving uncontrolled speech. If you want to challenge the release of the movie, you should challenge the certification and through appropriate forum," the bench added.

Political backlash: 

The ministers of ruling and opposing party of Kerala expressed their displeasure with the claims made in the promotional units of the film. Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan said, "A glance at the trailer gives the impression that the movie was deliberately produced with the aim of communal polarisation and spreading hate propaganda against Kerala. By placing Kerala, the land of secularism, as the centre of religious extremism, it is repeating the Sangh Parivar’s propaganda. Propaganda films and the othering of Muslims should be viewed in the context of various efforts made by the Sangh Parivar to gain an advantage in electoral politics in Kerala."

Congress MP Shashi Tharoor also slammed the makers in a series of tweets accusing them of making false claims and portraying the state of Kerala in a bad light. 

Rewards announced for proof: 

Activists and lawyers have even announced rewards to those who can prove the allegations made in the film. Kerala State Committee of Muslim Youth League has announced a reward of Rs 1 crore for anyone who proves the allegations levelled in the film and said collection centres for providing the proof will be opened in every district on May 4, reported ANI. "Prove the allegations that 32,000 Keralites converted and fled to Syria. Take up the challenge and submit the evidence," the poster by the committee read.

Meanwhile, a Muslim lawyer and actor, who remarried his wife recently under the Special Marriage Act (SMA) for the financial security of their daughters, offered Rs 11 lakh for bringing the proof of even 32 women from Kerala who converted and joined the Islamic State, according to PTI.

CBFC judgement:

The Central Board of Film Certification (CBFC) has passed the film with an 'A' certificate and suggested deletion of 10 scenes from the film. According to reports, the makers have been asked to delete scene of an interview with a former Kerala chief minister. The Kerala CM is said to be VS Achuthanandan. A TV interview where a former CM reportedly said that Kerala over the next two decades would become a Muslim-majority state as youngsters were being influenced to convert to Islam has been deleted after CBFC's order. A scene that had "dialogues and inappropriate references to all Hindu Gods" is also said to be one among the 10 deleted scenes. 

Also Read: Apex court refuses to direct Kerala HC to take up urgently plea against CBFC certification to film 'The Kerala Story'

Controversy impact and JNU screening:  

Despite the uproar around the film, the director and producer of the film insist that 'The Kerala Story' is based on true events. "If we look at the issue, the number of 32,000 is what we have stated and we are staying by it," Mr Shah said as quoted by news agency PTI. Having said that, the YouTube video description of the teaser of the film was altered ahead of its release. From 32000 women, the description now reads that it is a tale of 3 young women. 

On Tuesday, the makers of The Kerala Story screened the film at JNU campus in Delhi. At the screening, Producer Vipul Amrutlal Shah said, "It is your responsibility to how to show this film to people and which type of discussion should be happened."

At the screening when asked about the controversial figure of 32000 used in the film, Sen said, "Do you think the number actually matters? The 32,000 number is an arbitrary number. It is based on facts."

Sudipto Sen said, "We are telling the story of three girls. One girl is right now in Afghanistan jail. One girl committed suicide and her parents are still waiting for justice. One girl has been raped repeatedly and now she's in hibernation because her perpetrators are hounding her."

(with inputs from agencies)

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