THE KERALA STORY : ARE THESE WOMEN IDIOTS?
Noted Indian film scholar and author, Dr. Shoma A. Chatterji looks at the so-called controversial film, “The Kerala Story”.
“I was completely brainwashed,” says Shalini/ Fatima in the opening scenes of The Kerala Story to the authorities in the interrogation room after she is arrested for being a terrorist of the ISIS. Dictionary.com defines “brainwashing” as “a method for systematically changing attitudes or altering beliefs, originated in totalitarian countries, especially through the use of torture, drugs, or psychological-stress techniques.”
The so-called 32,000 women brain-washed through what the makers claim is ‘love jehad’ now reduced to three women of who, one opted out and refused to convert to Islam assumes that either these women are without brains or perhaps have their brains attached to their ankles. The three young women the film features as the primary victims, belong to Kerala, which, according to the 2011 Census, has the highest literacy rate among females. The literacy rate among males is 96.11 while among females, it is 91.07. These three attractive young women are educated, can speak, read and write in English and are intelligent enough to get themselves enrolled in a college for nursing. Then how can these three young women, finally two and not three, get so thoroughly brainwashed that even their parents cannot recognize the electric metamorphosis in them?
When Shalini /Fatima (Adah Sharma) walks into the hostel room of a nursing college, she meets another Hindu woman, Geetanjali (Siddhi Idnani), a Christian (Yogita Bihani), and Asifa (Sonia Balani).Asifa wastes no time to impress upon them the superiority of Islam represented by the one and only Allah over every other God in other religions, also pointing out to them the significance of wearing the hijab as the only way girls and women can protect themselves from being raped, molested, abused and so on. And abracadabra, they begin to wear the hijab and are thoroughly convinced about whatever Asifa tells them.
Popular culture has always developed in response to a country’s political situation. The production of a self-conscious and aggressive nationalism in Hindi cinema recalls the idea of saving the nation by protecting the female body from invaders or the ‘Other.’ As the ‘love-jihad’ campaign considers women as the nation’s pride and the male members of the society as protectors of that honour, the same ideology finds reflection in films like The Kerala Story, which is often used as a platform to propagate contemporary political discourse specially focused on pitting a majority religious group against another minority religious group.
Popular culture through films such as The Kerala Story encourage women to uphold their honour even if it means spitting on a father lying unconscious in a hospital through a heart attack brought upon on hearing that his only daughter, Geetanjali, has embraced Islam! Or, when Shalini/Fatima quite casually but deliberately places her feet on the table where her mother has placed the pooja thali with a dismissing smile.
Soon after there was a media furore on the question of 32,000 girls gone missing “based on true stories” the makers rescinded the statement and brought it down to just three girls! According to the 19 Guidelines instituted by the Central Board of Film Certification, some of the rules under Guideline 2 clearly state:
i.. anti social activities such as violence are not glorified or justified
ii. the modus operandi of criminals, other visuals or words likely to incite the commission of any offence are not depicted;
ix. scenes degrading or denigrating women in any manner are not presented;
xi scenes involving sexual violence against women, like attempts to rape, rape or any form of molestation or scenes of a similar nature are avoided, and if any such incidence is germane to the theme, they shall be reduced to the minimum and no details are shown;
xii visuals or words contemptuous of racial, religious or other groups are not presented
xiii visuals or words which promote communal, obscurantist, anti-scientific and anti- national attitude are not presented
xiv the sovereignty and integrity of India is not called in question;
xv the security of the State is not jeopardized or endangered
Are these rules stuck to in the film by its makers and its director Sen?
Technically and aesthetically too, The Kerala Story is wanting in many departments. Who are the white-skinned interrogators of Fatima? Which organization do they represent? What are the evidences collected by these members to capture, interrogate and arrest her? We do not know because these are intentionally kept blurred and cloudy. Besides, though Shalini/Fatima is accused of having dangerous firearms and also having illegally fled to Syria, we see her only as one of the chained sex slaves visited upon at random by random members of the ISIS purely for sex. Why are these girls so stupid? How is Geetanjali convinced by her Muslim boyfriend to be videographed intimately? Her suicide marks her out as a moral coward who is not afraid to convert to Islam, not the least bit conscientious about spitting on the head of an unconscious and sick father just because he is a “kafir” and Islam declares that to become a true Muslim, just conversion is not enough, nor is marrying a Muslim enough, but the person converted to Islam must either kill a “kafir” – a non-Muslim, or spit on his head! So, Geetanjali spits on the head of her unconscious father! I surfed the NET widely on “conversions to Islam” and did not find this anywhere across the World Wide Web!
Why must there be songs in a serious film like this? Adah Sharma does her best to bring out the worst in Shalini/Fatima but how did the director convince her to take on such a hateful role never mind it is a fictional film? How did the CBFC give it a theatrical release to a film that is replete with dialogues like - (all of Kerala has been placed on a time bomb; the former deputy CM has said that in the next twenty years, Kerala will become an Islamic state)’. Has such a statement been verified by the person – the deputy CM in this case? But which deputy CM in which year? When and why?
Why Kerala? Because it is a Marxist state that does not toe the Hindu Right line? How is it that the Kerala Government has not done anything active about the film? It is really despicable that relatively new actors like Adah Sharma and her peers have at all agreed to portray such terribly debased and immoral characters in a film that openly pretends to be based on the truth but soon after withdraws by cutting down the earlier figure of 32000 girls missing to just three girls? But this is a commercial film pretending to be based on the truth so why must we blame the actors? But the women they have portrayed are certainly without brains. Whoever would be convinced that hijab protects all girls and women from rape and molestation? How then, does Asifa justify the sex slavery imposed on these converted girls by ISIS terrorists? The Kerala Story is insulting to women and girls per se and leave alone this Hindu Right propaganda against these minorities. The film spreads a very patriarchal and fascist message to everyone watching the film and it is insulting to show two Hindu girls stupid enough to be brainwashed by a slip of a girl who is just Muslim and little more.
Just to keep readers updated, a report in the TOI on May 22 by Ashish Chauhan states, “investigation into the human trafficking in Gujarat involving the abduction and sale of minor girls has revealed that one of them was sold off as a bride to 15 men in the range of 30-45 over the past eight years. The gang allegedly sold the girls for between Rs.2 lakh and Rs.25 lakh each. The number of victims could be more than eight as earlier reported.” The report further adds that one of the girls aged 13, Nisha (name changed) was not the only one. The alleged mastermind of the racket is Ashok Patel, not a Muslim. His aides in Gujarat, Rajsasthan and Maharashtra have abducted nearly 15 other girls from places where Nisha lived and sole them off. The racket was busted when investigators tracked down a teenage girl who had gone missing from Kanbha village of Ahmedabad on May 11 this year. When she was rescued from Boru village near Gandhinagar on May 13, police got the names of the racket’s mastermind, Ashok Patel, his wife Renuka, 45 ,their 16-year-old son and a woman, Rupal Mekwan, 34, all residents of Odhav area of the city. The report goes on to say that the scale of human trafficking operations in the state of Gujarat seems to be much bigger and beyond the scope of Ahmedabad rural police.