Unpacking The Controversy Surrounding ‘The Kerala Story’: A Film That Divides The State

Unpacking the controversy surrounding 'The Kerala Story': A Film That Divides a State

The Sudipto Sen-directed film has sparked much controversy since its trailer’s release on April 26th. The film garnered criticism from netizens as well as the opposition parties for its vilification of Muslims and Kerala, and its misrepresentation of reality. ‘The Kerala Story’ depicts the story of 3 women and their trafficking to ISIS camps after their forced conversion to Islam for marriage. It features Adah Sharma as the main lead, who has defended the film and refuted claims of it being a propaganda film. The film had one of the top five biggest openings of the year and bagged 10.51 crore on Monday, reported the Indian Express.

Understanding the Controversy 

The controversy arose over the trailer’s claim that 32,000 women from Kerala had gone missing and joined ISIS. The Supreme Court rejected pleas against the film and redirected the matter to the High Court. The producers told the High Court that they would delete the teaser that claimed “32,000 women” had joined ISIS and change the trailer to state it was a “compilation of the true stories of three young girls.” 

Reception in States

“The Kerala Story” saw strong opposition in Kerala, the state where the story supposedly finds its roots. Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan, said in a statement that the movie trailer is “deliberately produced” with the purpose of communal polarisation and spreading hate. The Chief Minister also accused the film to be “Sangh Parivar Propaganda”. 

Thiruvananthapuram MP Shashi Tharoor, also objected to the distortion of data through a tweet saying, “If there really were so many ISIS female members from Kerala, that would mean double the number when you count their husbands, whereas even Western intelligence sources say the number of ALL Indians in ISIS does not approach three figures. This gross exaggeration and distortion of the Kerala reality is what I am objecting to.” 

West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee, banned the film in the State on Monday in order “to maintain peace in the state” and avert incidences of hate crime and violence.

The Tamil Nadu Multiplex Association declared on Sunday that it will no longer screen the controversial film in the state.

The Prime Minister too, supported the film while campaigning for the upcoming elections in Karnataka, commenting that ‘The Kerala Story’ exposes the reality of terrorism and that Congress is opposing the film and supporting terrorist activities. 

The film has also been backed by BJP-led states, with Uttar Pradesh declaring the movie tax-free in the state on Tuesday. Madhya Pradesh CM Shivraj Singh Chauhan also commented that ‘The Kerala Story’ exposes the reality of terrorism and that it has been decided to make the film tax-free in the state.

A screening of the film was also conducted at Delhi’s Jawaharlal Nehru University on Tuesday by The Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad (ABVP), sparking a protest by the SFI (Student Federation of India).

Criticism by netizens

The Centre’s approval of the film and BJP’s opposition towards the ban on the film has led to many netizens pointing out the “hypocrisy” of BJP lauding ‘The Kerala Story’ yet banning the BBC documentary about the 2002 Gujarat riots. 

With the country being divided about the film, a new trend has emerged on social media with netizens highlighting several instances of communal harmony within the state. Musician A.R Rahman also retweeted a video depicting a Hindu wedding taking place inside a Mosque. 


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