A Kannada film that claims to portray the ground reality of how communal hatred is created and whipped up with violence is set for release at a time alleged propaganda films such as The Kashmir Files and The Kerala Story have triggered huge controversies.
Titled Bera — Merchant of Death, the film is set for release on June 16. Bera means business in Tulu, which is widely spoken in coastal Karnataka and northern Kerala.
“I have tried to keep the script rooted to the ground reality of how communal hatred is generated, nurtured and followed up with gory violence by people who eventually ride on such acts to leadership positions of certain Right-wing groups,” the film’s writer-director Vinu Balanja told The Telegraph on Monday.
A noted television personality who has scripted and directed several hit series on the small screen, Balanja said the film depicts the true colour of communal elements from “both sides” who flourish by sparking certain issues and then banking on them.
“This is about how communal issues are created and how certain unscrupulous people cash in on them to rise up to leadership positions. My film shows how both sides (Hindu and Muslim Right wing) capitalise on innocent people’s religious sentiments,” he noted, alluding to the film set in coastal Karnataka that has witnessed such acts over several years.
“As is clear from the title, it is a business for these people who use communal violence to ride to popularity. They don’t have any value for life and don’t care who among their loyal foot soldiers gets killed,” he said.
The film is set to hit the screens at a time the debate on The Kerala Story by Sudipto Sen is yet to ebb. The film, which initially claimed to tell the story of 32,000 non-Muslim women from Kerala who were converted to Islam, had later watered down that number to just three women, two of them Christian and one a Hindu.
The maker of Bera, however, said he was aware of the controversies around the two propaganda films that the Sangh parivar leveraged on, even during the recent Karnataka Assembly elections.
“Bera is in no way a counter to such films. But it tells a story based on what we know and which the viewer can interpret in his or her own way since it is a true reflection of how communal elements from both sides have been wreaking havoc in Karnataka,” Balanja said.
The teaser and trailer of Bera have done very well on Youtube with over 10 lakh and 5 lakh views, respectively, as of Monday. But the film is yet to spark any controversy in the state.
“So far I have not received any threats. No one has booked any case against me or the film,” he said when asked about possible backlash from Right-wing elements who might find it offensive.
“I don’t think there will be any problems to release the film,” he added.
The film features Yash Shetty, Harshika Poonacha, Dattanna, Suman, Manjunath Hegde and Rakesh Maiya among others.