The Central Board of Film Certification (CBFC) has given a green signal to the controversial movie, The Kerala Story, allowing its screening under an “A” certificate.
The CBFC, popularly called the censor board, also deleted 10 scenes from the movie, including an interview of a former Kerala chief minister.
It also sought the deletion of dialogues referring to “the United States funding terrorists via Pakistan” and “Communist Party not allowing Hindus to perform their rituals”, besides removing the word “Indian” from the “Indian Communist Party”.
Supreme Court no to ban plea
Meanwhile, the Supreme Court on Tuesday, 2 May, refused to entertain a plea seeking a stay on the release of The Kerala Story on grounds that it was the “worst kind of hate speech” and “audio-visual propaganda”.
A bench of Justices KM Joseph and BV Nagarathna was told by senior advocate Kapil Sibal and advocate Nizam Pasha that the trailer of the movie, which is scheduled to be released on 5 May, has garnered 16 million views.
Pasha said, “This movie is the worst kind of hate speech. It is a completely audio-visual propaganda.”
The bench said, “There are varieties of hate speeches. This film has got certification and has been cleared by the board. It’s not like a person getting on the podium and starts giving uncontrolled speech. If you want to challenge the release of the movie, you should challenge the certification and through appropriate forum.”
Justice Nagarathna said the petitioner should first approach the high court. Pasha said there was no time left as the movie is scheduled to release on Friday.
Justice Joseph said though he may not be advising the petitioner, but for seeking an appropriate remedy a substantial writ petition needs to be filed.
Petition demanding ban
Ahead of the release of the multi-lingual movie, filmmakers and people from various walks of life have made their stand clear about The Kerala Story.
The film, written and directed by Sudipto Sen, portrays how ISIS allegedly abducted “32,000 Hindu girls from Kerala” to involve them in terror-related activities using the so-called “love jihad”.
Leaders of various political parties in Kerala, except the BJP, have raised their voices against the film, and appealed to the censor board to ban the film.
A group of 90 eminent personalities from the cinema, arts and literature fields in Kerala have signed a petition seeking a ban on The Kerala Story.
These include Alathur MP Remya Haridas, actor-director Madhupal, director-actor Jeo Baby, actress Mala Parvathy, actress Jolly Chirayath, Film critic GP Ramachandran, scriptwriter Deedi Damodaran, and writer KEN.
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In a statement, Citizens for Democracy noted that The Kerala Story should not be allowed to screen in the state since it is a propaganda movie and a “lie”.
Filmmaker Jeo Baby, who signed the petition regarding the film, told South First that he is against the movie and doesn’t have anything to say apart from the statement issued by Citizens for Democracy.
Speaking to South First, director Ashraf Hamza asserted that the movie was perpetuating a lie and it is up to the audience to decide if they should accept this lie.
Director Shruthi Sharanyam chipped in: “We can’t say anything until we watch the movie. But I don’t feel like watching it. After watching the trailer, I understood where it is heading to.”
“We have seen many films like this before. The Kashmir Files was one such flick. They (the right wing) will propagate the Sangh Parivar agenda from time to time. It’s our social responsibility to resist it,” she added.
Exhibitors ready for screening
A leading exhibitor in Kerala, on condition of anonymity, said he has a good line-up of movies releasing this Friday.
“2018, Guardians of Galaxy, and Anuragam are all promising releases. Since Sulaikha Manzil, Ponniyin Selvan 2 and Paachuvum Albuthavilakkum are still earning us good collections, I don’t think I can screen The Kerala Story. My theatre complex doesn’t have five-six screens,” he told South First.
However, Film Exhibitors United Organisation of Kerala (FEUOK) office-bearer Suresh Shenoy noted that banning a film will not set a good precedent.
Opposition to the film
In a Facebook post on 30 April, Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan said The Kerala Story was made by the Sangh Parivar to spread lies.
“A glance at the trailer gives the impression that the movie was deliberately produced with the aim of communal polarization and spreading hate propaganda against Kerala,” he pointed out.
“By placing Kerala, the land of secularism, as the centre of religious extremism, it is repeating Sangh Parivar’s propaganda. Propaganda films and the othering of Muslims should be viewed in the context of various efforts made by the Sangh Parivar to gain an advantage in electoral politics in Kerala,” the chief minister added.
Kerala Opposition leader VD Satheesan said it was clear that The Kerala Story was an attempt to insult and slander Kerala at the international level. The film’s agenda was to germinate the seeds of sectarianism planted by the Narendra Modi regime for political gains.
Meanwhile, BJP State Chief Surendran opposed the stand taken by Congress and CPI(M). He observed that it was the duty of the CBFC to take a stand and not political outfits.
“A story has to be seen as a story and there is no need to ban the movie,” he added.
Strong opposition continues
Meanwhile, the Kerala State Committee of Muslim Youth League announced a reward of ₹1 crore for anyone who proves the allegations levelled against The Kerala Story.
The collection centres for providing the proof will be opened in every district on 4 May. Anyone can drop the details in the collection centres.
“Prove the allegations that 32,000 Keralites converted and fled to Syria. Take up the challenge and submit the evidence,” read a poster released by the Committee.
In another development, a Muslim lawyer-actor who remarried his wife recently under the Special Marriage Act (SMA), offered ₹11 lakh for submitting proof of even 32 women from Kerala getting converted and joining the Islamic State.
Tagging the Muslim Youth League Kerala’s reward poster, Thiruvananthapuram MP Sashi Tharoor took to social media with the hashtag “Not Our Kerala Story”.
“Now there’s an opportunity for all those hyping the alleged conversions of 32,000 women in Kerala to Islamism to prove their case and make some money. Will they be up to the challenge or is there simply no proof because none exists?”
Now there’s an opportunity for all those hyping the alleged conversions of 32,000 women on Kerala to Islamism — to prove their case and make some money. Will they be up to the challenge or is there simply no proof because none exists? #NotOurKeralaStory pic.twitter.com/SrwaMx556H
— Shashi Tharoor (@ShashiTharoor) May 1, 2023
(With inputs from PTI)