PeepingMoon Exclusive: 'There should be freedom of speech,' says The Kerala Story's Sonia Balani on demand for the film to be banned


Sudipto Sen's The Kerala Story has set the box office on fire. Based on alleged true stories of Hindu girls from Kerala who were forced to convert to Islam, the film is headlined by Adah Sharma, Yogita Bihani, Sonia Balani and Siddhi Idnani. While it is creating new records at the box office, the film couldn't stay away from controversies. It was banned in several states of India. 

In an exclusive interview with PeepingMoon, Sonia, who plays the role of Asifa, opened up about being the antagonist in The Kerala Story. She further reacted to the film being called propaganda. Sonia highlighted the need for freedom of speech.

Excerpts from the interview:

What was your first reaction to being approached for The Kerala Story?

When I heard it for the first time, I was numb. It is a dark and disturbing story. I was willing to take the challenge because it is an eye-opener. I am fortunate enough to get a chance to tell such an important story. I felt fortunate to be able to tell a story that represents those who suffered.  

What kind of prep went behind playing Asifa?

I am a Hindu, hence I had to learn how to offer Namaz, wear the hijab and get the Malayali accent right. Speaking of the thought process, it was extremely dark as Asifa's background is very different. Sonia is not Asifa but I had to believe in whatever she did. 

Did you take any measures to make sure nothing goes wrong in your portrayal? 

The Kerala Story is dark and nothing can go wrong because this is a true story and we cannot end up hurting the sentiments of our audience. It was a disturbing film to do. Asifa's dialogues were heavy and strong, religion-wise too so I had to make sure I deliver them correctly.

Which was the toughest scene for you? 

The toughest scene for me has to be where I am talking about Hindu Gods. Being a Shiva bhakt, it required a lot of conviction to say those dialogues. I believe once you get into the character, you forget your real self. 

People are calling The Kerala Story a propaganda film..

I don't believe it is a propaganda film. This is a true story which was made after Sudipto Sen put in 4-5 years of his life researching the subject. He showed us pictures and videos and I cannot even begin to think about what those girls must have been through and endured. It is a dark and scary world because even I went out of India for studies and if such things happen with girls, it isn't a good thing. 

Some states in India have banned The Kerala Story..

There has to be freedom of speech. Why should it be banned when it is a real story? Yes, people can have their perspectives but art should be showcased. Banning a film isn't the right solution.