The Kerala Story has been one of the biggest blockbusters of this year despite being mired in countless controversies and outrage. The film, which was released earlier this month, managed to gross over Rs 201.7 crores at the box office, becoming the third highest grossing Hindi film of 2023. The Sudipto Sen directorial came with a talented cast of actors that spearheaded this film about a group of women who are recruited to the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) after being converted to Islam.
While Adah Sharma played the main lead, Yogita Bihani played the role of Nimah who was equally pivotal for the story. The Vipul Amrutlal Shah’s Production was essentially the third feature film for Yogita who has previously been a part of films like AK vs AK and Vikram Vedha. In an exclusive interview with News18 Showsha, the actress revealed whether she was prepared for the outrage that The Kerala Story received even prior to its theatrical release.
“I wasn’t prepared,” She told us. “Not at all. I am a very simple person. I work in a project, it releases, people watch it, they appreciate it. That’s all. That’s my life. But this movie was different. Suddenly there was so much going on and I was very anxious honestly. There was some anxiety that I could feel. I didn’t know what it was but it was there. I just felt honest towards the stories of these three women and the character that I was playing. I said that’s what I wanted to do and I wanted to show what is happening around them. However, I realised that when we choose this industry as our work, whatever you do, you choose to put it in front of crore and lakhs of people and everyone will have different point of views,” she added.
The Kerala Story has undoubtedly struck a chord with the viewers. But it has also been facing backlash from a section of political parties which have dubbed it “a propaganda film”. Not just this, the cast has also been receiving threats and subjected to online trolling for being part of the “propaganda film”.
When asked if actors and creative people become soft targets in such situations, Yogita concurred, “I do believe that. I think that as an actor, our job was to play our character and that’s what we did. I’ll give an example of Asifa. So Sonia was playing Asifa in our film. She is getting a lot of hate but I feel like it takes a lot of courage to take up that role. She knew she would get this but as an actor she was more courageous to play that part. So I think it’s very important that we appreciate them for their work, for the character they are playing. As an actor, we just get the script and we perform. That’s all we can do.”
“Other than that, if there is a ban or something like that, I cannot be a part of it. My work ends the day it’s a wrap for me… I really want people to understand that because we are putting ourselves out there, a lot of people comment about families. It’s not nice. If I chose to be in this industry, my family shouldn’t suffer because of it. I think people should be more sensitive towards it,” she continued.
Yogita Bihani also spoke about how certain explicit scenes involving rape were shot and whether it was hard for her to enact them. “One thing that I have to give it to my director is that all the rape scenes that are there in the film might be discomforting to watch, but he ensured that it was shot aesthetically and minimally with focus on the expressions. Even the scenes that had Adah Sharma in it. But when I was supposed to shoot for that scene, it’s not easy for any girl to be in that position. Not even me. Even the boys on the sets, even though they are actors, they were not happy shooting it. We all were numb. In my head, it was just action, reaction, cut. And that’s it. Had I gone deeper, it could have hurt me in some way and it would have been with me for a really long time,” she shared.
DISCLAIMER: This news piece may be triggering. If you or someone you know needs help, call any of these helplines: Aasra (Mumbai) 022-27546669, Sneha (Chennai) 044-24640050, Sumaitri (Delhi) 011-23389090, Cooj (Goa) 0832- 2252525, Jeevan (Jamshedpur) 065-76453841, Pratheeksha (Kochi) 048-42448830, Maithri (Kochi) 0484-2540530, Roshni (Hyderabad) 040-66202000, Lifeline 033-64643267 (Kolkata).