The Kerala Story has been hitting the headlines since the launch of its teaser — mostly for the wrong reasons.
From its makers’ earlier claim of a “true story of 32,000 women from Kerala” to the current stand of a “fictionalised story of three women” — the description of its trailer was edited after submission in the Kerala High Court — it is constantly being a controversy.
TN stops screening
Amid stinging reviews, allegedly poor box office collections, as well as protests, theatres in Tamil Nadu stopped the screening of The Kerala Story on Sunday, 7 May.
When efforts were made to book tickets via online platforms for a Sunday afternoon show, it was not possible anymore.
Tamil Nadu Theatre and Multiplex Owners Association President M Subramaniam, popularly known as Tiruppur Subramaniam, confirmed the news that the few multiplexes that had shown the film had decided to stop its screening.
“The film was only shown in a few multiplexes owned by pan-India groups — mostly PVR. Locally-owned multiplexes had already decided not to show the film, as it did not have any popular stars. In Coimbatore for instance, there were two shows so far — one on Friday and one on Saturday. Even those did not do well. Given that, theatres decided that it was not worth going through the threat of protests and such,” said Subramaniam.
On 6 April, the Naam Tamilar Katchi (NTK) staged a protest against the release of the film in Chennai.
Seeman, the party’s coordinator, who is also an actor and director, along with NTK cadres, had protested near Anna Nagar Arch.
‘Lack of interest’
Film industry tracker Sreedhar Pillai, who said he was planning to watch the film on Sunday, only to find out it was no longer shown, also tweeted that the film multiplexes would stop screening The Kerala Story.
“The multiplex owners have cited potential law and order issues and lack of interest as reasons for the move,” said Pillai.
They have cited “potential law and order issues and lack of reception from general public as reasons for the move!”.
— Sreedhar Pillai (@sri50) May 7, 2023
Meanwhile in Kerala, according to the distributors, E4 Entertainment, 22 screens across the state are screening the films.
Although the theatre owners in Kerala had said before the release of the film that they were not worried about the adverse publicity, a few of them, including PVR Cinemas at Lulu Mall and Oberon Mall in Kochi, decided not to screen the film on the day of release, 5 May.
As director Sudipto Sen’s The Kerala Story unleashed an exaggerated narrative of “love jihad” and terror recruitment from the state, Malayalis began quietly countering it with a unique campaign that narrates stories of love and brotherhood.
It began with a tweet by Academy Award winner Resul Pookutty, which said: “Guys if you have your own story of #brotherhoodinKerala share it here under the #MyKeralaStory [sic].”
— resul pookutty (@resulp) May 5, 2023
A Division Bench of Justices N Nagaresh and Sophy Thomas of the Kerala High Court heard pleas seeking a ban on The Kerala Story; it used Nirmalyam as an example to note that “Kerala is secular”.
It said that, as the Central Board of Film Certification had examined The Kerala Story and found it suitable for exhibition, the court found no reason to ban it.
“There are umpteen films showing Hindu priests as smugglers, rapists… nothing happened in the country. In Kerala we are secular,” said the court, mentioning Nirmalyam.
When the “propaganda” movie was released across the state on 5 May, it did not have many takers in Kerala, despite Prime Minister Narendra Modi himself endorsing it during a campaign rally in poll-bound Karnataka.
(With PTI inputs)