Over the past year, I have witnessed the flagbearers of the Malayali community vehemently reject #metoo and #timesup. It started with the silence and blame-game over the cyberbullying faced by actress Parvathy for having an opinion on a film which propagated malevolent misogyny.
Recently, the views of the Association of Malayalam Movie Artistes (AMMA) were reflected in a comedy skit, where they made fun of the Women in Cinema Collective (WICC) and feminism. Finally, we saw the ultimate sign of disrespect when AMMA decided to revoke actor Dileep’s suspension. “Even though Dileep could have approached the court against the association’s action, it was good that he did not do so. If he had moved legally against his removal, the story would have been different,” said actor Siddique. According to general secretary Edavela Babu, only Urmila Unni, ironically, had the courage to bring this issue up.
Senior Congress MLA PT Thomas said, “It is now very clear that only a handful of the artistes were genuinely with the victim. Those leading lights who took part in the protest meetings held the next day of the kidnap attempt in Kochi, were only shedding crocodile tears.”
The WCC gave out a statement questioning the decision. Actress Rima Kallingal, one of the founding members of WCC, said, “Everybody is asking why we did not ask these questions at the AMMA meet. There are two reasons. One, it’s going to be one year after the Malayalam actor assault case during which we have been initiating discussions on the issue with AMMA in many ways. We all saw how AMMA, during a show (AMMA Mazhavillu), which was organised collectively by everyone, reacted to our questions on a public platform […] Just look at why WCC as an organisation was even formed. What was the need for the formation of this space? Because things were not happening there (in AMMA).”
Rima further emphasised, “Considering a crime accused who has spent 3 months in jail, who is an accused in the case and who has been denied bail two times, is being welcomed back into the organisation. And considering that the survivor, too, is a part of the organisation. Taking into account (AMMA) has very clearly stated who it sides with, they should convince all its members, including me and a Padmapriya and a Parvathi and a Revathi (all members of WCC) and the survivor herself, why we still must be a part of AMMA. We feel we don’t have to remain in AMMA if they do not convince us.”
The actress assaulted in the case last year also gave a statement via the Women in Cinema Collective’s FB page. She mentioned that she was leaving AMMA. “I am making this decision not only because he is one of the accused in the attack against me. I have reported to AMMA earlier that he has been blocking the oppurtunities that came my way and they didn’t take the necessary action. I can’t be in the same organisation that has the accused actor,” she said.
Expressing solidarity with the actress, Remya Nambeesan, Geetu Mohandas and Rima Kallingal gave up their memberships.
The case against Dileep is still under way in the court – and the fact that the organisation disregarded that by bringing him back is callous towards the individual who was molested and intimidated. Personally speaking, in this case, I have noticed a shift in the perspective to the point that it is now less about the survivor and more about Dileep. The fact that only the survivor and a few actresses have brought up this issue reflects the heights of insensitivity shown by the organisation.
The film industry in India is highly patriarchal – and the relevance of this issue revolves around the influence of superstars. We have seen Salman Khan escape being punished for the crimes he has allegedly committed. Similarly, Dileep also has influence over Malayalam cinema which raises the fear that he may escape
While the organisation decided to show leniency towards Dileep, it raises another question. Why didn’t they extend the same hand to actor Thilakan? Apparently, Thilakan was expelled from AMMA because of his views and the directors he chose to work with. He was expelled for life. Yet, consideration is shown to a man who is currently embroiled in a criminal case.