The Kerala Story (2023) Story Recap


The Kerala Story starts with an alleged ISIS member – Begum Fatima being arrested by the UN Military on the Afghan border. They accuse her of being part of terrorist activities and claim she has crossed three borders with a fake passport.

Fatima claims that she is Shalini and not Fatima and that she’s an Indian woman from Kerala. She explains how she was first taken from India to Sri Lanka and eventually to Afghanistan to be sent to Syria. She adds that her infant daughter was taken away from her. The soldiers ask Shalini/Fatima to narrate her story.

The beginning

It all started two years ago when Shalini was a college student and lived with her mother and grandmother in Kerala. She moves into a hostel and enrolls as a student at the National Nursing College. She ends up sharing a room with three other girls. Nimah Mathew is a devout Catholic, and Geetanjali Menon is a Hindu but does not have strong religious beliefs because her father was an atheist.

Asifa is a very devout Muslim. Shalini is a Hindu girl who does not have any particular deep religious standing. Asifa is a mole for the organization and starts brainwashing the three girls of other faiths. Asifa shares her strong beliefs about the Islamic religion, sharing her views on applying makeup, dancing at parties, wearing a hijab and more.

It doesn’t take long for her to introduce the girls to her male friends – Ramiz, Abdul and another friend. From the get-go, Shalini seems to be drawn to Ramiz who is studying to be a doctor. Meanwhile, Geetanjali gets close to Abdul. Asifa shares that Islam is the only religion that will survive in the end and shares that the Hindu and Catholic religions are flawed.

Nimah draws the line and asks Asifa to stop bringing religion into their conversation but Shalini is the most interested to know more about Islamic beliefs. During the weekends and on other holidays, Nimah goes back home to her family while Shalini and Geetanjali spend a lot of time at Asifa’s house. The two girls end up catching feelings for Ramiz and Abdul respectively.

Meanwhile, Asifa’s superiors force her to get all three girls to turn to Islam. The seniors ask Asifa, Ramiz, Abdul, and others to drug their victims with Amphetamine in order to send them into a trance and make them comply with the teachings of Islam. They also ask the men to impregnate these women in order to make them submit and eventually convert to Islam.

The brainwashing

In order to scare the three girls, Asifa asks men to follow Shalini, Geetanjali and Nimah on their trip to the mall. The men assault the three girls and a woman wearing a hijab helps cover the girls up after their clothes are ripped off in public. The girls are scared to even leave their hostel rooms.

Asifa blames them for dressing provocatively and claims that women wearing a Hijab are never assaulted or raped. She states that Allah is the only God that protects his people. Nimah is agitated by Asifa’s comments on Catholic religion and Jesus but Shalini and Geetanjali fall for Asifa’s plan. Ramiz and Abdul pledge to protect the girls.

Since Ramiz is studying to be a doctor, he starts drugging Shalini and Geetanjali by lying that what he’s given them are anti-anxiety pills. The two girls start wearing a hijab and feel safer being out in public. Nimah is not a part of this conversion. The boys try to brainwash Shalini and Geetanjali into having sex with them and claim that Islam does not ask human beings to abstain from consensual sex.

The Conversion to Islam

Shalini and Geetanjali start straying away from their families and their own religions when they avoid going home to celebrate Diwali – the biggest Hindu festival. Nimah’s ideologies about prayer and her faith are more practical. She avoids hanging out with the group and leaves the conversation every time Asifa starts boasting about her faith.

Asifa starts badmouthing the Hindu religion and the two girls buy into her claims. Both Shalini and Geetanjali wear Hijabs when they go home during the vacation leaving their family shocked. Shalini tells Geetanjali that she is in love with Ramiz and that she’s staying with him as the hostel was closed.

Once they’re back at the hostel, Shalini and Geetanjali attend meetings where they meet other girls from the Hindu and Catholic faith who were similarly brainwashed. These girls believe that these Muslim men loved them and decide to give in to their religious beliefs. Shalini falls pregnant and Ramiz forces her to convert to Islam if she wants him and his family to accept her. She unwillingly agrees to convert and changes her name to Fatima.

Geetanjali follows suit too and converts to Islam for Abdul. One day, during one of their conversations about redemption from sin, Abdul asks Geetanjali to accompany her to Syria. He asks a drugged Geetanjali to share nude photos of herself and she complies. Geetanjali is alienated from her family after Asifa brainwashes her. She spits on her father when he is in the ICU due to a cardiac arrest. Geetanjali claims her share of her father’s property upon Asifa’s persistence.

After a while, Geetanjali stops abusing the drugs and finally starts coming to her senses. She claims that these men were trying to impregnate the girls in order to blackmail them into moving to Syria. She claims that Abdul was impotent which is why she had never fallen pregnant. Abdul is agitated and threatens to leak her photos. Geetanjali gets scared but tries to save Shalini from the brainwashing.

Shalini’s Wedding to Ishaaq

Shalini tells the Maulvi (Islamic Pastor) that Ramiz had fled to the Maldives with his family leaving a pregnant Shalini alone. She thinks about killing herself but the pastor threatens her with eternal damnation. He tells her that Ishaaq was one of Allah’s followers and was willing to marry her and accept her illegitimate child as his own.

