Dileep returns to AMMA, Pawan Kalyan fans troll Renu Desai: Decoding sexism, hypocrisy in Malayalam, Telugu film industries

TS Sudhir

Jun,28 2018 09:26:27 IST

They seem like two totally unrelated developments. One happening in Kerala and the other in the two Telugu states of Andhra Pradesh and Telangana. But what binds them together is an exhibition of sexism and hypocrisy.

This Sunday, the Association of Malayalam Movies Artistes (AMMA) decided to take actor Dileep back into the fold. Incidentally, the decision coincided with superstar Mohanlal taking charge as AMMA president, and this was the first meeting he presided over.

In July last year, Dileep was named in the conspiracy hatched to abduct and sexually assault a leading Malayalam actress in February. Dileep was arrested and remanded to Aluva sub-jail, a fall from grace for this hugely popular star of over 130 Malayalam films over 24 years. With public outrage and pressure from within the AMMA ranks mounting, Dileep was shown the door by the organisation.

Dileep/Image from Twitter.

Dileep/Image from Twitter.

Mohanlal was the vice president of AMMA when that decision was taken in July. 'The Complete Actor', as Mohanlal is referred to, now has done a complete turnaround.

Not that Dileep did not have support even when the chips were down for him. Several people associated with Mollywood came out openly in his support. This included then AMMA vice president and LDF MLA KB Ganesh Kumar who slammed the association's decision to cancel Dileep's membership. As did actors Mukesh, Edavela Babu and Siddique. Producer Saji Nanthiyattu, vice president of the Kerala Film Chamber of Commerce, chose to focus on Dileep's "mental agony" instead of the harassment the actress was subjected to.

What does AMMA's decision say about Mollywood? That its thespians have feet of clay. That without a script that puts their characters on a pedestal, they are dwarfs.

It goes without saying that Dileep is innocent till proven guilty. But this is not about him; it is about the Malayalam film industry. By asking him to come back, AMMA sends out the message that it is on Dileep's side. Taking on the role of a judge, AMMA have decided that the period of less than a year that he was kept away for has been punishment enough.

AMMA's decision also confirms a split between its male and female actors. Though some women artists have supported AMMA's decision, this was an opportunity for Mollywood to show its heart is in the right place; that when it comes to an artist vs artist, it won't take sides. The messaging was important. The conduct of Mohanlal and company has shown that once the greasepaint is off, the warts tend to show. It has proven that women artistes are a notch below, and that men like Dileep will call the shots in the industry.

The question that needs to be asked of AMMA is what has the industry body done to make its women actors and technicians feel safe. Don't forget, the actress was assaulted on her way back from a shoot. By leaving the decision on whether he wants to return to AMMA to Dileep, they have only mocked the Women in Cinema Collective, a body formed to address issues faced by women in the Malayalam film industry.

It is also a business decision. Dileep is a powerful exhibitor and headed the rival Film Exhibitors United Organisation of Kerala (FEUOK). The outfit's muscle can decide which movie will be a hit or a flop in the Kerala market. In September, Ganesh Kumar demanded that those who received favours from the actor in his good time, should stand by him. AMMA's decision confirms that the industry largely has decided to suck up to a powerful man.

At the same time the AMMA meeting decided Dileep could do a ghar waapsi, Telugu star Pawan Kalyan's ex-wife Renu Desai shared photographs of her engagement on social media, talking about starting a "happy phase" in her life. That was enough for Pawan Kalyan's fans to unleash themselves on Desai, who was the actor's second wife. Some even warned her against taking such a step.

Pawan Kalyan/Image from Twitter.

Pawan Kalyan/Image from Twitter.

"All hell will break loose if you marry again. So please think about your decision. It is your life and your wish but make sure my God is not affected in any way,'' said one fan, couching a warning in his devotion to Pawan Kalyan. Another hypocritical Pawan admirer, oblivious to the fact that his idol had married a third time after divorcing Renu in 2012, wrote: "Don't get married again please. A lot of women are leading their lives normally while being single. Don't become bad by marrying a second time."

There were death threats too, forcing Renu to go to the police and get the offensive messages deleted. So disgusted was Desai that she decided to quit Twitter, writing in her last post: "I have decided to deactivate my Twitter handle and stay away from the negativity that comes with it."

What Pawan Kalyan does not realize is that he is not just an actor, he is also a full-time politician. To have a cadre that exults in its patriarchal and feudal mindset and does not respect women, is hardly being politically correct. Is this the Jana Sena party that the Power Star, as Pawan is referred to, would want people of Andhra Pradesh to invest in electorally in 2019?

What was appalling is that there was not a word of condemnation for this crazy attitude from Pawan. All he did was to congratulate Renu over Twitter, perhaps hoping that will make his fans fall in line. Wasn't it his duty to publicly admonish his fans for their loose talk and send across a message that it won't be tolerated?

What happened in Kerala and the two Telugu states reflects a mindset. The self-righteousness the stars espouse on screen is a fraud they play on the audience in the darkness of the theatres. The surround sound unleashed by their ecosystem in the real world only makes it more pathetic.

Updated Date: Jun 28, 2018 09:26 AM