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Why Is 'The Kerala Story' Facing Pushback in Kerala, Tamil Nadu, & West Bengal?

The Yogi Adityanath-led Uttar Pradesh government on Tuesday, 9 May, declared the movie tax-free in the state.

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Sudipto Sen's controversial film, The Kerala Story, has drummed up support from leaders of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) – from Prime Minister Narendra Modi to Information and Broadcasting Minister Anurag Thakur.

The Yogi Adityanath-led Uttar Pradesh government on Tuesday, 9 May, even declared the movie tax-free in the state.

But the film – which has been accused of distorting figures and peddling hate – is facing pushback from non-BJP-ruled states.

A day after the theatre owners' association in Tamil Nadu announced that it would not screen the film anymore, West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee said on Monday, 8 May, that the film would be banned in the state, reported ANI.

Meanwhile, the film's reception in the very state that it is based on has also not been welcoming. While Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan issued a statement against the film before its release, The Kerala Story continues to run in the state – albeit without much support.

Several multiplexes, like PVR and Cinepolis, withdrew screenings of the film before its release on Friday, 5 May. Film trackers also confirmed to The Quint that the movie has been performing poorly in the state.

But at the same time, the film is doing exceptionally well at the box office across India, as per The Indian Express. The collection of the film on 5 and 6 May stood at almost Rs 20 crore, and on 7 May, it was a whopping Rs 16.50 crore, reported industry tracker Sacnilk.

So, why has the film been receiving pushback in Kerala, Tamil Nadu, and West Bengal? We explain.

Why Is 'The Kerala Story' Facing Pushback in Kerala, Tamil Nadu, & West Bengal?

  1. 1. How Has the Film Been Received in Kerala?

    Speaking to The Quint, K Vijayakumar, president of the Film Exhibitors United Organisation Kerala, said that The Kerala Story is currently running in at least 30 theatres across Kerala.

    "Multiplexes like PVR and Cinepolis withdrew their screenings because there may have been some pressure from outside," he alleged, hinting that protests against the film may have had an effect on the shows.

    Vijayakumar also claimed that the film has been performing well because "it raises a very important issue," but he said he was not in a position to report the collections received so far.

    Siyad Koker, a film producer, told The Quint otherwise. "The response for the film has generally been poor in Kerala. Because there has been a hype around it, some theatres have reported collections. But overall, it has not been good, as far as I know."

    A trade analyst, who did not wish to be named, concurred, saying, "The film had a limited release in Kerala. Ideally, when a movie is running in a limited number of theatres, there should be better collections. It's a basic demand-supply rule. But as far as The Kerala Story is concerned, this is not true."

    A popular film tracking page in Kerala reported that The Kerala Story's earnings last weekend was merely Rs 21 lakh – well below 2018, a movie on the Kerala floods, and Guardians of the Galaxy 3, both of which were released over the same weekend. Ponniyin Selvan 2 and Pachuvum Athbhuthavilakkum, which came out the previous week, also performed better than The Kerala Story.

    The analyst added that theatre owners in Kerala withdrew their screenings for three reasons. "The film came out at a time when other movies – like 2018, Ponniyin Selvan 2, Guardians of the Galaxy 3 – are raking in good money. There's more audience for those films."

    "Secondly, the controversial nature of the film is prompting theatre owners to make do with movies that are already doing well. They don't want any protests or untoward incidents to happen on their premises. So, they're choosing to stay out of it."
    A trade analyst

    Moreover, the distributors of the film have asked the theatre owners to run at least three shows of the film, and most of them feel that it won't have an audience to fill three shows, he said. Currently, the film is running at 50 percent overall occupancy across the state, he added.

    Expand
  2. 2. Why Have West Bengal & Tamil Nadu Halted the Film?

    West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee issued a ban on the film on Monday "to maintain peace in the state" and avoid incidents of hate crime and violence.

    She has asked the chief secretary to ensure that the film is withdrawn from theatres across the state.

    Calling it a "distorted" film, the chief minister said:

    "Why did they make Kashmir Files? To humiliate one section. What is this Kerala files? If they can prepare Kashmir files to condemn the Kashmiri people... now they are defaming Kerala state also. Everyday they are defaming through their narrative."
    Mamata Banerjee, addressing the media

    Information and Broadcasting Minister Anurag Thakur stated that by banning it, West Bengal was effectively siding with terror outfits that "lure women with love."

    "The film is against terrorism and IS. The film exposes their modus operandi. Is the TMC supporting terrorism? This has been done to appease a section of the minority community," he was quoted as saying.

    Expand
  3. 3. Support From BJP-Ruled States

    Uttar Pradesh has become the second state after Madhya Pradesh to make the controversial film 'tax-free'.

    "The film shows how daughters who get entangled in the trap of love jihad get destroyed. It also exposes the design of terrorism," Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan had said in a video message.

