The Kerala Catholic Bishops’ Conference (KCBC) has come out with trenchant criticism of the Malayalam film 'Kaathal' in which Mammootty plays the lead role. The secretary of the KCBC Vigilance Commission, Fr Dr Michael Pulikal CMI, said in a press release that the film was totally against Christianity and that the misuse of the background of the Christian faith for the propagation of ideas such as homosexuality was condemnable.
The full text of the statement
Kaathal: Art and the setting
'Kaathal - the Core' is a Malayalam film portraying members of the Catholic community that opposes arguments for alternative sexual orientations, including homosexuality (LGBTQIA+). The film also discusses Left wing politics. Director Jeo Baby and script writers Adarsh Sukumaran and Paulson Scaria deserve applause for skillfully blending two contrasting backgrounds.
Beyond the merits and demerits of the film technically, there are certain facts that become clear when analysing the subject matter the film deals with, the ideas it presents and its method. The first of these is the idea that homosexuality is a natural phenomenon and that people around and society in general should accept gay rights. The second one is the indirect propaganda that are directed against the Christian community and the Christian faith. The overemphasis given to sex is another aspect of the film’s plot.
What is significant is that such a story is presented in a rural setting of Kerala, especially in the context of a Christian family. The team members have taken special care to ensure that the Christian family background is not limited to the two names Mathew Devassy and Omana Philip. The film maintains a clear backdrop of the Christian faith throughout the film by presenting a village called Theekoi in Kottayam district, a Christian majority area. Frequent scenes of the church and prayers, the heroine Omana's deep devotion to God, family prayers and the family's closeness to the parish priest are also depicted in the movie. Although the hero Mathew is a left-wing fellow traveller, he is shown as a believer in God.
Alternative sexual orientation and activists
The influence of some of the ideas that are propagated today in various ways under the label of progressive thoughts, is evident in the film. There are organisations and activists all over the world who are working hard to promote LGBTQIA+ ideas and work for alternative sexual rights. Although such campaigns are not so prevalent in the general society in Kerala, there are frequent campaigns centred on educational institutions. Ideas focusing on homosexuality are often used by self-proclaimed progressives as arguments to proclaim themselves as votaries of progressive ideas.
It was a few weeks ago that India's Supreme Court was approached for legalising same-sex marriage, following the example in some foreign countries. However, the court rejected the request. The Central government has also taken the stand that same sex marriage is not compatible with Indian culture and the concept of marriage. Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code, which criminalised unnatural sex, was declared unconstitutional by the Constitution Bench of the Supreme Court in 2018. It was only after this development that claims for homosexual rights began to emerge in mainstream society. There are references in the movie 'Kaathal - The Core' to IPC 377 that was struck down by the Supreme Court. In the film, it has been described as a proud and progressive move
Left wing progressive politics
The plot of the film is told by associating the 'progressive' idea of homosexuality with left wing political ideology. While everyone else in the film views homosexuality with disdain, the left wing political leadership supports the hero. The basic idea that the film seeks to convey is the success and 'glory' of that stand. It may not be a coincidence that the film puts forward the idea that the left wing in Kerala are supporters of homosexuals at a time when misguided and unnatural propaganda on sexuality is being carried on by left wing student movements in educational institutions.
It can be justifiably suspected that the makers of the film had the intention of challenging the moral values strongly advocated at all times by the Catholic Church. The first reason is that Catholic family and church settings were chosen as the setting for the film. Although a religious background was not a necessity for the concept presented by the film, it cannot be assumed that such a family was chosen without purpose. A Catholic priest who thinks 'progressively' is also a character in the film. It can be assumed that a family belonging to the Catholic community that rejects homosexuality was chosen as the characters, with the aim of indirectly establishing that the position of the Church in this regard is wrong.
Another aspect of this film is the new generation members who are not believers in God. The daughter of devout Mathew and Omana is a college student who does not like to attend church, and as a 'progressive' thinker, supports her father’s homosexuality. A mother attending church with her son whom she persuades to come along by promising to serve him 'tapioca and pork curry' when they return home, and the son who is a little boy, appear as characters.
One wonders whether the church services attended by only a few people, the festival processions of no more than 50 people etc., are part of cost-cutting efforts or the director's 'brilliance' in order to present the vulnerability of the faithful. The broad-mindedness of Omana, a devout believer who understands her husband's homosexuality and 'lovingly' lets him do as he wishes is also part of the film.
It is clear that there is a conscious effort behind the film to bring up an issue which is not a topic of wide discussion in the mainstream of Kerala. Although the film does not have a canvas larger than the director's previous film 'Great Indian Kitchen', in which Suraj and Nimisha Sajayan played the leads, there is clearly another brilliant stroke of the director in casting two of India's finest artists as the lead actors. The presence of the Mammootty-Jyothika duo enabled the film to be released across screens ten-fold and also helped to fill the theatres with viewers.
The Church is of the opinion that alternative sex-oriented persons should be treated with compassion. Neither the Christian community nor any morally conscious person can support the outrageous claims and interventions by sexual anarchists. However, we cannot agree with the basic ideas purveyed by the film which often lays overemphasis on sex, instead of adapting the mature approach of viewing sexual orientations and sexual instincts as two different issues. The act of misusing the background of the Christian faith for such propaganda is highly objectionable.