Reprehensible display of patriarchy

A dark chapter in Kerala film industry’s history opens with the response to the abduction and rape of Malayalam film actress, explains P. Sreekumaran.

It was an utterly disgraceful display of patriarchal attitude. The shocked people of Kerala were treated to a malevolent manifestation of entrenched patriarchy by the Association of Malayalam Movie Artistes (AMMA). The event under scrutiny is the general body meeting of AMMA held recently against the backdrop of the ongoing investigations into the actress abduction and rape case. That the meeting failed to even discuss the case, which traumatised Keralites is bad enough. Worse was the unseemly hurry to protect the suspects against whom a probe is on. A most reprehensible case of dereliction of duty it was. No wonder, AMMA's apathy to the actress drew widespread criticism.

The least the office-bearers could have – and should have – done was to pass a strongly-worded resolution expressing solidarity with and offering full support to the actress in her darkest hour. They should also have condemned the derogatory remarks a few male actors made against the distraught actress. But the office-bearers in their 'infinite wisdom' did not deem it fit to do so. If that insensitivity was appalling, even more outrageous was the eagerness to protect the actor who is under a cloud in connection with the assault case.
AMMA is with the victim as well as the suspect. That was the unbelievable chorus from the dais. That declaration amounted to what a participant dubbed during a TV channel debate: hunting with the hound and running with the hare. A crass show of 'double acting'. Another comment put it more tellingly: AMMA has let the daughter down while protecting the son!
In the process, the reel life heroes showed themselves to be real life zeroes. The superstars who tame tigers on the silver screen remained pusillanimous paper tigers off it. The silence of some of them and the highly objectionable behaviour others towards the media persons who asked searching and 'uncomfortable' questions is a sad commentary of the prevailing attitude of misogyny. A savage irony that all this has happened in a state which boasts of the highest literacy rate in the country.
That said, mention must be made of the conduct of the Women's Collective in Cinema (WCC), an organisation formed by actresses in Malayalam film industry, to protect their interests. Although a few members of the WCC attended the general body, none of them could summon the courage to stand up and be counted. Their failure to raise their voice against the assault on a colleague of theirs has raised many an eyebrow. Their silence is being attributed to the atmosphere of fear stalking Malayalam film industry in which the male actors, directors, producers call the shots. Any attempt to go against them would mean loss of job for the actresses. That is the overwhelming perception and reality.
The saving grace, however, is that the WCC has decided to file a case against the actors who made derogatory remarks against the rape survivor. The State Women's Commission has also decided to file a case against the 'guilty' actors.
Such is the anger against AMMA that there have already been demands for disbanding the organisation in the light of their failure to ensure justice for the inflicted actress. The AMMA office-bearers should have called on the actress, armed with the resolution, and offered all possible help. That would have been a massive morale-booster for her and a much-needed salve for the wound on her psyche.
Meanwhile, investigation into the case has taken a decisive turn with police gathering more evidence against the suspects. Further interrogation of actor Dileep and director Nadirshah, in the eye of the storm, would follow soon. Dileep had earlier claimed that he did not know Pulsar Suni, the criminal who abducted and raped the actress. But evidence has since emerged with the police recovering photos showing Suni at the shooting location of a Dileep film a few months ago. Hopefully, the police would solve the case in the next few days, dispelling the clouds of suspicion and suspense hanging over the case.
As for organisations like AMMA, it is a time for serious self-introspection. A cleansing drive must be launched forthwith to rid the Malayalam film industry of the stranglehold of mafia and the underworld. The onerous task must start right now. That alone would ensure that the kind of fate that befell the actress would not overtake others.
(Views are strictly personal.)

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