May 28, 2023

Ennu Swantham Sreedharan, the Real Kerala Story

Mahesh Kumar

THERE is much debate in the media about the recently released feature film 'The Kerala Story', which falsely claims that 32,000 women from Kerala were forcefully converted from Hinduism to Islam and are buried in Syria and Yemen. 

The 138-minute film weaponises shreds of reality to create a false narrative on why a handful of Indians joined the embraced Islam.

Kasargod and Malappuram in Kerala have been unjustly portrayed as dangerous recruitment places for the Islamic faith. 

Showcasing their utter lack of creativity, the filmmakers show the ringtone of the main character, Asifa's phone, to be ‘Allah’, and as if having such a ringtone is something to be suspicious about or an act of crime itself. 

The film propagates Islamophobia. 

Busting this false propaganda, the Safdar Hashmi Memorial Trust (SAHMAT) and Jansanskriti recently organised the screening of a film Ennu Swantham Sreedharan (Yours Truly, Sreedharan), directed by Siddik Paravoor, at Jawahar Bhawan, New Delhi. 

Hundreds came to watch the film, which spreads the message of love and brotherhood. 

Ennu Swantham Sreedharan revolves around three Hindu children who grew up in a Muslim family after their mother's untimely death.


Unlike the Kerala Story, Ennu Swantham Sreedharan is a beautiful feature film based on the real-life of Zubeidaa and Abdul Aziz Haji, a Muslim couple from Kalikavu village of Neelambur in the Malappuram district of Kerala, who cared for the three children of their Hindu domestic help Chakki and raised them as Hindus.

Zubeidaa passed away in July 2019 due to a kidney ailment, and two years later, her husband, Aziz Haji also passed away. 

This heart-warming tale of a family has now been brought to the silver screen by filmmaker Siddik Paravoor through Ennu Swantham Sreedharan, which is based on the narrative of the youngest of the three children of Chakki. It premiered on January 9 at Edapalli's Vanitha Theatre.

During a media interview, Paravoor spoke about how he first learned of this story in July 2019 when Sreedharan posted on Facebook about the unfortunate demise of his 'umma' (mother in Malayalam). 

The revelation sparked curiosity and doubts about how a Hindu could refer to his mother as 'umma.' 

Sreedharan eloquently explained that his bond with his adoptive Muslim parents transcended religious labels. He emphasised that love and togetherness should prevail over religious divisions and that this heart-warming story of unity was the “true essence” of Kerala. 

Sreedharan told the film's writer, “Umma and Uppa (mother and father) had three children of their own, including Joshina, born a few years after he and his siblings took refuge in their home. “But we never felt that we were different or belonged to any other religion. It is the only house that felt like my own. I had also heard from elders that umma used to breastfeed me and Jafar together."

Sreedharan's life story shared on his Facebook post was aimed to inform people that the story of love and togetherness is the “real story of Kerala”. Such instances of communal harmony occur every day in the state.

Sreedharan once asked his umma and uppa why they did not convert him and his sisters to Islam. Hearing this, the parents became a little concerned. “Umma and Uppa asked me if anyone had said anything wrong. When I told them there was nothing like that, they explained that we should not let religion define anyone. Uppa said that all religions preached the same thing: to love and help people, and pointed out that human beings misinterpret religion and its teachings.”

Umma also taught us that it doesn't matter what one's religion is. My sisters and I used to go to the temple and apply sandalwood paste on our foreheads. It didn't matter to umma. They just wanted us not to lie, steal or hurt others. And we also made it a point that we never did anything that would hurt her reputation," he said.

Sreedharan also knows that if Zubeidaa had not adopted him and his sisters, their lives would have been very different, especially considering their family's caste background. 

“We belong to the lower caste. Growing up, people expected us to be subservient. This was the culture of that time. But uppa and umma taught us against this and allowed us to live in a harmonious family. Umma told us that we should not bow down to anyone unnecessarily,” he said.

Film director Siddik remembers being taken aback when he heard Zubeidaa’s heartwarming story after reaching her village. Everyone in her village, Kalikavu, knew and loved her. She spent her ancestral wealth not on herself but on helping the underprivileged community. Zubeidaa used to buy clothes and jewellery for Sreedharan and his sisters. She had around 12 acres of land, which she donated to the needy. She even took a loan to help the poor people. When she died, she was in debt of around Rs 28 lakh. Later, her elder son repaid this loan.

Siddik explains, “It was Aziz Haji himself who took the first shot of the camera. They were all happy that more and more people would now know about Zubeidaa and the philanthropist that she was. Unfortunately, Aziz Haji died a year later during the COVID-19 pandemic.”

Director Siddik says, "People are inherently good. But sometimes, we need stories like these to remind us of their goodness. In this climate of hate and misinformation, Zubeidaa deserves to be remembered, and her story must be told.”