There comes a point in the story of ‘The Kerala Story’, when the people involved in pushing the girls who have come to become nurses towards terrorism, start feeding them a medicine. This drug helps in brainwashing. The first thing that came to mind while coming out of the theater after watching the film was that we too should get this medicine so that we can watch ‘The Kerala Story’ till the very end while sitting in the theatre. If it is said that this film will also work as that medicine for a class, then it will not be wrong!
There has already been a lot of controversy on ‘The Kerala Story’ for telling the story of three girls, the story of ’32 thousand’ girls. But the biggest sarcasm the makers themselves have done on their own film is that after telling the story of ’32 thousand girls’ from teaser to promotion, they wrote a line on the screen at the end of ‘The Kerala Story’. That is, the makers got the figure of 30 thousand from a website. Now this website is missing from the internet. This makes the makers of ‘The Kerala Story’ want to dedicate one of the very popular memes of the internet world – ‘Aapko Saath Ek Chhota Cho Prank Hua Hai’!
It is a terrible incident for a girl who came to become a nurse to change her religion after being seduced, to get caught in the clutches of a dreaded terrorist organization like ISIS and to support terrorist incidents. The girl with whom this has happened, first of all she needs to be treated with sensitivity as she herself has been duped in a systematic manner. But ‘The Kerala Story’ first of all seems to miss here.
The way director Sudipto Sen has treated the lead character of his story lacks compassion and sensitivity. Rather, the way she gets trapped in this religious conversion and terrorist clutches, makes you feel stupid about the lead character. Shalini aka Fatima Baa seems to be a character sketch of a girl who does not have an iota of knowledge about her or other religions, even in today’s India, when teenagers are talking about religion on social media. Nor is there any kind of social awareness in him. While watching ‘The Kerala Story’, there comes a time when Shalini’s character begins to believe such things of her friend who is spreading religious hatred that she wants to ask her – ‘Kaun Gola se aayi ho?’
‘The Kerala Story’ tells the story of three girls Shalini, Neema and Gitanjali, who have come to a college away from their home to become nurses. Here he meets Asifa, who is a fundamentalist and gradually it comes to light that she also works to recruit girls for ISIS. With the help of her companions, she starts provoking all three to change their religion. Among the three girls, Shalini is the first to get infatuated with Asifa. He also falls in love with a friend of Asifa and the further story revolves around the fact that both of them agree to change their religion and get married. Shalini now becomes Fatima Baa. But there is a twist in the story and then Shalini, who has become Fatima, is seen reaching the Iraq-Syria border with her child. What happened and how it happened, ‘The Kerala Story’ is the story of this. Neema and Gitanjali do not reach ISIS directly like Shalini, but they have to bear the consequences in a very sad way right here in India.
The work of Ada Sharma, who is playing the lead role in the film, does not impress at all. There is a lack in the writing of her character, but Ada’s expressions and her reactions start getting irritating after some time. She is unable to hold the attention on the screen. In the role of Asifa, Sonia Balani has a typical devilish look on her face, while she had a lot to do in a negative role. The three boys who became Asifa’s friends in the supporting cast also fail to make an impact.
The way Sudipto Sen has directed the story, instead of showing the tragic incidents that happened with a girl in a solid way, more emphasis is placed on criminalizing a particular religion. In places like Iraq, Syria and Afghanistan, ‘The Kerala Story’ tries to apply the conservative and fundamentalist methods of this religion to the Indian context. In a scene in the film, Asifa tells Shalini that in the mall where she was molested, all the women except her were completely covered. Here Asifa’s logic is that Shalini, Neema and Geetanjali were molested in the mall because they were wearing a normal jeans-top. The thing to note is that this mall belongs to Kerala, not Iraq or Syria. Surely no one in India would have seen the way Asifa is saying about all the women in the mall being in burqa or hijab.
This kind of treatment makes the film just an agenda based story. While the makers continued to say throughout the promotion of ‘The Kerala Story’ that this is the story of the incident with three girls. In such a situation, the focus of the story seems to promote religious hatred more than the story of the girls. And this is the biggest mistake of ‘The Kerala Story’.
‘The Kerala Story’ is the story of girls from nursing college, but these characters are shown in the class only once in the entire film. All three were not shown in any kind of medical practice, on the contrary, sitting in their hostel room, they keep talking about religion all the time. This kind of treatment clearly shows the inclination of the makers that instead of making a film on a solid story, they are focusing more on promoting agenda or gathering audience for the film through controversy.
‘The Kerala Story’ somehow fails to hold the viewer’s attention on the screen. The scenes of violence and exploitation of women in the film have been shot in an attention-seeking manner. More than connecting the emotions of the viewer with such characters, they are seen in the style of glorifying. Coming to agenda based films is not a new thing for cinema. But the most basic thing is to show sympathy with the person whose story the film tells and put the story in front of the audience in an engaging way. ‘The Kerala Story’ fails completely in this task.