The chauvinistic face of AMMA came to light when its female members, including the victim, quit the association in protest against Dileep’s re-induction.
Days after the Association of Malayalam Movie Artistes (AMMA) unilaterally decided to re-induct Dileep, the actor accused of masterminding the abduction and molestation of a leading actress a year ago, into the organisation, a political controversy has erupted revolving round the ruling CPM. Dileep, who is now out on bail, was expelled from AMMA following his arrest in connection with the case last July. However, on Sunday the general body meeting of the organisation under the newly elected president, megastar Mohanlal, welcomed with applause Dileep, who still stands accused in the sensational case, back into its fold. This brazen act of the organisation was roundly condemned by the public. But only when four women AMMA members, including the victim, announced their decision to quit, did the male chauvinistic face of the organisation stand exposed. All four are members of Women in Cinema Collective (WCC), a women’s body of film artistes, formed in the wake of the attack on the actress. The WCC members who are also members of AMMA had boycotted the general body meeting on Sunday. In a statement it has termed AMMA’s decision “misogynistic” and questioned the validity of the decision without consulting the victim. Right from the beginning when the actress was attacked in February 2017, AMMA had taken a stand in favour of the accused rather than the victim. Then the contention was that since Dileep was not proved guilty he cannot be crucified. Even after a year, he, however, remains accused, a fact those at the helm of AMMA are trying to ignore. By Thursday evening Dileep himself had rejected AMMA’s reinstatement of his membership. In a letter he stated that first he had to prove his innocence in court before taking active involvement in any organisation.
Many believe that it is because of the political patronage AMMA enjoys from the ruling CPM. While two MLAs of the party, film actors Mukesh and K.B. Ganesh Kumar, are vice-presidents of the organisation, popular comedian Innocent, representing CPM in the Lok Sabha from Chalakudy in Thrissur district, was president of the organisation till last week. Another Malayalam megastar, Mammooty, who is close to the CPM and was instrumental in giving the LS ticket to Innocent in 2014, was general secretary of the organisation till the other day. Generally, the organisation is considered pro-Left with many of its influential members campaigning for CPM during election time. Another veteran actress, K.P.A.C. Lalitha is chairperson of the state Sangeetha Nataka Akademi, a post given to her after the CPM came to power in 2016. Even at the time of Assembly elections, her name as a possible CPM candidate was doing the rounds. The party had wanted to put her up from Wadakkanchery in Palakkad district, but had to abandon the idea following mass protests from the local party units. All of them have refused to comment about the new developments, though many political leaders have condemned the decision. Notable among them are veteran CPM leader V.S. Achuthanandan and Politburo member M.A. Baby, who said AMMA’s decision to take back Dileep was a challenge to Kerala society. Stating that the people hold AMMA members with respect (sic), Baby said the issue cannot be called an “internal matter” of the film industry. Senior BJP leader and Rajya Sabha member V. Muraleedharan said AMMA’s decision was unfortunate and felt that it would affect the image of Mohanlal, the new president of the organisation. There are strong rumours in state political circles that Mohanlal is inclined towards BJP and hence Muraleedharan’s concern for the actor’s image.
The state CPM, as expected, defended the legislators and decided not to seek any explanation from them. In a statement late Friday, the party said “accusing only the Left representatives is based on wrong intentions”. In fact the party saw “a conspiracy” to break up AMMA and not a threat to women artistes. Also, according to A.K. Balan, Cultural Minister and right hand man of Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan, there was no need for the government to interfere in the matter and it was for the artistes to sort out the issue. But this is not an issue of artistes alone. The two MLAs and the MP had fought elections under the banner of CPM and hence the party is also answerable to their actions, especially in such a case of gender inequality. Many are questioning the irresponsible behaviour of the three and wonder whether they deserved their votes at all. It is a fact that artistes and writers had contributed a lot to the growth of the communist movement in the state. In the past their roles were confined to their fields only. It was Pinarayi Vijayan during his time as state party secretary who had brought these film stars to parliamentary politics, though their role as members of those august houses remain merely ornamental. For example, one precious voice, that of Innocent, in the Lok Sabha had gone waste for the past four years. There is nothing on record to show he has opened his mouth in the House. It is a travesty of justice to the voters of Chalakudy. But he has all along been active in the politics of AMMA, solidly backing Dileep while not uttering a sympathetic word about the actress victim. This raises questions about the government’s stand on women’s rights and is not going to augur well for CPM in the general elections.
Perhaps former bureaucrat and noted Malayalam writer N.S. Madhavan summed up the politics of it all when he tweeted: Lalettan (Mohanlal) resign, make Harvey Weinstein president!