The British Board of Film Classification (BBFC) has given the anti-Muslim Indian film The Kerala Story the green light to be screened in UK cinemas.
The BBFC has given the propaganda film, which is a favourite of Hindutva activists, an “18 certificate” and has warmed that “sexual violence is portrayed unflinchingly, alongside other complex themes.”
Earlier this week screenings of The Kerala Story were cancelled in the UK and tickets refunded as the BBFC had still not given it the green light to broadcast.
Cineworld responded to an inquiry by tweeting: “Hi, we are sorry that the upcoming performances of ‘The Kerala Story’ have been cancelled. This is due to the film not receiving an age rating in time for the scheduled release date, all affected customers will be contacted and refunded. Apologies for any disappointment caused.’’
The BBFC also issued a statement, saying that the movie was still going through its classification process. They tweeted: “Once the film has received a BBFC age rating and content advice, it will be available to be screened in UK cinemas.”
The Kerala Story is a Hindi-language drama which follows a group of Christian women from Kerala who are converted to Islam and join ISIS. The film is premised on the conspiracy theory of “love jihad,” and falsely claims that thousands of women from Kerala are being converted to Islam and recruited into ISIS.
It has been panned by reviewers who characterised it as propaganda, but has still become the fourth-highest-grossing Hindi film of 2023.
It has also received support from leaders of the governing Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), including Prime Minister Narendra Modi who praised it at a recent political rally. Some party members have also hosted screenings and distributed free tickets.
The filmmakers say that The Kerala Story is based on true events and years of research, even though credible estimates indicate only dozens of women at most from Kerala have joined ISIS.
Two state governments – Uttar Pradesh and Madhya Pradesh, both governed by the BJP – have made the film tax-free.
Others, however, have accused it of demonising Muslims and peddling Islamophobia.
In Tamil Nadu state, an association of multiplex owners said they would stop screening the film, citing protests and low audiences. West Bengal, governed by the Trinamool Congress, banned the film, saying it “could be dangerous to peace and order.”
Kerala is often praised for its religious harmony. According to the last census in 2011, 27% of Kerala’s 33 million people are Muslims and 18% are Christians.