The clever propaganda work in 'Kuruthi'

One of the many propaganda points used by the Malayalam movie 'Kuruthi' is in making the claim that Muslims have desecrated a temple somewhere in Kerala. The young saffron extremist in the film commits a murder as retaliation. Now, this would make a lay viewer assume that such temple desecrations might have happened for real, which the movie might be refering to.

But, if you look at the recent history of temple desecrations in the state, you will find that in both these cases (in 2017 and 2019), the accused are saffron men, who did it with an aim to create communal tensions, and probably to help their favourite party politically.

Yet, in this movie, a fake claim is almost established as a fact, with a Hindu woman who is otherwise friendly with her Muslim neighbours, questioning them whether they would n’t react the same way that the saffron youth did if a mosque is desecrated. Though many secularists might read this as how the directors are showing this woman is slowly getting radicalised, a vast majority would actually nod along to that dangerous line she utters, believing it to be true. (This is not to state that Islamists are all peaceful, or that am unaware of the activities of PFI and the likes(of which I have written in the past), but to counter a specific fake claim on temple desecration)

The crime committed by the saffron youth, of murdering a poor Muslim shopkeeper, is not shown on screen. However, the entire movie is filled with violent attacks by the Islamist extremists who are hunting for him. The son of the Muslim shopkeeper he murdered is shown as a hardcore extremist, who even proudly claims to have attacked someone who drew an image of the Prophet, while he was in Paris.

By the time we are halfway through the movie, we forget even the crime the saffron guy has committed, with him being transformed into a poor, helpless victim of the Islamist gang. The film, directed by Manu Warrier and written by Aneesh Pallyal, also leaves without countering his anti-reservation lines. There are repeated references to him being a young, helpless boy, but there are no references to an entire hate factory which stands behind him and which wields so much power at present. On the other hand, there are several Islamist extremists, some of them with international connections too. One Muslim character (Shine Tom), who is shown to be condemning communal statements by a young Islamist inside a shop, is later shown to be a hardcore islamist who is advising the young guy to be discreet about his leanings. Ofcourse, there is that token "good Muslim" character thrown in, to make it look more balanced.

The film, on the surface, might look like a balanced work which condemns both Islamist and Hindutva communalism equally, but scratch the surface and you can see how it is a cleverly constructed, one-sided propaganda. No wonder, some saffron extremists are cheering for it.

The cleverest of propaganda films are the ones that make you think that they are speaking against something, while they make you internalise propaganda favourable to that very thing. Malayalam films which did this effectively in recent years are the Hindutva propaganda film 'Tiyaan' and the Islamist moududi propaganda film 'Oru Halaal Love Story'.