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The Kerala Story Needed To Be Told



The Kerala Story

Rating: ***

Setting aside the (in)accuracy of  the statistics, Islamic radicalization in Kerala is  a palpable reality that  needed  a voice. Sudipto Sen’s  The Kerala Story with producer Vipul  Shah serving as a ‘creative  director’ is the  kind  of cinema that walks on very thin ice. The  charges of  propaganda  cinema  will follow Vipul Shah for a  very long time.

 But here is the thing: .the film holds  together  as it is  a story well told. Sudipto Sen has a sound sense  of screenplay.Rather than rattle off numbers  and show off his researched material on conversion in Kerala, he concentrates on telling the story of the protagonist’s journey, geopolitical and emotional , from a chirpy  fun-loving dangerously adventurous Hindu  Kerala girl Shalini  to  a sinister  misbegotten  ISIS trained  terrorist who strays  into a Syrian violence.

 It is  a frightening  journey. The narrative moves at a breakneck speed with  locations that match the real topography and  actors who are not great performers but  seem to instinctively know they are participating in an expose   whose sum-total is  much larger than its parts. The  end-result is a curiously engaging experience  with some parts  showing the halpless anguish of the radicalized protagonist being deeply moving.

The accents, whether  the Malayali or  cross-border Islamic, are bit too thick and sometimes border on the  caricaturish. But the  intention and purpose of the plot—to call  out  a  brutal practice  which  threatens  to  turn Kerala into a  state of anarchy—is never subverted even when the  melodrama comes  in the way of the  storytelling.

The storytelling and the  soundtrack are  over-saturated, as they ought to be.A  mood of desperate  anxiety  courses through the veins of this  drama  of  distorted loyalties. There is  a secondary character, a girl named Geetanjali(played ably by  Siddhi Idnani) who  after being radicalized blames her father for not  inculcating into her the same sense  of  pride in Hinduism that Islam does in their young.

 I don’t think the  antidote to the  poison of religious bigotry is some of the same on the other  end. I don’t buy the  film’s politics. But it works as story of religious  subversion. Adaah Sharma instils  a huge amount  of  faith in her portrayal of a faith-striven youngster.

The Kerala Story may not be  an illustration of Great Cinema. But as a cautionary  story on radicalization,  it needs  to be seen. And heard.It  also  breaks the  myth that big stars pivot a  film to  success.

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