Day 2. The fight is stronger, so is the resolve of the women who announce to the world that whatever happens, they are ‘with her’. A day after four woman actors quit the Association of Malayalam Movie Artists (AMMA), acts of solidarity and supportive messages follow. Following an open letter issued by the Women in Cinema Collective (WCC), many have broken their silence. While many actors chose to remain anonymous, many fearlessly voiced their opinion, both for and against the recent acts. The public too is quick to take sides with posters, messages, profile photos and hashtag campaigns. In a hyper-realistic never-before-seen cinematic experience, the whole world seems to be part of one big movie with drama, stunts, punch lines and the ultimate show of camaraderie by the leading ladies.
‘We have the right to know about it’
Actor Padmapriya, a member of WCC and one among the three women to write an official letter on behalf of WCC to AMMA seeking clarification regarding the organisation’s quick move to reinstate actor Dileep, says they believe it is their right to know the reasons behind such a quick action. “The decision was taken in an extreme haste, that too in an unbalanced manner. Both (survivor and accused) are members of the organisation. Then why there is a change in bylaws for that particular person?” she asks. “We have the right to know about it. As said in the official letter, we want AMMA to review its decision.”
The team, in its letter, has sought elucidation in four matters — the expelled member’s reinstatement and the implications of AMMA’s decision, the steps taken by AMMA to support the survivor, how AMMA’s bylaws are structured to ensure welfare of all its members, and what AMMA can do to make women feel more included and safe. “We would like to have a face-to-face discussion with them,” says Padmapriya and adds, “We are waiting for their response.” They are ready to give AMMA a few days to revert and conduct the meeting. “Organising a meeting is not an easy task. At least a few days will be required to do that. We are in touch with them.”
An AMMA member, who doesn’t want to be named, comments that this ‘revolt’ is something that could be ignored. “There is no need to unnecessarily highlight the matters discussed in AMMA, which is just a family group and has no role in the social/political decision-making process,” feels the Kochi-based actor, who is known for his supporting roles. He also stresses that Dileep was technically not ousted from the AMMA.
“A year ago, when seven actors, forming an ‘available executive’, made an announcement before the media that Dileep was no longer part of the organisation, it was a minority decision. Soon after that, an executive committee meeting, including 12 of the 15 members, was convened in which the members chose to freeze the decision. It was made public only when the next general body meeting — the recent one — was convened. Earlier, when such decisions were made, a long procedure was followed, but in Dileep’s case, none of those were followed and therefore, it was an invalid decision. The accused hadn’t even received a show-cause notice to which he had to respond,” he says.
Claiming to be a close family friend of Prithviraj, he says, “During the meeting last year, Prithvi was very emotional while reacting to the incidents. He kept on stressing that Dileep should be ousted. But now I think he has realised his mistake about the technically impossible ouster and that’s why he must have stayed out of the recent general body meeting.”
‘Unnikrishnan is with the accused’
Director Aashiq Abu has been one among those who had to face the wrath of the ‘fans of superstars’ for his bold stance of supporting the survivor. Yesterday, he put a post on Facebook detailing how the industry tries to suppress courageous voices, especially those of women, which question misogyny and demand justice. “The basic principle of terrorism is to spread fear in society by destroying opposing voices. What has been happening in the Malayalam film industry for some time too is the same,” reads his post. He goes on to say how it is executed through threats and attacks, both physical and cyber. These attackers create a frightening atmosphere, form fans associations that eventually turn into goons exploiting people’s love for cinema and silencing the opposing voices, especially women through them.
“They get the courage to assault a popular woman actor who has been active in Malayalam and other south Indian film industries since 2002 because they know these criminal gangs would do anything for them and also because they have money and power. They exploit our people’s love towards cinema to do all these evil acts,” he says and points out how actor Mammootty kept mum when Parvathy was attacked for airing her opinion. He says it continues even now. They attack the cinemas of those who stand with the survivor and voice their opinions. He also talks about how others are afraid of associating with these artistes. “Two movies of Parvathy with Prithviraj are about to release. Those who have worked behind these projects are under pressure,” he cites. He also talks about the silence of organisations like FEFKA. “B. Unnikrishnan, a leftist and leader of FEFKA, is with the accused actor. A union that is meant to act unbiased has clearly revealed its stance,” ends the director exhorting a political intervention.
‘Being a director, I don’t think I should comment about the decision AMMA has taken as it is an association of actors. However, I can talk about the association I belong to. As a member of FEFKA, I am supposed to abide by the decision the association has taken. It had expelled the actor last year itself when he was identified as an accused in the actress assault case. To my knowledge, there has not been any change in that decision till date’ —B. Unnikrishnan
‘WCC members should have attended AMMA meet’
Another member of AMMA, who was present at the general body meeting and prefers to remain anonymous, too airs his opinion. “I was sitting somewhere in the back when the meeting commenced. Urmila Unni made a statement that was applauded by some and then passed by the executive committee members,” recalls the actor, who has been in the industry for some time and has shared screen space with the superstars as well the younger generation Turks. “Right or wrong aside, what I want to ask the WCC members is why they did not attend the AMMA meeting and then when the question was raised by Urmila, oppose it or voice their opinion? That would have been a more democratic way of getting their collective voices heard and there might have been some hands raised in their favour. If they were not happy with a decision, they had all the freedom to walk away but not before stating their stand and at least having the satisfaction of knowing they did not keep silent at the meeting. They could have walked away with their heads held high after voicing their stand.
”While the actor mentions that his sympathy is with the survivor, he states this should not be a decision taken just to support a friend and colleague. He asks, “The WCC was formed a year ago but has the collective ever done anything to financially help the ailing actors or poverty-stricken woman members? Is that also not a part of their obligations other than making just the assaulted actor their single point agenda?”...