In a recent development, the President of AMMA, Mohanlal released a statement to the press, on Monday, 9th July 2018, saying that that there was no question of bringing Dileep back since he himself had opted to stay away from the functionings of AMMA. In a letter to the association’s general secretary, Dileep said: “I came to came to know about the organization’s decision to reinstate me through media reports. While I thank my colleagues and office bearers of the association, I have decided to distance myself from any organisation until I prove my innocence. I feel sorry that the organisation is being targeted for being linked with me.”
In all likelihood, this action of Dileep and the AMMA President is nothing but a tactic to save face, following the barrage of criticism that the Association was receiving. The initial decision to reinstate a rape accused prior to the Court’s judgement itself displays the Malayalam film industry’s internalized sexism.
A film association which was established following Mollywood actor Siddique being attacked by a producer, has failed its female members, and the whole nation, for that matter. Association of Malayalam Movie Artistes (AMMA) reeks of misogyny. By reinstating the rape accused, Actor Dileep into its General Body, AMMA has proved, once again, that amidst the time consuming judicial process of our nation, it can get very difficult for a victim to lead a normal life, because her offender will indulge in all sorts of delaying tactics, as seen clearly in the case in question, and will be ultimately given his power and position back.
The recent sensationalized case concerning actor Dileep, AMMA and a Mollywood actress serves as a classic example of male privilege in a country where it is already difficult to be a woman and remain in the film industry, given the constant sexism, unequal pay and objectification.
In February 2017, a Malayali actress was taken hostage in her own car, on her way back to Kochi from Thrissur, kept in captivity for at least one and half hour, and assaulted. The prime accused Pulsar Soni also took videos and clicked images. The same images are a pivotal evidence in the case proceedings, and the access to the same has been given to actor Dileep, the eighth accused in the case, and Pulsar Soni.
The actress filed a complaint with AMMA against Dileep to ensure that he did not get work in the industry, and following a heated discussion of the AMMA at actor Mammooty’s residence last year in July, the organisation decided to remove Dileep.
Last week, AMMA took the rape-accused actor back into its fold last week. However, recent reports suggest that the decision to reinstate Dileep was taken months ago, in an ‘executive meeting’ held after the initial meeting at Mammooty’s residence last year, citing lack of legal validity for his expulsion. Whether or not legal validity is the reason behind the decision is hardly debatable, given the fact that Dileep’s union, Film Exhibitors United Organization of Kerala (FEUOK) had taken him back immediately after he was granted bail. The police had presented 413 documents, including forensic reports along with the charge sheet. More than 50 people from the industry are witnesses, and confidential statements of 33 persons have been recorded.
The flak that people are laying on AMMA will not be enough in establishing justice though. No male member of AMMA has been seen voicing strong stance on the matter. In contrast, four women from the Women in Cinema Collective (WCC), Rima Kallingal, Ramya Nambessan, Geetu Mohandas and the survivor resigned from AMMA. Actresses Parvathy, Padmapriya and Revathy have written letters to AMMA expressing their disappointment with the organisation. These women are essentially the only ones fighting against the overflowing misogyny in the Malayali film industry, and have not found substantial backing from an of their male counterparts.
The same industry whose members are prime witnesses in the case, has turned its back on the actress by taking Dileep back into an organisation which was aimed at acting as arbitrators in disputes concerning the “general welfare” of its members with other associations.
A woman’s safety and respect does not seem to be general welfare, in the opinion of actor-MLA Ganesh Kumar, who also happens to be the Vice President of AMMA. An audio clip has been leaked where Kumar can be heard ridiculing the whole situation, and calling the four women who have resigned from AMMA “troublemakers”. According to the MLA, in a clip sent to the AMMA General Secretary, Idavela Babu, the ‘controversy will die down’ and ‘one should remain silent’.
An organisation with publicly elected politicians in key positions, and its silence over the issue on gender based violence shows how the mainstream Indian businesses are weighted towards the comfort of men of higher classes, and every step that these organisations take, or statements they issue, are in accordance with their comfort and privilege.
Ganesh Kumar, in a press release last year, had said that AMMA is a transparent organization and strong action will be taken in the matter. The MLA in another statement recently has said, “We should stand by Dileep. We should understand the pain of his wife, daughter and mother.” It is a hypocritical thing to say, because Dileep’s ex wife, actress Manju Warrier did not find any such backing when she raised the first issue of a conspiracy behind the incident. Warrier, who is close friends with the survivor, gave her statement to the police last year itself.
The key reason behind Dileep conspiring an attack against the actress is allegedly the fact that she supported his ex-wife during their separation and hence, ’caused their estrangement’.
Women in Cinema Collective (WCC) has received support from Women Film Practitioners who have condemned the disregard that AMMA has shown towards its own member.
The politicians who are a part of AMMA have been petitioned to step down in a letter signed by over hundred actors and technicians of the Malayali film industry.
The CPI(M) deciding not to seek an explanation from any of its members reflects on the fact that democracy fails to be gender inclusive in our country. In a situation where an MLA comments on the resignation of 4 women as ‘ridiculous’, the cavalier attitude by male artistes against women who are working alongside them is evident.
This industry has gender discrimination brimming to the surface – on one hand, an actor being attacked by a producer acts as the foundation of a redressal mechanism (AMMA’s origin story); while on the other hand the same organisation has failed to put a woman’s assault on the list of its priorities. The members of WCC, who are fighting the battle alone, only prove that the women’s rights movement will probably never find the adequate male support, no matter how many of them are allies. What’s good is, we don’t need it anymore.