It’s fitting that a film about the dangers of religious indoctrination devotes every one of its scenes to brainwashing its audience.

Sudipto Sen’s The Kerala Story speaks to the Whatsapp University crowd that fervently believes that Kerala is a hotbed of Islamic State recruitment, crawling with Muslim men who entrap thousands of women, proselytise them either by persuasion or force, and then pack them off to Syria to serve as fighters and sex slaves. For the fence-sitters, Sen’s provocation-filled screenplay, written along with Suryapal Singh and producer Vipul Amrutlal Shah (who is also credited as “creative director”), presents ‘Facts and Figures’ that have been widely disputed.

Sen has previously made a documentary on the subject, titled In the Name of Love! (2022). The Kerala Story deploys the tools of fiction to support Sen’s claim that behind every Hindu-Muslim interaction, there lies sinister intent. There are dramatic close-ups, background music that resembles one long wail, and medieval-era violence.

The movie’s larger target is Islam itself, presented here as a religion whose very value system primes its followers for extremist thought. When Shalini (Adah Sharma) walks into the hostel room of a nursing college, she meets another Hindu woman (Siddhi Idnani), a Christian (Yogita Bihani), and Asifa (Sonia Balani).

Asifa’s piety is a front for her IS affiliation. Asifa ruthlessly and expertly draws her roommates into her web. All of them are impressionable enough to be taken in by Asifa’s Theology 101. Having never heard of the concept of Hell, and easily persuaded by Asifa that wearing a hijab protects women from harassment, Adah and her friends are soon veiling their heads and dating Muslim men.

Shalini is eventually tricked into converting to Islam, taking on the name Fatima, and travelling to Afghanistan with her sex fiend of a husband to make her way to Syria. In Afghanistan, Shalini witnesses unrelenting brutality, including corpses lying about the landscape like wild grass…

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