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The Kerala Story set for release in the UK, big crowds expected amid debate and apprehension

The Kerala Story set to release in the UK today

The much-debated movie, The Kerala Story will be released in at least 26 cinema halls across the UK today. The movie is being released in 19 screens in Hindi while it will be shown on seven screens in Tamil. Plans are afoot to release it in Malayalam after a week.

The UK release of the movie is happening in capital London, Birmingham, Glasgow, Dublin, Leicester, Leeds, Manchester and many more cities. Suresh Varsani, director of the distributing firm, 24 SEVEN FLIX4U, told India Narrative that the movie is being released in England, Scotland and Ireland – where there is a considerable Asian diaspora.

Varsani has been busy chasing two cinema chains in London for the release of the movie which has earned considerably negative publicity because of its sensitive issues of religious conversions, terrorism, radicalisation among women and the global terror organisation ISIS.

Varsani says: “Of the two cinema chains that I was talking to, one is still considering screening the movie after a negative review by the BBC. The other cinema chain has agreed to show it despite the critical write-up. My take is that if the Indian censors have passed it then what is the problem in screening it?”

He adds that “people have already booked their seats. There has been a strong positive response in terms of bookings. We have been advertising the movie on one of the main radio stations for British Asians – Lyca Radio, after all it is a true story of a few girls. We are not here to offend anyone”.

The distributor says that it is important to screen the movie in the UK “because it has a message that we want everyone to see. We do not wants girls to get trapped by an organisation like the ISIS. The issue that The Kerala Story depicts is happening with girls in the UK also. The fact is that the ISIS is misusing religion and that is why we want people to see the movie”.

“For me it is sending a message to the society that we want to protect our sisters and daughters from getting radicalised. The UK has been affected a lot by this. It has happened in Europe also. Lots of girls have been taken away by the ISIS. For me it is sending across a message that we do not want your daughters and sisters to get radicalised”.

Varsani adds that there are a few pockets in the UK where there might be resistance to The Kerala Story. “At this moment nothing is clear about who is opposing the screening of the movie. There could be individuals, groups or maybe political parties, but we do not know for sure what is happening”.

The UK is no stranger to controversies over films.

In just the past one year, the country has seen considerable trouble over movies. A British documentary, Grooming Gangs: Britain’s Shame, on child sexual abuse of white girls by “grooming gangs led by Pakistani men” is still enraging the society as the abusers are believed to have escaped punishment while the young British girls were victimised.

In February 2022, Sunni groups and clerics protested after cinema halls decided to screen the movie, The Lady Of Heaven. The movie, written by Shia Muslim cleric Sheikh Yasser al-Habib, depicts the story of Lady Fatima, the daughter of Prophet Mohammed. British Sunni groups called the movie blasphemous. Out of fear, many British cinema halls took off the movie after they realised that Sunni protestors are likely to harm their staff, attack cinemagoers and damage their properties.

There was a similar communal reaction to The Kashmir Files, which depicted the ethnic cleansing of Hindus by Muslim separatists in Kashmir in 1990. The movie depicted true stories of horror and genocide faced by the Hindus in Kashmir. In India, people were attacked by Islamists as they stepped out of the halls after watching the movie.

The Kerala Story, which revolves around Hindu and Christian girls from Kerala getting converted to Islam and going to foreign lands to fight for ISIS has raised a debate in India about religious conversion and terrorism. States like Bengal and Tamil Nadu have banned it while others like Haryana, Uttar Pradesh and Madhya Pradesh have made it tax free.

Also read: The Kerala Story and sex slavery in ISIS camp