By P. Sreekumaran
THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: Will the controversial film, “The Kerala Story”, further the propaganda of the Sangh Parivar? That is the million dollar question resonating in the political corridors of Kerala.
Secular parties in the state say that the film seeks to portray Kerala, a bastion of secularism, as the epicentre of religious terrorism. The film claims that as many as 32,000 women allegedly went missing from the State and that they converted, got radicalized and were deployed on various terror missions. Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan in a Facebook post said it was only deliberate that the movie is based on ‘Love Jihad’, a claim that has been rejected by investigative agencies, various courts and even the Union Home Ministry. It is a deliberate attempt by the Sangh Parivar to demean Kerala and sow the seeds of communalism, the Chief Minister added. People who seek to create division in society in the name of creative freedom cannot be justified, Pinarayi said, adding that creative freedom does not mean licence to spread communal poison and downright lies.
The court order came after hearing a batch of petitions against the screening of the movie. Before it decided to stay the film, the court received a submission from the producer that it would remove the teaser from the social media handles, which claimed that 32,000 women from Kerala were recruited to terror outfit ISIS. This claim was proved to be utterly false. Only three cases of so-called recruitment have come to light so far. The court referred to “Nirmalyam”, the 1973 award-winning film directed by MT Vasudevan Nair to point out that Kerala is secular. Besides, a competent body like the Central Board of Film Certification had found the movie suitable for exhibition. “There are umpteen films showing Hindu priests as smugglers, rapists, etc, nothing happened in the country? Specifically referring to “Nirmalyam”, the court said there was a movie where an oracle is splitting on the face of the idol of a goddess. There were no issues, however. It is an award-winning movie,” the court added. Moreover, this is not the first time that a film shows something in a bad light. “Why this movie alone?” the court asked.
If the initial response to the controversial movie, which was released on Friday, is any guide, the saffron camp is unlikely to succeed in furthering its agenda. A number of protest marches and a lukewarm response have marked its release. Most significantly, many theatres have decided not to screen it because of safety concerns. It may be mentioned that all political parties except the BJP have demanded that the movie be banned in the State.
Why are the theatres reluctant to screen the film? According to Liberty Basheer, the advisory board member of the Kerala Film Exhibitors Federation, they have obviously have done it on considerations of safety. There is no denying that there is strong opposition to the screening of the controversial film. Reports have it that despite having initially agreed to show the film, only 22 theatres in the State have screened it. This fact is self-explanatory. Basheer said t if there is any financial loss because of violence and protests, the theatre owners will have to pay for it. Since the theatre owners did not want to take any risk, many have pulled out of screening the film.
The State Government has done well by refusing to bow to the demand for a ban on the film. A ban would only prove counter-productive and would only help the BJP-RSS combine. The Kerala High Court has also declined to stay the film saying that it did not find anything offensive to any particular community, going by the teaser of the movie, which was written and directed by Sudipto Sen and released recently.
Meanwhile, a video retweeted by noted music composer AR Rahman has gone viral. The video showing a Hindu marriage on the premises of a mosque in Kayamkulam came on the eve of the the release of “The Kerala Story”. According to the Oscar-winning musician, the marriage of Sarath Sasi of Krishnapuram and Anju Ashok of Kayamkulam was held on January 19, 2020, as per Hindu rituals on the premises of the Cheravally Juma Masjid and was widely circulated as a fine example of religious harmony in the State.
The video was tweeted with the caption “Here is another ‘Kerala Story’. Rahman shared the video with the message: Bravo love for humanity has to be unconditional and healing’. The mosque committee had arranged Rs 2 lakh and 10 sovereigns of gold for the marriage. It also served a vegetarian feast to around 1000 guests. Hundreds of Hindus and Muslims participated in the wedding. This, then, is the real “Kerala Story”. A land where Hindus and Muslims have lived in perfect harmony. Are the Sangh Parivar leaders and activists listening? (IPA Service)