Dileep gets bail: A tale of Salmanification and unquestioning stardom in Mollywood

TS Sudhir

Oct,04 2017 21:39:21 IST

The first thing Malayalam superstar Dileep may have noted upon stepping out of the Aluva sub-jail on Tuesday would have been that his 'Janapriyanayakan' (the people's popular hero) tag is still intact. 85 days ago, when he had been sent to judicial custody, his detractors had shouted slogans such as 'Welcome to Central Jail' outside the same prison, located 25 km from Kochi city. 'Welcome to Central Jail' was Dileep's Onam release in September 2016, a film that critics panned but which performed well commercially.

On the day he received bail after four previous unsuccessful attempts, the area outside the jail resembled that of the first day first show of a Dileep movie. While the jury is out on whether the crowds were organised, what is certain is that the intention was to visually establish Dileep's popularity and power, and to send across the message that he is back.

Dileep. Image via Facebook

Dileep. Image via Facebook

Dileep has reason to believe the worst is behind him. His latest film Ramaleela, which released last week, is running to packed houses, contrary to expectations that the Malayali filmgoers, especially women, will shun the movie after its leading man was accused of paying a gang to molest a co-actor. And if what the ecosystem surrounding Dileep has done soon after the bail order is anything to go by, it is certain that Mollywood is due for some heavy-duty fireworks.

A day after stepping out of jail, Dileep is back as the President of the Film Exhibitors United Organisation of Kerala (FEUOK), a parallel union of theatre owners that he floated in January. Though he was removed from the post after his arrest, FEUOK is now interpreting the conditional bail as an indication of innocence.

To bring back Dileep into a position of eminence is a business decision. More importantly, for the members of the FEUOK, it is also payback time. When he floated FEUOK backed by 64 theatre owners, Dileep, who owns D Cinemas in Chalakkudy, was seen as Mollywood's saviour; the industry was bleeding because of differences over revenue sharing between the exhibitors body and the producers' association. Several theatres had shut down, unable to make ends meet.

Dileep in Ramleela. Image from Facebook/@ActorDileep

Dileep in Ramleela. Image from Facebook/@ActorDileep

The other major industry body that had shut its doors on Dileep in July was AMMA, the powerful Association of Malayalam Movie Artistes. Mammootty as general secretary of AMMA had taken the decision to expel Dileep at an emergency meeting soon after his arrest. Now AMMA Vice President and LDF MLA KB Ganesh Kumar has slammed the decision to cancel the actor's membership. What's more, in what is a pointer to divisions within the movie fraternity, Ganesh has accused fellow actor Prithviraj of mounting pressure on Mammootty to expel Dileep out of vendetta.

With a number of personalities from the Malayalam film industry trooping into Dileep's residence in the last 24 hours, what is clear is that Dileep is not walking away into the sunset. Dileep, by virtue of being a producer and exhibitor, always wielded enormous clout. After this case came to light, several detractors like director Vinayan and actor Anoop Chandran have alluded to a vengeful streak in him, pointing out that he can destroy careers of those he had fall-outs with.

While this case still hangs like an albatross around his neck, Dileep's friends have worked overtime to portray him as the victim. Even before he went to prison, producer Saji Nanthiyattu, who is the vice president of the Kerala Film Chamber of Commerce in a pathetic commentary on misogynism in Mollywood said, "The woman was harassed only for two and a half hours. But Dileep has been harassed for four months and has suffered mental agony.''

Over the past three months, there has been an attempt to do a Salmanification of the actor; Dileep Ettan (older brother) is the Malayali version of Sallu bhai. Fawning articles about the charity work done by Dileep appeared in the Malayalam print media and several Facebook pages with the 'I support Dileep' theme sprouted.

Dileep, who will turn 50 this month, has done 130 Malayalam films so far, many of them superhits. But he will take maximum comfort from the success of Ramaleela, a political thriller. The message the actor will draw from it is that his fans in Kerala will not desert him because of the case. That means just like Salman Khan, along with a long-drawn out legal battle, it will be business as usual for the actor.

Updated Date: Oct 04, 2017 21:40 PM