Dileep arrested, but this is merely tip of the iceberg: More details about Mollywood's powers-that-be
“We don’t know what happened between them. But such things should not have happened,” was the first reaction of Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan the morning after one of south India’s famous heroine was assaulted in a moving car on the busy roads of the port city of Kochi, for more than two hours on February 17.
As he said this, Kairali TV, the propaganda arm of his Communist Party of India (Marxist) party headed by superstar Mammootty, was running a story to prove that the actor and the attacker were in “good relations”.
The channel withdrew the story and apologised after widespread outrage both within the tinsel world and among the public, but the chief minister continued to insist that the incident was “according to the imagination of the main accused” and the media “should not go after those who usually do not commit such crimes”.
After the police grilled Dileep, now in jail under a 14-day remand, for 13 hours on end, the Association of Malayalam Movie Actors (AMMA), headed by CPI (M) lawmaker Innocent, strongly defended him saying for Amma (mother in Malayalam), both he and the victim are children.
At a press briefing, co-stars Mukesh and Ganesh, both ruling front legislators, even shouted at journalists who posed a simple question: “Do you believe Dileep is innocent in this?”
Sunil Kumar aka Pulsar Suni had worked as a driver of Mukesh for more than a year, and he had earlier tried to abduct another actor similarly, which her husband could foil with timely intervention.
Mukesh claimed he employed him not knowing that he had a criminal background. Many say the stars use such elements to settle scores with those who question them. This is the first case in which the victim drew courage from coworkers and filed a complaint.
The female stars and directors, including Dileep's former wife Manju Warrier, had in May formed a forum Women in Cinema Collective to take up such matters. They met Vijayan and sought justice to the female workers in the industry. At least one of them, Parvathy, openly said casting couch exists in the industry, and many had "shamelessly sought sexual favours" from her.
They also got the Women's Commission to probe anti-women remarks of innocent, Dileep and Salim Kumar. But they all enjoy clout in the higher-ups.
After the first round of questioning, a senior officer in the rank of the additional director general even met his close friend and director Nadirshah, now in custody, in a hotel where they allegedly discussed the “progress of the case.”
Such is the power these stars wield in Kerala, with their right connections with the politicians, businessmen and the police. They are into all sorts of businesses - from real estate to chain of restaurants, besides endorsing various brands.
Dileep runs cinemas, restaurants production units and he was frequently in a quarrel with directors and producers who refuse to fall in line. Even the victim, an award-winning star, had to keep away from Malayalam cinema most of the time and act in Tamil, Kannada and Telugu after she fell away with him five years back.
Malayalam film-dom revolves around two big Ms - Mammootty and Mohanlal - and Dileep. They have similar business interests, and the cartel controls the industry - producers, technicians and exhibitors. Those who question them face the music.
“He never forgives his opponents, and he is a king in pursuing a personal vendetta against opponents,” says Vinayan, director of many hit films, who had to suffer a lot after he fell out with Dileep. He adds, “I have not seen such degree of vengeance even in politicians.”
He crossed swords with him in 2007 when he was the general secretary of the Malayalam Cine Technicians Association (MACTA) Federation of 19 trade unions in 2007 when the star refused to act in a film of Thulasidas after accepting an advance long time back.
When Thulasidas went to meet Dileep on his sets, he put his legs on the chair on his opposite side and made the director speak while standing before him. He told him none of his storylines was acceptable to him.
Vinayan took up the insult to his colleague seriously and imposed a ban on casting Dileep, and soon the star engineered a split in MACTA, which led to the formation the Film Employees Federation of Kerala (FEFKA) which along with AMMA banned the director in turn.
Ace actor the late Thilakan, the winner of three national awards and Padma Shri honour, was one of its victims. He faced their wrath for signing Vinayan’s film and dropped him from his Christian Brothers.
AMMA lifted the undeclared ban on Vinayan and allowed their members to work in his films after a long battle last month. In March, the Competition Commission of India had slapped imposed penalties of Rs 400,065 on AMMA and Rs 508, 509 on FEFKA and its affiliates.
Besides, it imposed fines on the office-bearers Innocent (Rs 51,478) and Edavela Babu (Rs 19,113) and FEFKA leaders B Unnikrishnan (Rs 32,026) and K Mohanan (Rs 27,737) for anti-competitive practices,
But Thilakan, who was almost out of a job in his final days and he used to blame it on Dileep whom he calls as “my foe,” died in 2012 without getting justice.
“This is the end of a mafia raj,” says Liberty Basheer, president of the Film Producers Association, which Dileep recently split and launched a parallel body, Film Exhibitors United Organisation of Kerala, last month with the blessings of the Big Ms.
Started as an assistant director of Kamal, currently president of the Kerala Chalachitra Academy who also has close links to the ruling party, Dileep was simultaneously a member of all these bodies, and after the arrest all of them expelled him.
“We were unable to take position till now as the case was under investigation. We are with our sister, and we would be cautious to see such things in future,” Mammootty, the general secretary of AMMA, told after a meeting its executive committee at his home in Kochi.
Police had earlier forcibly removed scores of Youth Congress workers who took out a march on Mammootty’s house and tried to place a wreath there.
At the meeting, young stars like Remya Nambeesan, Asif Ali and Prithviraj, whose late father Sukumaran was also a victim of ostracisation by the reigning stars in his last days before he died aged 49.
“The truth triumphs, finally,” said Nambeesan. The actor was on her way to Nambeesan’s house in the city when she was abducted on the airport road.
After the arrest of the star, several directors came out explaining their bitter experiences in the field, forcing them to leave the industry. Many draw a parallel with the ‘D’ Company’s role in the Bollywood.
The reigning stars also nurture ‘fan clubs’ who celebrate every release of them at the theatres and also disrupt the screening of their rivals sometimes.
Commentator and social activist KM Shahjahan feels many people are using the industry to pump in black money. Most of the funders are NRIs in the Gulf.
“The government is least bothered about their sources and where money flows from into their productions. You can do anything and get away with it with right connections,” he told the Firstpost, adding, “Nobody remembers a Mammootty film that was a success in recent years except Bhaskar the Rascal (2015). But he keeps on releasing films.”
The opposition Congress party and Bharatiya Janata Party are already baying for the blood of the chief minister whom they allege is closely linked to the stars.
“He tried to divert the investigation by declaring at the beginning that there was no conspiracy. Had it not been for the vigilant citizens and the media, he would have hushed up the case,” said MM Hassan, the Congress state unit president, “He should quit the home portfolio.”
Both have also demanded the resignation of the two MLAs and the MP.
“He (Vijayan) delayed the arrest for five months. Finally, he was left with no other option as people were so vigilant,” said Kummanam Rajasekhran, BJP president in the state.
The CPI (M) said the police were free to question Mukesh and the party had nothing to hide.
"We have given that freedom to the police. If they could arrest Dileep, who is going to prevent them," said CPI (M) secretary Kodiyeri Balakrishnan.