The pastor also tells Shalini to move to Syria, a place where all her sins will be forgiven. Meanwhile, Geetanjali goes back home and apologizes to her father and family. She is accepted by her parents and tries to help Shalini’s mother to bring her back home. Shalini (now Fatima) ends up marrying Ishaaq and refuses to go back home with her mother.

Geetanjali’s photos are leaked online and are all over the internet. To save her family from the embarrassment, she dies by suicide. Shalini then goes to Colombo, Sri Lanka for what she thinks is her honeymoon. She meets her mother one last time before leaving and claims that she was happy with Ishaaq.

Nimah breaks the truth to Shalini

Nimah calls Shalini and tells her how the third Muslim boy tried to trap her in the same lies as Abdul and Ramiz did to Geetanjali and Shalini. She claims that when she refused a relationship with Ramiz and Abdul’s friend, he drugged and raped her. She added that she was gang-raped by many of his friends when she was drugged. Nimah tells Shalini that she had somehow fled and gone back home.

Shalini is shocked to learn that Geetanjali had died and that her family home was burned down by Abdul and his men. Nimah tells Shalini that Ramiz was back in Kerala and that he was now exploiting another girl of different faith in the same way. Nimah asks Shalini to come back home when she still has the chance but Shalini is in too deep. She assumes that Nimah and Geetanjali are suffering due to their lack of faith.

Shalini’s phone is confiscated and she is made to travel to the Pashto village in order to be taken to Syria via Afghanistan and Iran. In the meantime, Nimah starts reading up about the Islamic conversion and tries to get the police to look into the matter. The police claim that the 32,000 women from all over the world have most likely converted by these organizations are just numbers.

They add that there’s no strong evidence to back these claims. Nimah breaks down, helpless, and promises to bring proof to save Shalini and other women from all over the world who have fallen prey to such an organization.

Shalini is taken to Afghanistan as Fatima

In the Pashto village, Shalini (as Fatima) starts doubting Ishaaq’s intentions. Ishaaq and Shalini stay at a local’s house where the men tell Ishaaq to cross the border and spread the Islamic seed. Ishaaq tries to physically abuse Shalini and tame her into complying with Islamic traditions. They make their journey to Syria through Afghanistan. Shalini is taken to an ISIS hideout in Afghanistan and Ishaaq starts showing his true colours.

Despite being heavily pregnant, Ishaaq rapes Shalini because she’s lawfully his wife. He tells her that he has to go on a mission on his own. Shalini is all by herself and tries to escape on her own. She witnesses a woman’s hands being cut off in public as a form of punishment for wearing lipstick. Shalini falls unconscious when she sees the woman’s husband being beheaded for allowing his wife to wear lipstick.

A woman named Shazia helps Shalini and takes her home. She tells Fatima that leaving the colony or breaking the laws is punishable and that she’s the commander’s wife. With Ishaaq out on a mission, Shalini delivers a baby girl with the help of the women in the village. Ishaaq tells her that he was going to Kabul for a mission and leaves her penniless to fend for herself and her baby.

Shalini asks for Shazia’s help and begs to talk to her mother. After many requests, Shazia introduces Shalini to Husna.

Husna allows Shalini to send a 30-second voice message to her parents. Shalini shares details of her location and asks her mother to send some help in order to save her and her child. On their way home, Shalini and Shazia are shocked to hear a gunshot with which Husna has been killed for helping someone send a message out of the village.

The men from the village tell Shalini that Ishaaq died during the mission. She tries to seek Shazia’s help in trying to escape but the men take Shalini to a training camp. There, they separate Shalini from her daughter and she is further shocked to see that Ishaaq was alive.

Shalini is placed in a base camp with other women who are all sexually assaulted and raped by the men. The women are forced into being sex slaves for the men who were mostly training to be suicide bombers.

Fatima’s escape

Shalini tells two other women that she has finally decided to escape and will go to the Irani border on her own. She’s sure she will find UN troops and soldiers there, who will help Shalini and the women return to their families in their home countries. Shalini leads the two women to the border but the Afghani soldiers spot them on their escape.

The two women are shot but Shalini manages to escape. She runs as far as she can but eventually passes out.

The arrest

17 hours after her escape, the UN troops discover Shalini in the desert and she is arrested as a terrorist. Shalini claims that she’s not a terrorist and shares her story with the military officers. They tell her that she may not have done terrorist activities but India are notorious for not allowing convicted terrorists back into the country.

Shalini will have to spend the rest of her life in the UN facility for convicted terrorists and allow her a call with her mother in India before she goes. Shalini apologizes to her mum and asks her to stop worrying. She promises to come home soon, as Shalini tries to overcome the Islamic indoctrination that she was brainwashed into.

The conclusion

Shalini is finally reunited with her daughter a while after. Meanwhile, Asifa continues her mission with the next group of women that arrive at the hostel room in Kerala. Other women from many different countries are in the UN prison facility with Shalini, waiting for justice. The movie ends with testimonies from the real Geetanjali Menon’s parents and Nimah Mathew who lives in anonymity in Kerala.


Read More: The Kerala Story (2023) Movie Review

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