By: Ratan Sharda for Firstpost
When the teaser for The Kerala Story was released a few months ago, there was a bitter backlash from both overt and covert Islamist groups. As a result, cases were filed against the film’s producer, Vipul Amrutlal Shah, and its director, Sudipto Sen. Having studied Love Jihad and the trafficking of victim girls and boys to Jihadi battlefields in the Middle East, the story was not unfamiliar to me. I had previously interviewed two Christian clerics from different sects in Kerala more than a year ago. During the interview, they discussed their research and meetings with victim families of Love Jihad and explained the techniques used by Jihadis to ensnare girls. Two years ago, approximately 3,000 Christian girls had disappeared from just one sect of Kerala Christians.
However, reading and talking to people is one thing but watching the same story on screen is very different. It hits you hard. I had the fortune of watching a preview of the film and I came out shaken.
The film opens on the big screen with some stunning visuals of huge arid mountains with snow-capped peaks in the background and a haunting song that stays with you even after you come out of the theatre – ‘Na zameen mili na phalak mila….’ by Sunidhi Chauhan. The cameraman deserves kudos for the beautiful cinematography. He is able to capture the majesty and the arid brutal surroundings of forbidding terrain. Director Sudipto Sen has scouted the unseen areas of Ladakh to create Afghanistan and Syria very skilfully.
The story moves back and forth between the brutal present and the enchanting past. There is no attempt to whitewash the truth or brush the story subtly to hype up the facts like the leftist filmmakers do. Dialogues are simple but effective. The story based on facts and evidence remains true to reality. I am not sharing the storyline of the film as I don’t want to play the spoiler. I can only say that it moves you immensely to see the plight of women who get ensnared into the extremist games and the condition of women in Jihadi-controlled Islamic societies. You feel choked.
Sterling performances of actors, none of whom are big names in Hindi cinema, led by charming Adah Sharma lift up the movie. Malayali-accent and the local Afghan accents are very well captured by the young performers. It is a sad reflection on the stranglehold of the established cinema mafia of Kerala and Mumbai that no established actor had the courage to take up the film despite the supposedly fascist Hindutva regime in Bharat for last nine years! However, the director is able to extract remarkable performances from the entire cast. Unknown faces make the film more realistic as you don’t get distracted by the aura of a star.
A special note of appreciation for the music directors Viresh Sreevalsa and Bishakh Jyoti, who have experimented with different genres of music very effectively. The background music enhances the storytelling. The songs fit in seamlessly and deepen the mood of the events.
The director Sudipto Sen is known more in the festival circuit for his award-winning films and short films. With this film, he has moved out of the festival circuit and jumped into the more forbidding commercial cinema where success is measured only through box office collections. The Kerala Story is a result of years of research. The makers produced a huge amount of written and video evidence to the censor board to convince them that they did not create fiction.
Vipul Amrutlal Shah, known for years for producing successful commercial Bollywood cinema has taken a leap of faith with this movie. He told me that after reading the screenplay for the first time, the only thing he asked Sudipto Sen was whether the story was true. Getting an affirmative answer, he embraced it fully. Perhaps, it was his first exposure to the harsh realities of our society that made him commit totally. He worked on the screenplay and dialogues himself. He has not spared any expense as can be seen from the quality of production. I am sure, many top stars of the industry who were just a phone call away from him will shun him now. And it is not easy to lose friends with whom you have worked for decades, for standing up for truth. He has put his money where his mouth is. And he deserves full credit for converting years of hard research into a film that disturbs you, depresses you but also shakes you up to face the harsh realities of the world.
It is strange to hear the state’s current Marxist chief minister saying that The Kerala Story is RSS propaganda and has an ulterior agenda. He forgets that his own party’s former chief minister VS Achuthanandan had said in 2010 that organisations like PFI wanted to convert Kerala into a Muslim majority in another 20 years. The film shows a video clip of his statement.
When you come out of the movie, you don’t come out with hate for Muslims. You come out reflecting on the weakness of Hindu society and families who do not educate their children on the basic tenets of Hindu dharma. We leave them vulnerable and confused in a society where there are people whose only agenda is to convert the Kafirs and bring in the rule of Allah, whatever the cost. It is not the writer’s flight of imagination that the only girl in this film who resists and fights back the conversion is a Christian girl. It is not incidental. She understands her faith and also that of the persons trying to influence her. She pays a heavy price.
In the battle of civilisations, if you do not arm your children with the knowledge of the most global and humanist dharma, you will suffer the consequences. Our ancients have told us, “dharma rakshati rakshitah” – dharma protects those who protect dharma. Those who are protesting against the movie are afraid that we will see through the façade of ‘all religions are same’. The sweet poison fed to the Hindus that it is only their duty to be ‘liberal’ and ‘tolerant’ has been swallowed by unsuspecting Hindus and imbibed in their thinking where non knowing about one’s dharma is cool. Well, the things out there are hot and this is what the people resisting the movie don’t want us to know.
Go watch the movie, feel the heat and come back wiser.