The film, The Kerala Story is another film after The Kashmir Files, which has the Indian liberals now losing sleep over the country’s potential destruction of peace and community harmony.
The film is a compilation of the true stories of three young girls from different parts of Kerala, claim the makers of the film.
“The Truth shall set us free! Thousands of Innocent women have been systematically converted, radicalized & their lives destroyed. It`s their side of the story.”
Talking to AajTak’s Anjana Om Kashyap, director Sudipto Sen had teary eyes narrating the story of a grief-stricken mother who had lost her daughter to the trap of Love-Jihad. He said, all the poor mother wanted was us to show the picture of the killer of her daughter.
“No one came to help us, no one”, Mr Sen told Anjana the mother saying to him.
The tales the makers told the TV anchor were heart wrenching, evocative and of extreme helplessness that would have descended on the families of those girls.
Anjana Om Kashyap had tweeted on April 26:
Brave & Brilliant movie by Vipul Shah, worth a watch!
Sunshine Pictures declares -“its time to uncover the Hidden Truth, of the biggest Invisible Threat to our Daughters *The Kerala Story* releasing IN CINEMAS WORLDWIDE on 5th May. It is Time to #SaveOurDaughters!” pic.twitter.com/BETJRfsXX8
— Anjana Om Kashyap (@anjanaomkashyap) April 26, 2023
The makers, when questioned by Anjana on the factual basis of their film, told that they have more than 300 hours of video footage of stories told on camera, including by some still living in hiding.
But as it always happens in India, the pseudo-intellectuals perhaps better called paid intellectual mercenaries – not a zilch interested in tackling the problem, are up in arms claiming the film is fictional and exaggerating numbers, despite the makers’ claims of video footage.
The trailer shows grooming traps being laid with instructions to not only trap girls, but to separate them from their families, if needed impregnate them and them ‘hand over for the next mission’.
It is challenging.
It is quite an eye-opener for those who are not familiar with grooming allegations with uncanny resemblance in script and modus operandi against certain communities in the UK from the late 1970s on.
The Numbers controversy
The film’s initial teaser quoted a number of 32,000 girls being trapped and to the critics, indirectly suggested that the story in the film being narrated was of all of them.
When such a big number is used, it is fraught with danger to run into controversy and earn the ire of local politicians.
Many are spreading this 2021 tweet of mine as if it undermines my present objections to the trailer & publicity for "The Kerala Story". Yes, I was approached then by three Kerala mothers and was aware of a fourth, and I was open about my concerns about their daughters'… https://t.co/R8Vn1RsfpU
— Shashi Tharoor (@ShashiTharoor) May 2, 2023
And so it did.
Shashi Tharoor, the Congress leader from the state of Kerala tweeted saying to the makers, it may be your Kerala Story and was not his Kerala story.
The makers, in an attempt to remove the confusion about the film being a story of 32,000 girls clarified that the film was the story of those three girls depicted as protagonists in the film, maintaining that their research suggested the number of girls trapped and affected by the traps of radicalization and conversion was close to 32,000.
This clarification attempt was used as a concession by the critics of the film who claim it is entirely fictional and so it should be either permanently banned or should state it to be wholly fictional.
Several PILs (Public Interest Litigation applications) were filed in various High Courts and including at least two in the Supreme Court of India.
A petition filed by Islamic clerics body Jamiat Ulema-i-Hind before the Supreme Court sought orders to make the makers of the film add a disclaimer that the film was fictional.
Another petition by Qurban Ali sought a complete ban on the film’s release.
Representing Qurban Ali, seeking an order that the film never sees the light of the day, advocate Nizam Pasha submitted:
“This movie is the worst kind of hate speech. It’s completely an audio-visual propaganda”.
The division bench of Bench of Justice KM Joseph and Justice BV Nagarathna was not buying it.
“There are varieties of hate speeches. This film has got certification and has been cleared by the board (Central Board of Film Certification). 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 an appropriate forum,” the Bench told Pasha.
Refusing to entertain the Jamiat Ulema-i-Hind petition, the bench led by Chief Justice of India DY Chandrachud told advocate Vrinda Grover to go and approach the appropriate High Court under Article 226.
Seeking Courts’ intervention, petitioners in India have the options of approaching either the Supreme Court under Article 32 or the relevant High Court under Article 226.
Of late, the apex court has been reluctant to be the first port of call and sending petitioners to first seek relief in the country’s various High Courts.
The Chief Justice said the Supreme Court cannot be allowed to become a “super Article 226 court”.
It is important to mention that most of the people seeking to ban the film were objecting to BBC’s documentary on Narendra Modi being banned as a flagrant breach of freedom of speech in India.
The film is set to release in India tomorrow, May 5. There are various petitions pending before the Madras and Kerala High Courts seeking restrictions on the release.
It remains to be seen if any injunctive relief is granted to the petitioners by the High Courts which is going to be local and not nation-wide.
In Melbourne, there is going to be a show (or some shows) – at Moonlight Cinema, Royal Botanical Gardens on Friday, 12 May.
It is a pity the film has not been picked up as a mainstream film for regular screenings by the usual players.
But those who want to see the film, it is also tipped to be on OTT platforms, including Zee5 from next month and one can watch it with family and friends enjoying the comfort of their own home.