This post has been self-published on Youth Ki Awaaz by Karthika S Nair. Just like them, anyone can publish on Youth Ki Awaaz.

Actor Mohanlal’s Recent Press Conference Reflects Male Privilege At Its Best

More from Karthika S Nair

I have always been an admirer of actor Mohanlal. I grew up watching his films and most of my favourite Malayalam movies have him in the lead role. Being such a big fan, I am disappointed to hear his thoughts in a press conference a couple of days ago in response to the AMMA-WCC-Dileep issue.

Actor Dileep, who was arrested for orchestrating the abduction and molestation of a Malayalam actress, was accepted back to AMMA (Association of Malayalam Movie Artists) after being released. Actor Mohanlal, who is the currently the elected president of AMMA broke his silence days after the incident. He started his press conference with the usual “I was out of station didn’t know what was happening” and then he resorted to “Ask me anything, I will answer“. Just as I expected, most of his arguments which only reflected AMMA’s agenda to take Dileep back. WCC (Women in Cinema Collective), Kannada industry and various other sections have been calling AMMA out for this decision. Above all, Mohanlal’s arguments only enhanced male privilege, something he has the pleasure of experiencing due to his gender and caste.

Mohanlal Denies The Existence Of Male Dominance In Malayalam Cinema

First of all, when asked about male dominance within the Malayalam industry, he went on to deny its existence“There is no male domination in Malayalam industry, I have never noticed it. As a man at the top, it is easy for the actor to not notice it. He earned the place he has with his talent but what the gentleman doesn’t realize is that it has been far easier for him as opposed to actresses who are forced to give up their career post marriage or denied mainstream roles. Even at the age of 58, he still gets the same kind of roles and stars next to actresses who are young enough to be his daughter. And as a woman, bringing this issue up might attract the wrath of “fanboys“.

That’s the privilege men get to experience in a patriarchal society. This is rather disappointing because, over the past few days, more and more women from the industry have been coming out to speak about the harassment they’ve faced. Recently, a TV actress said that she had been unfairly dropped from the lead role in a popular TV serial because she rejected the advances of the show’s director. Then, over 100 female actors and technicians spoke out against male domination in Malayalam cinema. Actress Bhavana, in an interview last year, candidly spoke, “Actresses are given limited roles. I have been part of superhit films yet I have never benefited from it career-wise or financially. Actresses could be replaced easily unlike actors who are at the centre of the story and revenue generation.”

Most films are written keeping the men in focus, women rarely get space. When actress Rima Kallingal spoke about it in a TED talk, she used a “fish fry” metaphor to talk about the mainstream audience’s selective outrage and trolling.

The denial of women’s voice in the industry has been reconfirmed by an audio clip of Ganesh Kumar, VP of AMMA and communist MLA, where he said that “These actresses are not even active currently. Who cares?” He further added that they are always trouble makers. Mohanlal simply laughed off that detail in this press conference.

Actor Remya Nambeesan reiterated in an interview that one of the reasons why she is not active and not getting enough projects is that she asked for a salary hike. “Women can’t survive unless they resort and adjust to patriarchal standards,” she said. If you look at the number of Malayalam films, they are occupied by men, women are just love interests or a source of motivation. Apart from Parvathy and Manju Warrier, women barely get their space. So when a powerful person like Mohanlal simply denies the existence of male dominance, then it adds fuel to patriarchal norms, just like how Mammootty’s silence affected the cyber trolling faced by both Parvathy and Asha Rajan last year.

About Dileep’s Reinstatement

Actor Mohanlal added that when the decision regarding Dileep was taken, none of the members opposed. He also (indirectly) blamed the absence of WCC. Personally, I agree that WCC members should have been there and they should have fought for a better place on AMMA. Actress Remya Nambeesan who resigned from AMMA conceded to the fact as well. “Maybe it was wrong of us to be absent in those meetings. We should have been there we should have raised our voice.

Mohanlal went on to say that AMMA is a great organisation which has been doing a lot of charity work for struggling actors and did a lot to help poor people. He claimed that there is no other organisation like AMMA.

However, his remarks make me ask one question. If AMMA is such a great organisation with stupendous reputation, did they have to be reminded by WCC or other women regarding the ill effects of bringing back someone who is accused of a heinous crime? Isn’t that expected from a reputed organisation? Maybe AMMA’s by-laws claim that removing someone hastily is wrong but as per the Sexual Harassment of Women At Workplace Act, 2013the actress should be given priority.

