‘The Kerala Story’: Cast & Crew
Director: Sudipto Sen
Cast: Adah Sharma, Yogita Bihani, Sonia Balani, Siddhi Idnani, Devadarshini, Vijay Krishna, Pranay Pachauri, Pranav Misshra
Available In: Theatres
Duration: 2 Hours 18 Minutes
‘The Kerala Story’: Story
A converted Muslim woman narrates her ordeal of how she once wanted to become a nurse but was brainwashed and manipulated by religious vanguards, turned into an ISIS terrorist and sent on her way to Syria. She tells her ordeal after she landed in an Afghanistan jail. Not just her, a few of her friends also faced similar ordeals from religious xenophobics, and all faced different fates. While one committed suicide, one was raped brutally and continually that too when she was unconscious. Will there be justice for these women? Will the lead character be able to absolve herself from the crimes that are being labelled against her name? Will she be able to get back to India ever again? Will her family ever be happy? Well, for all that you’ll have to watch the movie.
‘The Kerala Story’: Performances
Adah Sharma doles out a performance that’s so very relatable that within the first couple of minutes, you forget that she is that same beauty queen whose reels you keep seeing every now and then on Instagram. Her transformation into the character of Shalini/Fatima is brilliant. Right from getting the accent near-perfect to getting the body language correct to getting the bruised and battered make-up flawless – Sharma was simply impeccable. The good part about the character was how nicely she imbibed the nuances of a young girl who’s just gone out to college being very naïve about the world, and slowly and steadily how she gets brainwashed into becoming a terrorist. The transformation that Sharma brings onscreen is subtle yet very powerful. Even during her interrogation scene, you can see that the character hasn’t lost its inherent spunk and innocence, and just that she got swayed into doing things she didn’t know were actually harmful – Sharma manages to get those nuances aptly and portrays that very skilfully onscreen.
While on the one hand, you will love Adah Sharma’s character, you’re bound to hate Sonia Balani to the core – and that’s a great achievement for an actor. She plays the character of the Muslim girl in the group, who’s trying to brainwash her roommates. With a straight face and displaying no emotions at all for anyone, she manages to portray a character that anyone watching the film will invariably start to hate. The way she interjects sermons from Islam into regular day-to-day conversations or tries to talk ill about other religions and their Gods, makes you, as an audience furious. She makes for the perfect villain and her smooth talk is what helps make you belligerent against the character. Very well portrayed onscreen.
Yogita Bihani and Siddhi Idnani had lesser screen time but managed to perform decently. Their characters played second fiddle, and didn’t have too much depth into them, however, they were very integral to the plot of the film. The two actresses managed to pull off the characters and their different shades of them with ease and without much difficulty.
The rest of the supporting cast didn’t have too much screen time to showcase their acting prowess and don’t deserve a worthy mention as well.
‘The Kerala Story’: Script, Direction & Technical Aspects
Suryapal Singh, Sudipto Sen and Vipul Amrutlal Shah’s writing is pretty much the saddest thing about ‘The Kerala Story’. It’s not that the writing isn’t thrilling enough for a story, but it’s flawed in its outlook. While it promises to be based on real-life incidents, but as writers one mustn’t have blinkers and talk only about the ills of one particular religion and not show any character from that religious background. Had the writers brought in a couple of Muslim characters who were actually good, and who also stood up against this heinous crime happening in their community, it would have shown a much more balanced outlook to the viewer. Now, it just feels like all Muslims are bad and have this bent of mind, which is absolutely not true. We could see that there was a Muslim character who went to the cops along with the parents and Yogita Bihani’s character. Then there were a few Muslim characters who had come down for the funeral of Siddhi Idnani’s character. But none of them ever had a single dialogue of empathy for the families suffering or even stood up and talked to the police about these heinous activities.
Sudipto Sen’s direction brought a sense of thrill to a story that people thought was just a real-life drama. The way Adah Sharma’s character goes through different phases in her brainwashing, to the way she runs away from captivity, to the way she describes the flow of events to the cops – everything was so thrilling to watch that you felt as if you were sitting on the edge of your seats wanting to know what’s next. Sudipto Sen’s direction managed to get that aspect perfectly. Also, the decision to shoot the film in real locations rather than in film sets brought out the narrative even more beautifully.
Prasantanu Mohapatra’s cinematography was praiseworthy. The way he used the overhead drone shots made along with the exotic locations of the middle east, made the story come alive. He managed to give those shots a very Hollywoodish touch, and seeing those scenes you wouldn’t feel for a minute that it’s a Bollywood film and not something that’s coming from the West.
Sanjay Sharma’s editing was decent. He managed to showcase the story in a back-and-forth manner, keeping the viewers hooked on what was going to happen in each timeline. Also, keeping such a huge narrative under just two and a half hours was also a commendable job.
Viresh Sreevalsa and Bishakh Jyoti’s music and background score are decent. While the BGM does give you the necessary chills, the usage of a few songs in the middle of the story in the romantic bits, just didn’t feel too appropriate. That too when the songs were not that memorable in themselves.
‘The Kerala Story’: Can Kids Watch It?
‘The Kerala Story’ is a fantastic guide on what not to do when someone is brainwashing you, especially for young girls and boys going away from home to college. However, the writers shouldn’t have shown the entire community as villainous. They should have rather written a much more balanced stance so as to give the facts that happened in reality, and also show that not everyone from that community is bad. A wider viewpoint would have brought to attention the ground reality much more vividly and would have also done away with people’s perception of the film being a propaganda movie. Leaving the politics aside, just as a movie per se, Adah Sharma is fantastic, and so is Sudipto Sen’s direction. It’s thrilling and indeed a good One Time Watch. I am going with 3 stars.