West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee has banned the screening of the controversial film The Kerala Story in the state, after facing opposition in several states. The film, directed by Sudipto Sen and featuring Adah Sharma, was released on May 5. However, its trailer had previously come under fire for its claim that 32,000 girls from Kerala had gone missing and joined ISIS.
The trailer has since been amended to focus on the stories of three women instead. Despite the controversy, several prominent figures, including Anurag Kashyap and Shabana Azmi, have spoken out against the ban, saying that it is wrong to prohibit the screening of any film, even if it is propaganda.
Anurag Kashyap, a noted filmmaker, shared cryptic tweets in response to the ban, suggesting that the right way to fight propaganda is not to ban a film, but to speak out against it. He recommended watching Sudhir Mishra's Afwaah, which discusses the misuse of social media and how prejudice can be weaponized to create unrest. Anurag argued that this was the right way to make a point and fight propaganda, rather than banning a film altogether.
His tweet read, "You agree with the film or not, be it propaganda, counter-propaganda, offensive or not, to ban it is just wrong," he tweeted as he shared a quote by French writer and philosopher Voltaire. It read, “I do not agree with what you have to say, but I’ll defend to the death your right to say it."
Mamata Banerjee defended her decision to ban The Kerala Story, stating that it was necessary to maintain peace in Bengal and prevent violence. However, her decision has been met with criticism from those who believe that censorship of any kind goes against freedom of expression. The controversy surrounding The Kerala Story highlights the ongoing debate about the role of propaganda in cinema and the responsibility of filmmakers to ensure that their work does not contribute to misinformation or prejudice.