Dileep was not arrested until there was irrefutable proof. Several members of the industry even claimed that Dileep had a grudge against the actress. Keeping in mind these allegations and the fact that he is yet to be cleared of charges legally, it is highly irresponsible for AMMA to decide in his favour. I also felt that in the conference, Mohanlal tried to shift the blame on the actress survivor and her lack of participation, especially when he claimed that she never gave him a written complaint about Dileep blocking her film offers like she alleged. “If the others have plans to come back, I would like to remind them that they cannot go and come just like that. There will be a general body meeting where they have express the reasons.

Lack Of Women’s Involvement In The General Body

What I felt was that Mohanlal deliberately tried to vilify the women involved, making them look like they didn’t follow the rules or co-operate with AMMA. It is a typical move to wash his hands off all charges as opposed to hold oneself accountable. Also, in the end, in a massive WTF moment, when he was asked who he supports, Mohanlal replied, “I am with the actress survivor but I also pray for Dileep,” showing that he batting for both sides.

You must be to comment.

More from Karthika S Nair

Similar Posts

By Mallika Khosla

By Prabhanu Kumar Das

By Charkha features

Wondering what to write about?

Here are some topics to get you started

Share your details to download the report.









We promise not to spam or send irrelevant information.

Share your details to download the report.









We promise not to spam or send irrelevant information.

An ambassador and trained facilitator under Eco Femme (a social enterprise working towards menstrual health in south India), Sanjina is also an active member of the MHM Collective- India and Menstrual Health Alliance- India. She has conducted Menstrual Health sessions in multiple government schools adopted by Rotary District 3240 as part of their WinS project in rural Bengal. She has also delivered training of trainers on SRHR, gender, sexuality and Menstruation for Tomorrow’s Foundation, Vikramshila Education Resource Society, Nirdhan trust and Micro Finance, Tollygunj Women In Need, Paint It Red in Kolkata.

Now as an MH Fellow with YKA, she’s expanding her impressive scope of work further by launching a campaign to facilitate the process of ensuring better menstrual health and SRH services for women residing in correctional homes in West Bengal. The campaign will entail an independent study to take stalk of the present conditions of MHM in correctional homes across the state and use its findings to build public support and political will to take the necessary action.

Saurabh has been associated with YKA as a user and has consistently been writing on the issue MHM and its intersectionality with other issues in the society. Now as an MHM Fellow with YKA, he’s launched the Right to Period campaign, which aims to ensure proper execution of MHM guidelines in Delhi’s schools.

The long-term aim of the campaign is to develop an open culture where menstruation is not treated as a taboo. The campaign also seeks to hold the schools accountable for their responsibilities as an important component in the implementation of MHM policies by making adequate sanitation infrastructure and knowledge of MHM available in school premises.

Read more about his campaign.

Harshita is a psychologist and works to support people with mental health issues, particularly adolescents who are survivors of violence. Associated with the Azadi Foundation in UP, Harshita became an MHM Fellow with YKA, with the aim of promoting better menstrual health.

Her campaign #MeriMarzi aims to promote menstrual health and wellness, hygiene and facilities for female sex workers in UP. She says, “Knowledge about natural body processes is a very basic human right. And for individuals whose occupation is providing sexual services, it becomes even more important.”

Meri Marzi aims to ensure sensitised, non-discriminatory health workers for the needs of female sex workers in the Suraksha Clinics under the UPSACS (Uttar Pradesh State AIDS Control Society) program by creating more dialogues and garnering public support for the cause of sex workers’ menstrual rights. The campaign will also ensure interventions with sex workers to clear misconceptions around overall hygiene management to ensure that results flow both ways.

Read more about her campaign.

MH Fellow Sabna comes with significant experience working with a range of development issues. A co-founder of Project Sakhi Saheli, which aims to combat period poverty and break menstrual taboos, Sabna has, in the past, worked on the issue of menstruation in urban slums of Delhi with women and adolescent girls. She and her team also released MenstraBook, with menstrastories and organised Menstra Tlk in the Delhi School of Social Work to create more conversations on menstruation.

With YKA MHM Fellow Vineet, Sabna launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society. As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Read more about her campaign. 

A student from Delhi School of Social work, Vineet is a part of Project Sakhi Saheli, an initiative by the students of Delhi school of Social Work to create awareness on Menstrual Health and combat Period Poverty. Along with MHM Action Fellow Sabna, Vineet launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society.

As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Find out more about the campaign here.

