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Kerala Story: This Adah Sharma starrer is a poignant watch in spite of its melodramatic tone and questionable politics

By

Prabhatha Rigobertha

May 6, 2022

Vivek Agnihotri’s Kashmir Files has opened up a new genre of films where traumatic real life incidents are taken and made into films with a particular agenda against one community. Sudipto Sen’s Kerala Story has more than one similarity with this 2022 blockbuster. Much like Kashmir Files Kerala Story is also based on horrific true incidents. In this case it is brainwashing girls of other religions and converting them into Muslims by the ISIS. Another similarity is the devilish portrayal of Muslims. In this film most of the Muslim characters are dubious.

But keeping aside these aspects there is no denying the significance of the topics that Kerala Story uncovers. The film is successful in making you root for its primary lead character Shalini who undergoes a religious conversion later.

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The movie Kerala Story begins in an interrogation room where a young mother Shalini (Adah Sharma) is revealing the details of her horrific past and why she is in the current situation. Her past involves a friendship with her roommates in a Nursing School of Kerala in a place called Kasargod. The movie is narrated from the perspective of Shalini. Her roommates are Gitanjali (Siddhi Idani), Nimah (Yogita Bihani) and Asifa (Sonia Balani). The other three are not aware of Asifa’s secret agenda which involves converting them to Muslims. There are also some male associates from outside. With the help of these associates Asifa is successful in radicalizing Shalini and Gitanjali. These people also use hallucinogenic drugs to make sure that their mission is successful. Shalini falls in love with one of the men and gets pregnant before marriage. Just before the marriage happens the person in question disappears without a trace. As a result she is compelled to marry someone else. After marriage she embarks on a long journey to Syria via Pakistan and Afghanistan. What follows is a hard hitting story with plenty of Islamophobia.

Before getting into the problematic portrayal of Muslims it is necessary to highlight the positives as well. Director Sudipto Sen is successful in creating moments that evoke a sense of uneasiness in the viewers appropriate to the storyline. The scenes which deserve a particular mention are the ones where Asifa successfully poisons the minds of Shalini and Gitanjali with her persuasiveness.

There are also some hard hitting dialogues through the character of Nimah. Nimah is someone who refuses to buy into the propaganda of Asifa. As a result drugs are mixed in her drink by one of the Muslim men and she is repeatedly raped in her drugged state but she somehow manages to escape. Nimah starts investigating on this entire thing and comes up with very disturbing information. Her emotional breakdown in the police station gives the film some of its best moments. Yogita Bihani who played Nimah does a brilliant job in this scene.

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By the very nature of its story there aren’t many light moments in the movie. But some of the initial hostel portions do bring a smile on the audience’s face. The friendship between Shalini, Gitanjali and Nimah has been established well.

Sudipto Sen also touches upon how these girls are used as sex slaves in ISIS camps in Syria and Afghanistan. These scenes are presented without any sugarcoating and very moving.

As mentioned above most of the Muslims in this film come across as devilish with zero redeeming qualities starting from Asifa. This aspect does start bothering after a while particularly if you are a rational viewer. The amount of Islamophobia presented in the film is definitely dangerous.

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The film also gets melodramatic at certain places which hinders the viewing experience. There are some scenes where Sudipto Sen tries to make the audiences emotional by manipulating them and they are definitely in bad taste.

Performances-wise Adah Sharma does a brilliant job. Her journey from Shalini to Fatima has been powerfully written and her performance makes it even more arresting. Sonia Balani as Asifa evokes the hatred required for the character. Siddhi Idnani is also competent in her performance.

Cinematographer Prasanthu Mohapatra is successful in capturing both the scenic beauty of Kerala and also the harsh terrain of Afghanistan through his lens. The music by Viresh Sreevalsa and Bikshah Jyoti has a nice mix of songs.

Watch Kerala Story for its ‘powerful’ story though one sided and also if you like the Kashmir Files brand of cinema.

Also read : Some of the best films from our neighbors

Prabhatha Rigobertha
Prabhatha Rigobertha
Rigobertha Prabhatha has been writing on movies, web series, books, etc. on social media platforms like Facebook for a few years. He has a YouTube channel "prabhathalovesmovies" in which he posts video reviews. "I have only two windows to my world - movies and books" reads it's tagline. He is a student of English literature and currently working as Content Writer at Pudami Publications based in Hyderabad.

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