The #MeToo movement which exploded in all spaces, across India, is fast outing the so-called “gentlemen” in the Malayalam film industry, Mollywood, too. The vice president of the Association of Malayalam Movie Artistes (AMMA), actor Mukesh, was called out last week by Tess Joseph, the casting director of Kodeeswaran TV show, for sexually harassing her at the workplace 19 years ago.
Though Mukesh feigned ignorance to Joseph’s allegation, there’s more trouble coming Mukesh’s way. Apparently, according to the Women in Cinema Collective (WCC) at a press conference held at Kochi, there has been one more complaint against actor Mukesh and CPM MLA from Kollam. WCC hoped that AMMA would take action but more than that they expected the government to act.
The feisty, Female 22 Kottayam actress, Rima Kallingal pointed out, “AMMA would be too busy shielding actor Dileep to take action against Mukesh.” In the backdrop of the CPM politburo asking the central minister of state for external affairs, M J Akbar, to step down after over ten women accused him of sexual misconduct in the workspace it would be interesting to know how the CPM deals with allegations of a similar kind against its own MLAs.
CPIM Politburo demands MJ Akbar Should Resign!— CPI (M) (@cpimspeak) October 11, 2018
7 women journalists have come forward recounting their experience of sexual harassment from M J Akbar. Since these are serious charges, he should immediately resign from office.https://t.co/y7M3qKTAkd
However, WCC’s main grievance was against AMMA. It was clearly unhappy about the benign attitude adopted by AMMA towards actor Dileep, accused of allegedly masterminding the abduction and rape of a young fellow actor in a moving vehicle on February 17, 2017. Though he was expelled from the guild last year, under the stewardship of actor Mohanlal, the guild has been brazenly attempting to reinstate him into AMMA since July.
In a direct attack against superstar Mohanlal, director and actor Revathy, member of the WCC, said, “I think we need responsible people to head AMMA who can make decisions with sensitivity and can think about everyone’s good.”
The WCC pointed out that in the last one week the repercussions of the #MeToo movement were felt across all spaces in India and even in Bollywood but AMMA had failed to do anything for the rape survivor. The survivor had resigned from AMMA soon after the incident.
“At the national level, in response to the #MeToo campaign they are taking very clear steps in the past one week. Aamir Khan Kiran Rao production has decided to remove the director from their film, the films of Rajat Kapoor have been dropped from the MAMI film festival, AIB, one of the most celebrated stand-up comedy groups has been dropped by Amazon in its second season, Sajid Khan has been dropped as the Housefull director and Phantom production house has been dissolved,” said Kallingal.
While in progressive Kerala, in the worst form of misogyny, films have been announced with the accused Dileep in the lead role and, in what seems to be like rubbing salt into the survivor’s wounds, AMMA has been trying to reverse the expulsion of Dileep time and again.
AMMA had expelled Dileep soon after he was arrested last year and though the trial is going on and he has yet to be exonerated of charges AMMA had quietly reinstated Dileep, who is now out on bail, into the guild in July this year. This was after superstar Mohanlal took over as president of AMMA. In protest, three actresses of WCC had resigned from AMMA and a very sheepish Dileep had followed suit but AMMA’s foremost agenda seems to get Dileep back on board at all costs.
WCC’s raison d’etre was to lend support to the survivor and to clean up the film industry but a year and half later they are still battling AMMA’s misogynistic moves which are clearly inimical to the survivor. WCC at the press meet went on the offensive: it wanted AMMA, the only organisation for film actors in the industry, to change its attitude towards the survivor and to other actresses. They pleaded that they didn’t want to be afraid when they go to the workplace.