‘The Kerala Story’ is a twisted and complex exploration of the real lives and stories of people touched by socio-political crime in Kerala. Actors Adah Sharma, Yogita Bihani, Sonia Balani & Siddhi Idnami lead an incredible cast that takes us from sandy terrains to lush landscapes as we weave through narratives like love jihad; brutal inhuman crimes including rape & sex slavery; radicalization; indoctrination & ISIS recruitment. This rollercoaster journey delivers a story which is replete with divisive dialogues like ‘Duniya Ko Kewal Allah Chalata Hai’. The audience watching the film may feel perturbed as the narrative opens old social- communal wounds which weakens the social fabric.
‘The Kerala Story’ is a tale full of contrast and complexity. We follow the protagonist, Adah Sharma (Shalini Unnikrishnan aka Fatima), on her journey as she joins a nursing college in Kasargod and cross paths with two girls who are brainwashed into converting to Islam. With its use of intertwined pasts and presents, backed by distinctive music scores and vivid colour palettes that evoke myriad emotions within us, a feeling of disgust, anger and hatred is evoked.
‘The Kerala Story’ is a visually stimulating ride through West Asian terrain. The clever editing creates an air of suspense and tension, leaving the audience on edge with its sharp cuts in scenes conveying brutality and agony.
By alternating between closeups to portray individual suffering versus expansive shots showing breathtaking landscapes that reveal their overwhelming environment, this gripping tale brings viewers into another reality – one where they are left moved by past events while anxiously awaiting what lies ahead.
The screenplay of the film lacks finesse, despite that viewers are taken on an emotional journey along with its three leads. The approach to storytelling and education through this dramatic drama follows a classic 3-act structure, keeping minds engaged until the climactic conclusion. Although it does not veer from traditional methods in order to delve into any new narrative styles, teaching people about other cultures is ultimately achieved – making for cinema that goes far beyond entertainment values alone!
‘The Kerala Story’ tackles some of the most complex themes with in a blunt, brute and unsophisticated approach. Adah Sharma, Yogita Bihani, Sonia Balani, and Siddhi Idnani have done decent work to portray these complex characters with performances that will leave you perplexed until the very last scene. It’s an exuberant exploration into rich Hindu religious worship to atheism; communism versus Sharia law plus toxic masculinity all converging in one package sure to spark debate! With Prime Minister Narendra Modi already talking about the film in his election campaign in Kerala, the debate has already begun.
The Kerala Story could have done better but its deafening background score interrupts the narrative in an unappealing way. Every time the characters are brainwashed about their gods or talk of hellfire arise, listeners can practically hear whips cracking – a bit too loudly to further enhance the story’s impact.
Indie filmmaker, Sudipto Sen takes a big step into the world of mainstream filmmaking with ‘The Kerala Story’, delivering an instant hit. His direction showcases his craft but to be successful in the film industry, he needs to add nuanced storytelling in his arsenal.
The film has recovered its cost in the first two days. Entire social media is buzzing, talking about the movie. If you are looking to watch a new narrative about radicalisation and ISIS then you may watch the film, but take the film with a pinch of salt.
FF Ratings: **
By Akshat Sharma