The Kerala Story is must-watch expose of an abhorrent evil

Adah Sharma delivers a phenomenal performance in The Kerala Story. Photo: Trailer Video Grab

Conversion is not just a moral offence and a sign of gross insecurity but it is a legal no-no too. However, authorities are trying a Nelson’s eye to this reality in Kerala, simply on the basis of lack of “pukhta” (solid) evidence, to gather which they would need to work with rigid commitment, without bias and with all the courage they can harness.

Sunshine Pictures’ The Kerala Story is an expose of heinous atrocities happening to girls in Kerala. An organized caucus of men and even women are involved in the filthy business of trapping girls (mainly), converting them to Islam through psychological pressure and getting them recruited finally into ISIS as soldiers of Allah, as postulated by the perpetrators. By a circuitous route they are then sent to Syria, or Iraq, to either be sex-slaves or suicide bombers!

The unofficial figures of the number of girls missing are alarming, but so are the far-lesser acknowledged quantum. This film takes the real cases of three such girls, two Hindus and a Catholic, and tells their haranguing experiences. It does dramatize their stories to make them cinematic (unlike The Kashmir Files that was all about documentation of real facts), but the truth is abhorrent enough to make you squirm, disturb and grossly unsettle you with its sheer evil. The way it is swept under the carpet now with a ban being sought on this film for specious reasons shows that action against this organized destruction of humanity is the need of the second.

The director and co-writer Sudipto Sen and creative director, co-writer and producer Vipul Amrutlal Shah do not sensationalize anything, but just present the stark and horrendous facts for the audience to assess. Three women from diverse backgrounds—Shalini (Adah Sharma) from a middle-class household,  Gitanjali (Siddhi Idnani) from an atheist family (in Kerala that is equated usually with someone following Communism) and Nimah (Yogita Bihani) from a Catholic background become room-mates as Nursing students.

The fourth occupant is Asifa (Sonia Balani), who is a part of the caucus responsible for the mental brainwashing of innocent girls for the ‘cause’. Slowly but surely, she programs the first two, though Nimah stubbornly refuses to kowtow to a God from a different religion.

Asifa ruthlessly plays on the three girls’ psyche. She asks how the Christian God could not save his son Jesus from being crucified and how Lord Ram needed a vaanar sena (army of monkeys) to rescue Sita. She also wonders how Lord Krishna indulged in leelas with girls. In her armamentarium are also two boys who capture the two Hindu girls’ affection, sexually exploit them and one even impregnates Shalini.

When Shalini demands responsibility from her doctor suitor Rameez (Pranay Pachauri), Asifa suggests she convert to Islam to avoid the fear of going to dozakh (hell, as per Islam) and getting unimaginable pain as punishment for her sins. Gitanjali’s suitor is impotent and she is spared this ordeal, but when she taunts him for his shortcoming, he makes circumstances so unpleasant that she commits suicide. As for Nimah, she is brutally raped as a punishment for not succumbing to conversion.

The film opens with a Shalini being picked up far from India by US forces with no identity card on her and being interrogated. She candidly reveals all, even as back home, her mother, Gitanjali’s aged parents and Nimah try to force the police in vain to act. The fates of Shalini and Nimah, Gitanjali’s parents and even some of the perpetrators are mentioned on slides, with the real people being interviewed and shown—with names in the film changed.

A searing, hard-hitting saga, The Kerala Story is replete with horrifying visuals and lines, especially about the advantages taken of the Islamic holy rule-books by the terrorists. One such man says, “As per Sharia, the possession of a telephone by a woman is a gunaah (sin).” The query of how this was ordained centuries before is not answered, of course!

Another man states that a woman’s job is restricted to cooking and making children. Rapes by armed men on helpless women are common, and unnervingly chilling graphics complete this bloodied saga of how desperate and delusional people become as fanatics of a specific religion.

The makers toe on very sensitive terrain—of possibly offending Muslims, and this tightrope walk is successful as we hear a lady Muslim teacher, at the very beginning, condemn religious intolerance and extol the virtues of nursing one and all, and the presence of a Muslim friend at Gitanjali’s last journey. Helpful Muslim women in the terrorist camp also highlight the odious fact that they too have a conscience, but their courage stops short in front of the despicable ruthless men and what they would undergo if they went on a defiant track.

The Kerala Story is further lifted by powerful performances. Adah Sharma is superb as Shalini, her South accent spot-on, and has no doubt been cast in this role after her perfect though fun act as Bhawana Reddy in Vipul Amrutlal Shah’s Commando franchise. Her expressions and tones are simply phenomenal.

Making a big mark also are Sonia Balani as the amoral but purportedly religious Aneesa and, even more so, Siddhi Idnani as Gitanjali. The rest of the cast is also impressive, with special marks for Devadarshini as Shalini’s mother.

The cinematography (Prasantanu Mohapatra), production design (Angana Sen and Chetan Acharya) and background music (Bishakh Jyoti) are all of high standards, and Sanjay Sharma’s editing and Raj Shinde’s action complement the general excellence. The subtitling is brilliantly done in Hindi, especially when the characters naturally shift to Malayalam or English. The songs are similarly done in Hindi as well as Malayalam, and K.S. Chithra and Sunidhi Chauhan excellently render compositions that fit the film’s needs but do not linger in memory.

But the film will—for long, as the eye-opener for yet another sordidly dark and reprehensibly hidden chapter in Indian history.

Rating: ****1/2

Sunshine Pictures Pvt. Ltd.’s The Kerala Story Produced by: Vipul Amrutlal Shah Directed by: Sudipto Sen Creative Director: Vipul Amrutlal Shah Written by: Vipul Amrutlal Shah, Sudipto Sen & Suryapal Singh  Music: Viresh Sreevalsa & Bishakh Jyoti  Starring: Adah Sharma, Yogita Bihani, Siddhi Idnani, Sonia Balani, Pranay Pachauri, Pranav Mishra, Vijay Krishna, Vijay Shrivastav, Chandrashekar Datta, Devadarshini, Usha Subramaniam, Jagat Rawat, Raj Gopal Iyer, Elena Koul, Bhavna Makhija, Sameer Gulzar Khan, Soundous Essayd Moufakir, Samaira, Anna Gavricchova, Ekaterina Krotova, Breshna Khan, Benedict Paul Garrett, M. S. Subbulakshmi, Akhil Kaimal & others




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