The Kerala Story is no propaganda, it’s sheer truth, say 26 real victims

26 girls from Kerala, who went through experiences graphically shown in The Kerala Story, were present at a media meet about the film. Photo: Rajiv Vijayakar

It was a moving yet chilling afternoon with real girls (many with faces covered for obvious reasons) who faced The Kerala Story. 26 gutsy girls were all flown in from Kerala especially for the occasion. Producer Vipul Amrutlal Shah and director Sudipto Sen hosted a press conference at Mumbai’s Rang Sharda Auditorium in the afternoon hours of May 17 for their much-maligned but spectacularly successful film, The Kerala Story.

The film has netted Rs. 165 crore-plus in its 13-day run and is set to breach the Rs. 200 crore domestic net milestone by the end of this week with no signs of slowing down. And this despite a ban in three states—Tamil Nadu, Bengal and Kerala— with the last state claiming “poor occupancy”!

Shah, Sen, co-producer Aashin A. Shah, and the four key female players—Adah Sharma, Yogita Bihani, Siddhi Idnani and Sonia Balani—were also present.

However, the idea was not to preen over the success or b-o. figures, but to—resoundingly—answer all accusations and slamming of the film as a propaganda. Said Vipul, “Actually, estimates are that 1.25 crore footfalls have been there, with probably another 10 crore people having watched it in pirated versions! And India’s population is 142 crore! I would request everyone to please go into the theatres to watch this film, as the cause and these girls deserve it.”

A lot of the members from the media, deliberately and expectedly asked twisted questions about the film. But even before the scathing testimonies of the girls themselves were heard, Vipul Shah, in diplomatic language, and Sudipto Sen (who had researched on this for seven years), with fierce and apt passion, gave perfect rejoinders to queries that were like accusations against the film, as one with an agenda and propaganda for the central government.

“Instead of talking religion or politics, please remember that this is a movement for these girls!” said Vipul. “We would love all ideologies in India to come together to support this cause. Many girls, not just in Kerala but all over India and the world, and including these rescued girls who cannot lead a normal life even now, are facing dangers even today. This story is about our daughters and of terrorism, and we must protect them.”

Sudipto Sen thundered that while this evil is global, the difference between India and countries like USA and UK was that when such things happened in those nations, the ruling parties and opposition came together and isolated the terrorist agenda. But this was not so in India!

The 26 girls are all with the Aarsha Vidya Samajam (AVS) in Thiruvananthapuram and are working for the organization to anti-indoctrinate such radicalized girls and boys. An ashram is also being built to impart every modern education here. “In a small initiative from our side, we at Sunshine Pictures are donating Rs. 51 lakh to them. And this is just the beginning!” added Vipul.

One of the girls, in an emotional speech, revealed that the AVS chief, Yogacharya Sri K.C. Manoj, has pioneered this noble institution that also teaches the women and men (yes, there are male victims too) the five key duties (Pancha Kartavya) of Sanatan DharmaAdhyayana (Systematic Study), Anushthana (Training), Prachaarana (Promotion), Adhyapana (Teaching) and Samrakshana (Protection). “10 years back, I too was a victim of conversion, and K.C. Manoj sir brought me back to Sanatan Dharma!” she said.

Regarding the much-touted “fake” figure of 32,000 such women being radicalized and indoctrinated, she said, “On an average, we receive 25 to 30 calls in a week. So far, we have addressed the issues of 7000 women in our institute alone.” She revealed that statistically, most of these conversions were into Islam, and were “anti-national and anti-humanism!” The “Love jihad” angle was also a key point, she stated.

While a scribe rightly pointed that the numbers vis-à-vis the three stories told in the film were really of no consequence in the pervading evil, Vipul wondered how they could possibly show stories of many girls. “But these three stories in the film represented what is happening. I salute these 26 girls, for they have shown great courage to come here and face the media and share their stories. And each of them can tell you details that will go into hours!”

He went on, “I knew from the beginning what we were taking on. There is an attempt to discredit us. It is a dirty process, but we are okay with it. Films will come and go, but please first feel the pain of these girls. Call our film anything, we do not mind. But don’t weaken their battle and don’t do injustice to them.”

Asked a twisted question about how the villain shown was clearly a Muslim and whether the intention was to target a community, Vipul replied, “My film is not about targeting any community but about a specific evil. In fact, I think we are doing a service to Islam by helping them recognize the bad elements in their religion that are giving them a bad name. And every film has a villain with a name, like Sholay had Gabbar Singh and Singham Returns had a priest. Why do you never ask if those films were against the Singhs or the priests? Why do you ask only now?”

Dr. Anagha, one of the 26 girls, is a physiotherapist, who became very emotional when speaking. “This film is awesome and I must thank the entire team for making it!” she said. “The way I was brainwashed was exactly how it is shown happening to Shalini (the lead character played by Adah Sharma)! They first begin with random remarks on their religion and mine, and slowly plant the seeds of distrust and finally hate for your religion. I began to believe like they wanted and is written in their texts that Allah is the only God and non-Muslims were kaafirs who were lower than animals and would rot in dozakh (hell). I would never participate in our poojas and finally, when my parents fell at my feet and said that they would commit suicide if I left home, I told them indifferently that they were anyway kaafirs and would go to hell. And I said their lives—they who had given me birth and raised me— did not matter to me at all!”

The anti-indoctrination, revealed the girls, depends on the individual person and can take from hours to weeks. “But when I went to watch the film at a theatre, a Muslim lady who recognized me came and emotionally hugged me, stating that the film had done them a good service by showing how the bad elements were ruining the name of their religion!” Dr. Anagha added.


The team of The Kerala Story with 26 girls from Kerala who went through indoctrination and radicalization but were rescued. Photo: Rajiv Vijayakar

The four actresses, two of them debutantes, thanked the makers for casting them in this film that was like a mission. “We had workshops and I was stunned by what was going on when I first heard of what was happening!” said Sonia, who played the Muslim girl.

And Adah revealed the horrors of watching videos shown by the director wherein the girls and their children being taken in tankers for 16 hours literally piled in like clothes in a washing machine without food, drink or a way to relieve themselves. By the time they arrived at their destination, some were dead and most half-dead. They were then sent to be either sex-slaves or suicide bombers.

The Kerala Story is a mission and it will be naïve to say that the film has only been endorsed by a specific religion or people with a particular ideology, as shown by Dr. Anagha’s testament. It has now emerged as the highest-grossing woman-centric Hindi film, beating the nearest contender, Raazi, that made Rs. 123.84 crore, which was also a patriotic movie, and had a major star, Alia Bhatt.



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