Battlelines over ‘Kerala Story’ harden as legal notice on ban is sent by filmaker

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Kolkata: Amidst a raging controversy over West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee’s announced ban on the screening of the controversial film ‘The Kerala Story’ in the state, political battlelines hardened over the decision.

This happened as filmmaker Vivek Ranjan Agnihotri on Tuesday said he has sent a legal notice to West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee for defaming his movie “The Kashmir Files”.

The BJP continued to maintain the move was aimed at appeasing the minority, while a right-wing cultural organiation which had been promoting viewership complained of high handedness by the state government.

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The TMC for its part defended the move which it termed as one which ensured communal harmony in the state, which its rivals in the saffron camp were trying to disrupt.

By banning the film, TMC has proven it follows a policy of appeasement, despite all talk of freedom of expression, BJP national vice-president Dilip Ghosh said.

“The film is against terrorism and Islamic State. The film exposes their modus operandi. This (ban) has been brought to appease a section of the minority community,” Ghosh told PTI Tuesday.

Sagnik Sengupta, a spokesperson of Voice of Hindustan, a right-wing cultural organisation which has been promoting watching the film in large numbers, told PTI “we protest the decision of the West Bengal government to take away the right of citizens to watch the film … Once The Kerala Story was cleared by the Censor Board, this government has no right to unilaterally stop its screening”.

TMC spokesperson Jaiprakash Majumdar however told PTI that “the BJP and RSS have an agenda of disrupting communal and social harmony and ties by promoting the Kerala Story”.
While the film’s makers’ have claimed to the authorities that “the film was fictional, outside the police station and courtroom they are claiming it was entirely based on real life incidents of conversion,” Majumdar said.

On the other hand, CPM central committee member Sujan Chakraborty maintained to PTI the banning of the film will strengthen the hands of BJP and right wing forces.

“Kerala Story carries a false propaganda about conversions of thousands of Hindu women, banning the film after its release was a wrong decision as it will raise interest about the film which can now be watched on internet-based platforms over which the state doesn’t have any control,” Chakraborty said.

Banerjee on Monday ordered a ban on the screening of “The Kerala Story” in the state to avoid “any incident of hatred and violence,” according to officials.

Agnihotri said he had sent the legal notice along with his actor-wife Pallavi Joshi and producer Abhishek Agarwal.

He shared a copy of the document in his Twitter post.

“I have, along with @AbhishekOfficl & Pallavi Joshi, sent a LEGAL NOTICE to the Chief Minister, Bengal @MamataOfficial for her false & highly defamatory statements made with malafide intention to defame us & our films #TheKashmirFiles & upcoming 2024 film #TheDelhiFiles,” the filmmaker tweeted.

Directed by Sudipto Sen, “The Kerala Story” on women being forcefully converted and recruited by the terror group Islamic State (IS), released on May 5 to a huge political debate. It has been made tax free in Madhya Pradesh and Uttar Pradesh, while multiplexes in Tamil Nadu have cancelled its screenings.

INOX Regional Director Amitava Guha Thakurta told PTI “the film was being screened in 100 audi units of INOX across West Bengal with around 70-80 per cent occupancy on an average on two weekend days.”

“Once we got the notice from the government, we suspended the remaining night shows and refunded the money to the audience,” he said.

Satadip Saha, the distributor of the film, also confirmed to PTI, the screening has been stopped.

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( With inputs from )

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