    The Kerala Story, starring Adah Sharma in the lead role, has been at the centre of controversy since its teaser came out in November 2022, claiming that 32,000 women from Kerala were converted to Islam and kidnapped to Syria to join ISIS. After massive outrage over the unsubstantiated figure, the makers changed it to "3 women" in the trailer.

    The movie, however, continues to carry this number, even as director Sudipto Sen said recently that "32,000 is an arbitrary figure" and "doesn't matter."

    (At The Quint, we are answerable only to our audience. Play an active role in shaping our journalism by becoming a member. Because the truth is worth it.)

    Expand

How Has the Film Been Received in Kerala?

Speaking to The Quint, K Vijayakumar, president of the Film Exhibitors United Organisation Kerala, said that The Kerala Story is currently running in at least 30 theatres across Kerala.

"Multiplexes like PVR and Cinepolis withdrew their screenings because there may have been some pressure from outside," he alleged, hinting that protests against the film may have had an effect on the shows.

Vijayakumar also claimed that the film has been performing well because "it raises a very important issue," but he said he was not in a position to report the collections received so far.

Siyad Koker, a film producer, told The Quint otherwise. "The response for the film has generally been poor in Kerala. Because there has been a hype around it, some theatres have reported collections. But overall, it has not been good, as far as I know."

A trade analyst, who did not wish to be named, concurred, saying, "The film had a limited release in Kerala. Ideally, when a movie is running in a limited number of theatres, there should be better collections. It's a basic demand-supply rule. But as far as The Kerala Story is concerned, this is not true."

A popular film tracking page in Kerala reported that The Kerala Story's earnings last weekend was merely Rs 21 lakh – well below 2018, a movie on the Kerala floods, and Guardians of the Galaxy 3, both of which were released over the same weekend. Ponniyin Selvan 2 and Pachuvum Athbhuthavilakkum, which came out the previous week, also performed better than The Kerala Story.

The analyst added that theatre owners in Kerala withdrew their screenings for three reasons. "The film came out at a time when other movies – like 2018, Ponniyin Selvan 2, Guardians of the Galaxy 3 – are raking in good money. There's more audience for those films."

"Secondly, the controversial nature of the film is prompting theatre owners to make do with movies that are already doing well. They don't want any protests or untoward incidents to happen on their premises. So, they're choosing to stay out of it."
A trade analyst

Moreover, the distributors of the film have asked the theatre owners to run at least three shows of the film, and most of them feel that it won't have an audience to fill three shows, he said. Currently, the film is running at 50 percent overall occupancy across the state, he added.

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Why Have West Bengal & Tamil Nadu Halted the Film?

West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee issued a ban on the film on Monday "to maintain peace in the state" and avoid incidents of hate crime and violence.

She has asked the chief secretary to ensure that the film is withdrawn from theatres across the state.

Calling it a "distorted" film, the chief minister said:

"Why did they make Kashmir Files? To humiliate one section. What is this Kerala files? If they can prepare Kashmir files to condemn the Kashmiri people... now they are defaming Kerala state also. Everyday they are defaming through their narrative."
Mamata Banerjee, addressing the media

Information and Broadcasting Minister Anurag Thakur stated that by banning it, West Bengal was effectively siding with terror outfits that "lure women with love."

"The film is against terrorism and IS. The film exposes their modus operandi. Is the TMC supporting terrorism? This has been done to appease a section of the minority community," he was quoted as saying.

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While the Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK) government has not expressly banned The Kerala Story, the Tamil Nadu Multiplex Association, on Sunday, announced that it would stop screening the film in the state, citing fear of protests and poor audience turnout.

M Subramaniam, president of the Tamil Nadu Theatre and Multiplex Owners Association, was quoted by PTI as saying:

"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."
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While protests erupted across some parts of Kerala and Tamil Nadu after the release of the film, no instance of violence has been reported in these states or across the country.

However, the Mumbai Police on Monday said that a crew member of the film has received a threatening message from an unknown number. While the police has provided security to the said person, an FIR has not been filed as they are yet to receive a written complaint.

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Support From BJP-Ruled States

Uttar Pradesh has become the second state after Madhya Pradesh to make the controversial film 'tax-free'.

"The film shows how daughters who get entangled in the trap of love jihad get destroyed. It also exposes the design of terrorism," Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan had said in a video message.

The Kerala Story, starring Adah Sharma in the lead role, has been at the centre of controversy since its teaser came out in November 2022, claiming that 32,000 women from Kerala were converted to Islam and kidnapped to Syria to join ISIS. After massive outrage over the unsubstantiated figure, the makers changed it to "3 women" in the trailer.

The movie, however, continues to carry this number, even as director Sudipto Sen said recently that "32,000 is an arbitrary figure" and "doesn't matter."

(At The Quint, we are answerable only to our audience. Play an active role in shaping our journalism by becoming a member. Because the truth is worth it.)

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Topics:  Tamil Nadu   West Bengal   Kerala 

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