The Kerala Story
The Kerala Story
The 2023 Hindi-language drama film ‘The Kerala Story,’ directed by Sudipto Sen and produced by Vipul Amrutlal Shah, features a cast including Adah Sharma, Yogita Bihani, Sonia Balani, and Siddhi Idnani. The story revolves around a group of women from Kerala who are compelled to convert to Islam and join ISIS. Marketed as a true account, the movie is based on the controversial ‘love jihad’ conspiracy theory, falsely claiming the mass conversion of Hindu women from Kerala to Islam and their recruitment by ISIS.
Released on May 5, 2023, ‘The Kerala Story’ grossed ₹303.97 crore (US$38 million) globally, ranking as the fifth-highest-grossing Hindi film of 2023. It received strong political support from the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), which utilized it in Karnataka assembly election campaigns. Nevertheless, film critics overwhelmingly criticized it as Islamophobic propaganda. The film also sparked legal disputes and protests, particularly in Kerala, West Bengal, and Tamil Nadu.
- Adah Sharma as Shalini Unnikrishnan / Fatima Ba
- Yogita Bihani as Nimah
- Sonia Balani as Asifa
- Siddhi Idnani as Geetanjali
- Devadarshini as Shalini’s mother
- Vijay Krishna as Ishak
- Pranay Pachauri as Rameez
- Pranav Misshra as Abdul
- Pranali Ghogare as Shaziya
Production and Release:
The movie was both produced and creatively overseen by Vipul Amrutlal Shah. It hit cinema screens on May 5, 2023, and its streaming rights were acquired by ZEE5. Before its release in India, the film underwent examination by the Central Board of Film Certification (CBFC) and was categorized as suitable for adults only after making several requested alterations.
The teaser, unveiled on November 3, 2022, introduced the character Fathima Ba, a Hindu Malayali nurse who converted to Islam and ended up in an Afghan prison after allegedly joining ISIS. She asserted that she was one of 32,000 girls from Kerala’s Hindu and Christian communities who had disappeared and been recruited by ISIS after converting to Islam. The film’s director, Sen, had made such claims for years. In 2018, he directed a documentary alleging the mass, involuntary conversion of 32,000 girls to Islam, part of an “international conspiracy” to make Kerala an Islamic state.
While the film draws loosely from the experiences of three Kerala women—Nimisha Nair, Sonia Sebastian, and Merin Jacob—who converted to Islam and traveled to Afghanistan with their husbands to join ISIS between 2016 and 2018, the numbers presented in the film are grossly inaccurate. They result from mistranslations, misquotes, and misrepresentations of unrelated statistics. The actual count of Indians joining ISIS from the entire country is no more than 100-200, with Keralites comprising less than a quarter of that number. The film’s figures even surpass the entire ISIS strength.
Subsequently, due to legal action, the filmmakers removed all promotional materials containing the erroneous figure, including the teaser. However, the film continued to repeat these claims and at one point inflated the number to 50,000. In response to further legal pressure, Sen admitted that all figures in the film were fictitious, acknowledging that the film was a fictionalized account of real events.
On its debut day, the movie raked in ₹8.03 crore in India, securing the fifth-highest opening for a 2023 Indian film. As of June 15, 2023, its earnings stood at ₹288.04 crore (US$36 million) in India and ₹15.64 crore (US$2.0 million) overseas, resulting in a global collection of ₹303.97 crore (US$38 million). This achievement positions it as the third highest-grossing Hindi film of 2023. While the film found success in northern India, its performance in the southern regions was comparatively subdued.
|1.||“Pagal Parindey”||Ozil Dalal||Sunidhi Chauhan, Bishakh Jyoti||2:04|
|2.||“Ambo Ambambo”||Viresh Sreevalsa||Athul Narukara||1:52|
|3.||“Athira Ravil”||Viresh Sreevalsa||K. S. Chithra||2:07|
|4.||“Tu Mila”||Ozil Dalal||K. S. Chithra||2:07|