The Kerala Story, a controversial film directed by Sudipto Sen, has garnered significant attention and financial success, grossing over ₹136.74 crore (US$17 million) at the box office in India within the first eleven days of its release. Starring Adah Sharma and Prithviraj Sukumaran, the film has defied expectations by becoming a major box office hit, despite facing a ban in West Bengal imposed by Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee.
The film revolves around the narrative of a group of women from Kerala who allegedly undergo conversion to Islam and subsequently join the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS). Drawing upon the controversial conspiracy theory of “love jihad,” the movie falsely asserts that a large number of women from Kerala are being forcibly converted to Islam and recruited into ISIS. Critics and reviewers have overwhelmingly criticized the film, denouncing it as propaganda rather than a work of artistic expression.
What further fueled the controversy surrounding The Kerala Story is its association with the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), the ruling political party in India. The BJP actively promoted and endorsed the film as part of its campaign strategy during the Karnataka assembly election.
However, the movie has faced considerable opposition, with several theaters refusing to screen it, numerous legal cases being filed against it, and widespread protests occurring, particularly in the southern states of Kerala and Tamil Nadu. The Indian National Congress and the Communist Party of India (Marxist) have also accused the filmmakers of defaming the state of Kerala and promoting the agenda of the Sangh Parivar, an umbrella organization that includes various Hindu nationalist groups.
Despite the controversies and backlash, The Kerala Story has managed to achieve remarkable success at the box office. Its ability to captivate audiences and generate substantial revenue speaks to the power of effective storytelling and the significance of protecting freedom of expression.
The film’s commercial success underscores the enduring appeal of well-crafted narratives and the audience’s willingness to engage with thought-provoking content.