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Kajal Agrawal

Reel Life: Songs of innocence and experience Featured

  20 June 2021

A case of sedition was filed by the Lakshadweep police against local model, actor, activist and filmmaker Aisha Sultana for calling UT Administrator Praful Khoda Patel a 'bio weapon'

India’s smallest Union Territory has been in the news of late for all the wrong reasons. In the hands of Praful Khoda Patel, who took over as the administrator of Lakshadweep in December last year, tourism and adventure sports, development and progress, infrastructure and construction have become the new mantras for the archipelago of 36 islands in the Arabian Sea.

Alongside, totalitarian regulations like beef ban are being imposed on the small local population that comprises predominantly of Muslims.Not only is all this being done in a haphazard manner, but seemingly on the whim of one individual than through a proper dialogue and discussion with inhabitants of the islands.

What’s at stake is the peace and calm of the islands, its pristine beauty, the environment and ecology, the corals and the reefs and, most so, the local fisherfolk, their livelihoods and fundamental rights, unique identity and culture. No wonder there have been justifiable protests—even from within the BJP wing in the islands—against these moves and voices are rising, demanding the recall Patel.

The unrest took a filmi turn this week, literally. A case of sedition was filed by the Lakshadweep police against local model, actor, activist and filmmaker Aisha Sultana for calling Patel a “bio weapon”. The case under Sections 124 A (sedition) and 153 B (hate speech) was registered at Kavaratti police station on Thursday.

Sultana, who has been spearheading the campaign against Patel’s “reforms”, had vehemently criticised Patel in a TV debate. Sultana defended herself in a Facebook post stating: “I had used the word bio- weapon in the TV channel debate. I have felt Patel as well as his policies [have acted] as a bio-weapon. It was through Patel and his entourage that COVID-19 spread in Lakshadweep. I have compared Patel as a bio-weapon, not the government or the country.” 

The filmmaker has since sought anticipatory bail and moved the Kerala High Court saying she has been “falsely implicated in the case with ulterior motives” and that she made the comments specifically to expose the State’s apathy. "There is no case that the statement of the applicant created disaffection towards the government or that there was imminent violence sparked by the words," her plea says.


In all this chaos and unrest, I was reminded of a reel representation of Lakshadweep in filmmaker-actor Geetu Mohandas’ Malayalam film Moothon (The Elder One). A rare film to have been shot in Lakshadweep—in Bangaram and Agatti islands—it isn’t just about using the picturesque locale as a backdrop. There is more to it than the sea, sand and the beaches. The film digs deeper.

Reel Life: Songs of innocence and experience

It makes ample use of one of the many local dialects that keep changing from island to island and don’t have written scripts. It also trains the camera on the culture and social and religious practices and rituals of the local community. Like kuthu ratheeb, an act of self-flagellation and inflicting of pain that serves as a penance for human misdemeanour.

But much as it may sound like one, Moothon is not a documentary of the National Geographic kind. There is a story on which it is hung, there are compelling themes of gender, sexuality and love that it grapples with. It is about a young girl called Mulla’s search for her lost elder brother, about curiosity she has for the sibling she has never met which gets fuelled by the many anecdotes she hears about him from her family and friends. It prompts her to take the resolve of finding him out.

The journey takes her all the way from Lakshadweep to Mumbai. It also becomes a spiritual quest within to find herself. Most of all, it’s about a move away from the idyllic islands to the ruthless and violent city. One that makes one hold on to the charm and innocence of the unspoilt, verdant Lakshadweep and makes the real threat feel even more stark and immense.



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