A native of Bhagalpur district – Bihar, Shalini Jha believes in equal rights for all genders and wants to work for a gender-equal and just society. In the past she’s had a year-long association as a community leader with Haiyya: Organise for Action’s Health Over Stigma campaign. She’s pursuing a Master’s in Literature with Ambedkar University, Delhi and as an MHM Fellow with YKA, recently launched ‘Project अल्हड़ (Alharh)’.

She says, “Bihar is ranked the lowest in India’s SDG Index 2019 for India. Hygienic and comfortable menstruation is a basic human right and sustainable development cannot be ensured if menstruators are deprived of their basic rights.” Project अल्हड़ (Alharh) aims to create a robust sensitised community in Bhagalpur to collectively spread awareness, break the taboo, debunk myths and initiate fearless conversations around menstruation. The campaign aims to reach at least 6000 adolescent girls from government and private schools in Baghalpur district in 2020.

Read more about the campaign here.

A psychologist and co-founder of a mental health NGO called Customize Cognition, Ritika forayed into the space of menstrual health and hygiene, sexual and reproductive healthcare and rights and gender equality as an MHM Fellow with YKA. She says, “The experience of working on MHM/SRHR and gender equality has been an enriching and eye-opening experience. I have learned what’s beneath the surface of the issue, be it awareness, lack of resources or disregard for trans men, who also menstruate.”

The Transmen-ses campaign aims to tackle the issue of silence and disregard for trans men’s menstruation needs, by mobilising gender sensitive health professionals and gender neutral restrooms in Lucknow.

Read more about the campaign here.

A Computer Science engineer by education, Nitisha started her career in the corporate sector, before realising she wanted to work in the development and social justice space. Since then, she has worked with Teach For India and Care India and is from the founding batch of Indian School of Development Management (ISDM), a one of its kind organisation creating leaders for the development sector through its experiential learning post graduate program.

As a Youth Ki Awaaz Menstrual Health Fellow, Nitisha has started Let’s Talk Period, a campaign to mobilise young people to switch to sustainable period products. She says, “80 lakh women in Delhi use non-biodegradable sanitary products, generate 3000 tonnes of menstrual waste, that takes 500-800 years to decompose; which in turn contributes to the health issues of all menstruators, increased burden of waste management on the city and harmful living environment for all citizens.

Let’s Talk Period aims to change this by

Find out more about her campaign here.

Share your details to download the report.









We promise not to spam or send irrelevant information.

A former Assistant Secretary with the Ministry of Women and Child Development in West Bengal for three months, Lakshmi Bhavya has been championing the cause of menstrual hygiene in her district. By associating herself with the Lalana Campaign, a holistic menstrual hygiene awareness campaign which is conducted by the Anahat NGO, Lakshmi has been slowly breaking taboos when it comes to periods and menstrual hygiene.

A Gender Rights Activist working with the tribal and marginalized communities in india, Srilekha is a PhD scholar working on understanding body and sexuality among tribal girls, to fill the gaps in research around indigenous women and their stories. Srilekha has worked extensively at the grassroots level with community based organisations, through several advocacy initiatives around Gender, Mental Health, Menstrual Hygiene and Sexual and Reproductive Health Rights (SRHR) for the indigenous in Jharkhand, over the last 6 years.

Srilekha has also contributed to sustainable livelihood projects and legal aid programs for survivors of sex trafficking. She has been conducting research based programs on maternal health, mental health, gender based violence, sex and sexuality. Her interest lies in conducting workshops for young people on life skills, feminism, gender and sexuality, trauma, resilience and interpersonal relationships.

A Guwahati-based college student pursuing her Masters in Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Bidisha started the #BleedwithDignity campaign on the technology platform Change.org, demanding that the Government of Assam install
biodegradable sanitary pad vending machines in all government schools across the state. Her petition on Change.org has already gathered support from over 90000 people and continues to grow.

Bidisha was selected in Change.org’s flagship program ‘She Creates Change’ having run successful online advocacy
campaigns, which were widely recognised. Through the #BleedwithDignity campaign; she organised and celebrated World Menstrual Hygiene Day, 2019 in Guwahati, Assam by hosting a wall mural by collaborating with local organisations. The initiative was widely covered by national and local media, and the mural was later inaugurated by the event’s chief guest Commissioner of Guwahati Municipal Corporation (GMC) Debeswar Malakar, IAS.

Sign up for the Youth Ki Awaaz Prime Ministerial Brief below