Kerala: Idukki diocese screens ‘The Kerala Story’ for teens as part of ‘intensive training programme’

The Idukki Diocese, under the prominent Syro Malabar Catholic Church, screened the movie last week for its children studying in classes 10, 11, and 12.

BySouth First Desk

Published Apr 08, 2024 | 7:23 PM Updated Apr 08, 2024 | 7:24 PM

A poster of the film 'The Kerala Story'. (X)

Amidst a raging row over national broadcaster Doordarshan airing the controversial Bollywood movie The Kerala Story, a Catholic diocese in Kerala has screened the film for teenagers as part of an “intensive training programme”.

The Idukki Diocese, under the prominent Syro Malabar Catholic Church, screened the movie last week for its children studying in Classes 10, 11, and 12, and asked them to discuss the film and write a review about it.

Directed by Sudipto Sen, the film is about a group of women from Kerala who were forced to convert to Islam and join ISIS.

As news of the screening of the controversial movie hit headlines, the diocese on Monday, 8 April, came out with an explanation, claiming that the movie was shown to “create awareness about love relationships and its consequences and dangers”.

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Screening part of ‘intensive training programme’

Fr Jins Karakkat, the media in-charge of the Diocese, said they conduct an intensive training programme for children every year during vacation. Specific topics are selected for the programme and books are prepared for it, he said.

“This year, the programme was held on April 2, 3 and 4. The theme of the textbooks prepared for the children of Classes 10, 11, and 12 was love relationships,” the priest said.

The objective of selecting the topic was to create awareness about falling in love and its consequences, he said.

“Nowadays, there are circumstances in which teenagers are largely falling in love and facing dangers. So, we intended to create awareness among our children about such dangers,” he explained.

To bring the idea to the children more effectively, the movie The Kerala Story was shown, Fr Karakkat further said.

The children, who participated in the intensive training programme, were also asked to discuss the film in their WhatsApp group and compile reviews, he said.

When quizzed about the controversy surrounding the film, the priest said he had no idea about it and only knew that it was released on an OTT platform.

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Congress writes to EC

Despite a strong protest raised by the ruling CPI(M) and Congress in Kerala, Doordarshan on Friday, 5 April, aired The Kerala Story at 8 pm.

Cutting across politics, leaders of various political parties in Kerala including Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan and Leader of the Opposition V D Satheesan strongly criticised the screening of the movie by the public broadcaster.

Vijayan on Thursday, 4 April, condemned Doordarshan‘s decision to telecast The Kerala Story, saying it would only “exacerbate communal tensions” ahead of the Lok Sabha polls.

He also asked the national broadcaster not to become a “propaganda machine” for the BJP and RSS.

“The decision by @DDNational to broadcast the film Kerala Story, which incites polarisation, is highly condemnable. The national news broadcaster should not become a propaganda machine of the BJP-RSS combine and withdraw from screening a film that only seeks to exacerbate communal tensions ahead of the general elections. “Kerala will remain steadfast in opposing such malicious attempts to sow hatred,” Vijayan said in a post on X.

Satheesan had also written to the Election Commission of India, a day after CM Vijayan made a similar demand to Doordarshan to revoke its decision.

“The decision of the central government to telecast the movie via Doordarshan before the Lok Sabha election is a tacit effort to divide society on religious grounds to further the electoral prospects of the ruling BJP, ” he said in the letter.

Terming it a propaganda movie, the letter further said, “As you are aware, The Kerala Story is a propaganda film based on extremely false premises and attempts to paint a bleak picture of the people of the state. I believe this is part of Sangh Parivar’s poisonous agenda to divide the country along communal lines.”

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The Kerala Story

The Kerala High Court had last year refused to stay the release of the film, stating that the movie trailer does not contain anything offensive to any particular community as a whole.

The court had said that the Central Board of Film Certification (CBFC) had examined the movie and found that it was suitable for public exhibition.

The movie’s trailer was severely criticised and challenged before the court for “falsely” claiming that 32,000 women from Kerala got converted and radicalised and were deployed in terror missions both in India and the world.

The BJP had alleged that there was an unofficial ban on the movie in the theatres of the state.

Strong protest was held by the CPI(M) and the Congress against the movie when it was released in 2023.

(Edited by Shauqueen Mizaj)