Malayalam actress assault case: Dileep's fall from grace complete, arrest comes at perfect time for Left govt
On Tuesday, popular Malayalam actor Dileep, arrested in connection with the abduction and assault of a leading South Indian actress, was remanded to 14-day judicial custody by a court in Angamaly.
This could very well be the end of the road for not just one of Mollywood’s influential actors but indeed its most influential actor.
Dileep was perhaps the blue-eyed boy of the industry — famed not only for his acting but his brilliant managerial and fundraising skills — loved and hated in equal measure. His fall from grace is all but complete.
If Dileep is found guilty, the once ‘most beloved actor’ of Malayalees could end up spending a considerable amount of time in prison.
“The law is very clear when it comes to Section 120B,’’ says advocate V Ajakumar, a leading criminal lawyer based in Thiruvananthapuram. “Whatever the crime, a conspiracy has been hatched. That will only added to his sentence. He is also facing a life term under Section 367 of the IPC. Simply put, if convicted, he will end up spending most of his life behind bars.’
Legal experts say the chances of Dileep being convicted are high. They say that the police is putting forth 19 crucial pieces of evidence which could end up swelling the chargesheet, which will take shape in the next 90 days.
In all probability, special public prosecutor CP Udayabhanu will be the man to represent the State.
“If my assessment is correct, the police would not have arrested Dileep had they not collected strong evidence against him. Which means that a conviction is very much on the cards if the prosecution does it job well,’’ Udayabhanu told Firstpost.
That the police were meticulously collecting crucial evidence perhaps explains the secrecy with which they had acted in the past few days. That the same force took flak from even an outgoing DGP for interrogating Dileep for 13 hours without yielding any results perhaps steeled the resolve of the investigating officers.
Their modus operandi was to depute officers with specific tasks to gather evidence at various levels and locations. Sources said that once those were laid out in front of the actor, Dileep had no option but to acknowledge his involvement in the crime.
“When it comes to 120B you cannot affect arrest unless you have enough proof of involvement. Now, we have clear evidence to book Dileep. That was a challenging task for us. The investigation is ongoing. You can expect much more in days to come,’’ said a senior police officer.
According to sources, after the police grilled Dileep for the better part of a day on Monday, the actor broke down and confessed to the crime. Dileep has now been remanded to 14 days judicial custody and will spend his days at the Aluva sub-jail among petty criminals and thieves.
While the government has ruled out preferential treatment of any sort, the actor’s security in prison has been stepped up to protect him from fellow inmates.
What did the actor in?
What raised red flags in the investigators' minds was Dileep’s claim that he was not aware of the attack on the actress until producer Anto Jose called him on the morning after the assault.
The fact that Jose's call lasted only 12 seconds piqued their interest. They wondered: How could a person, if he was unaware of the gruesome act perpetrated on a colleague, finish the entire call in a mere 12 seconds? Would he not be shocked and attempt to obtain more information? This set the ball rolling.
What cemented their belief that a conspiracy had been hatched was the letter written from prison by prime accused Sunil Kumar alias Pulsar Suni to Dileep, asking for the money that was allegedly promised to him. Also working against the actor: Dileep releasing the letter and raising a blackmail complaint against Kumar to preempt the case against him. The police refused to buy Dileep's version of events.
A petty criminal by the name of Jinson who shared a cell with Kumar — the cops put him there to keep an eye on Kumar — seemed to corroborate Kumar’s claims.
Jinson, in his statement to a magistrate, said that he heard Kumar talking to actor-director Nadir Shah on several occasions and once even to Dileep. He said that all the conversations were cordial, which contradicted Dileep’s claim that Kumar was blackmailing him.
Veteran police officers say Jinson’s statement will nail Dileep.
"Under relevant sections of the Indian Evidence Act, the willful confession of a co-accused in judicial custody without any duress has great value. It is here that both Nadir Shah and Dileep find themselves in a tricky situation,’’ says George Joseph, retired superintendent of police.
Sources say that CCTV footage from the jail also backs up Jinson's claims. Footage purportedly shows Jinson sitting next to Kumar, who is on the phone. The time stamp on the footage also matches up with the time the calls were received on Shah's phone and Dileep's manager Appunni phone, police say.
Now, reports say Shah is ready to become a witness on the behalf of the State. Which would seal Dileep’s fate. Jinson also said he overhead Kumar tell Shah he had left ‘the thing’ at Laksyah, the boutique run by actress Kavya Madhavan, who is Dileep's wife.
Police believe that ‘the thing’ refers to the memory card which contains the visuals of the actress being assaulted. If true, Kavya could soon find herself in the dock. CCTV footage from a shop next to Laksyah purportedly showed Kumar visiting the boutique. Sources say that when this evidence was placed before Dileep, he fumbled for an answer.
Police have also recovered pictures taken at shooting locations showing Dileep and Kumar in the same frame, which busts Dileep's claim that he did not even know Kumar.
Investigators also say that the conspirators had cleverly used the ‘sandwich call’ technique: Where the perpetrator calls a third go-between instead of the chief conspirator (Dileep) after the crime.
And the motive? Police say that stems from the deep-seated enmity between Dileep and the actress whom he believes was instrumental in convincing Manju Warrier, Dileep’s first wife, to seek divorce. Police say the actress informed Warrier — when she was still married to Dileep — about his relationship with Kavya.
Dileep allegedly told many people he would teach the actress a lesson. Police say Dileep used Kumar to gain revenge on this actress and that it was a well-planned effort that was hatched a year ago at a Kochi hotel. Kumar was promised Rs 2 crore for a three-minute video of the actress in a 'compromising' position.
The police say the copy of the video will confirm Dileep's motive.
Shot in the arm for the government
Dileep's arrest comes at an opportune time for the CPM-led LDF government in Kerala. The government has found itself under attack by critics for a wave of crimes against women and children.
Many say that Dileep's arrest is a political masterstroke by Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan, through which he has silenced his critics. Remember, Vijayan blundered a few months ago when he reportedly said there was no conspiracy behind the crime. Monday's arrest gives him the chance to wipe the slate clean.
On Tuesday morning, a beaming chief minister greeted the media outside his office. There was an unfamiliar twinkle in his eyes. “This government is clear about one thing. The issue is whether you have committed a crime or not. If you are guilty, there is no way we will let you get away," he stated.
Last week Vijayan said that the big fish would eventually find itself in the police net.
The pressure on the CPM and the government to bail out Dileep — not just from the film industry but even the business world and a section of the NRI community — was reportedly immense.
Dileep was allegedly knocking on all doors to try to get off the hook. There were even reports that a Mollywood superstar and a Gulf-based Kerala businessman were putting pressure on the government.
But for a Left government that was under fire from all quarters, including the media, for its growing anti-woman image, it seems that this was the perfect opportunity to turn the tables.
“The tremendous zeal with which the Kerala media pursued the case and made it a state wide debate put huge pressure on the government to do what is right," says Kochi-based social activist CR Neelakandan. "Also, let's not praise the government too much. By arresting Dileep, they have simply performed their constitutional duty. We only think that the government has done something great because we assume not many governments would dare arrest a rich and powerful actor."
Meanwhile, Mollywood has decided that it is time to crack the whip. The Association of Malayalam Movie Artists (AMMA) revoked Dileep's membership. The actor was the association's treasurer and long-time fundraiser.
Considering the serious charges that Dileep is facing, many saw this move as inevitable. Until now, AMMA was supporting Dileep, a position for which they were roundly criticised.