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OPINION | Is Malayalam Film Industry With Her?

This is one among the many scenes in Malayalam films where misogyny is glorified. And today, it seems the misogyny has been spilling from the screen to the industry.

Gayatri Menon | News18.com

Updated:July 1, 2018, 3:09 PM IST
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OPINION | Is Malayalam Film Industry With Her?
File photo of Malayalam actor Dileep.
“You are a woman, just a mere woman.”

The hero character, played by Malayalam superstar Mammootty in The King (1995), says these lines at the end of a long lecture to his subordinate and the audience breaks into an applause.

This is one among the many scenes in Malayalam films where misogyny is glorified. And today, it seems the misogyny has been spilling from the screen to the industry.

The decision of Association of Malayalam Movie Artists (AMMA) to reinstate Dileep, the actor accused of abduction and attempt to rape an actress, to the organisation shows the deep-rooted patriarchy in the Malayalam film industry. Even though the actor has said that he won’t return to the organisation until proven innocent, the move lays bare how little the film body cares about its women members.

Bigotry of AMMA

AMMA has been insensitive to its women members and has shown the double standards on their issues.
Day after Dileep was arrested in the assault case, Mammootty and other prominent members of AMMA came forward and told the media that film body had ousted Dileep as a gesture of support to the victim. Wearing the garb of the protector, Mammootty said that ‘AMMA is always with our sister.’

However, the statement seems to be an eyewash now as Dileep has been welcomed back even as the trial against him is still underway.

AMMA’s decision to take back Dileep also points out to the power he wields in the industry.

Dileep’s Stake in the Film Industry

Besides a popular actor -- next in line to superstars Mammootty and Mohanlal—Dileep holds considerable power in the industry. He was the president of the body of film exhibitors.

The fact that several major actors and technicians thronged the jail to visit him or publicly came out in his support stands testimony to his influence in the industry. Even the two superstars did not dare to speak against him at any point.

This was not the sole occasion when all these ‘male heroes’ and their fans joined hands in an issue when a woman was on other side.

‘Feminichi’ Trollers

Earlier, actress Parvathy had spoken out against a misogynistic dialogue in the Mammootty-starrer Kasaba (2016). In the film, Mammootty, playing a police officer, grabs the belt of his subordinate officer and says he is capable of breaking her menstruation cycle if he wishes to.

The superstar’s fans trolled Parvathy, hurling abuses and making derogatory and misogynistic comments. The word ‘feminchi’ was also added to the Malayalam lexicon by them which now is being used against any woman who raises a voices of dissent or question the patriarchal norms.

Applause for Misogyny

Such attacks are of no wonder as misogynistic dialogues and jokes were always celebrated in Malayalam films. In Narasimham (2000), Mohanlal’s character proposes the heroine saying he wants a woman to bear his kids and to kick when he returns home drunk.

Some of the Dileep-starrers like Mr Marumakan and My Boss, that set the cash registers ringing, revolve around the theme of the hero trying to teach “arrogant” women a lesson and changing them into “good and obedient” ones.

The theme of misogyny has been running successfully in Malayalam cinema for decades, and even the recent ones aren’t devoid of such scenes. In Action Hero Biju (2016), a dark skinned woman complains to the protagonist who is a sub-inspector about a guy who proposes to her. The hero then slaps him saying “you loved a woman like this”.

Even the films that claim to be “women-centric” or having “strong female characters”, seem to be adhering to the patriarchal norms. In How Old Are You (2014), the comeback film of Manju Warrier who is Dileep’s ex-wife, Manju’s character goes ahead in pursuit of her dreams defying her husband’s opposition. In the end, she reaches Rashtrapati Bhavan as President’s guest. And she says that the biggest achievement was when the husband held her hand.

With Her

AMMA’s recent move is one of the many manifestations of the deeply-rooted patriarchy that has plagued Malayalam film industry. But there is something to hope for also. Supporting the assault victim, many leading actresses came forward to form an organisation --Women in Cinema Collective (WCC) ---for the women’s rights in the movie industry.

Along with several others from the film fraternity, they launched the Avalkoppam (With her) campaign. Four leading actresses have quit AMMA after the decision came to take back Dileep.

Several others are voicing their criticisms of the move. They are boldly taking on the powers that be and fighting for making the film industry a better workplace for women. There has been negligible representation of women in AMMA’s leadership. The WCC has demanded 50% representation in the board of AMMA.

WCC has raised very some pertinent questions on AMMA’s decision. “What has changed now for the film body to reinstate the actor,” they ask in a Facebook post. “Through this decision isn’t the organisation insulting the victim?”

These spirited women have shown us the path. Now it’s our turn to support them and say aloud—with her.






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| Edited by: Sana Fazili
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