Why AMMA chief Mohanlal has let down women, Malayalam film industry and Kerala by supporting Dileep's AMMA reinstatement

TS Sudhir

Jul,01 2018 09:38:04 IST

Malayalam movies Raavanaprabhu and Udayon are some of the movies in which superstar Mohanlal essayed a double role. But his latest double role seems to be in real life — Mohanlal, the person and actor we have admired for so many years and Mohanlal, the president of the Association of Malayalam Movies Artistes (AMMA).

Let me tell you why. In February last year, Mohanlal reacted with rage and empathy to the abduction and sexual assault of a fellow actress near Kochi while she was on her way back from a film shoot.

"Exemplary punishment should be handed out to these criminals who are worse than animals so that it serves as a lesson to similar minded characters who I will not even term as humans. It's time we stop being candle holding and candle lighting sympathisers and ensure that the law of the land be strengthened in such a way that no body even dares contemplating such acts, leave alone commit it. My heart goes out to her in this time of distress. May justice be served without delay,'' Mohanlal wrote in a Facebook post.

Mohanlal. File image

Mohanlal. File image

On 30 June, in a two-page note, Mohanlal sought to defend AMMA's decision taken last week to revoke the removal of actor Dileep and rehabilitate him. Dileep, an extremely popular and successful star who has acted in over 130 Malayalam films over 24 years, is an accused in the actress case and he is believed to have conspired to carry out the assault to teach her a lesson. Dileep and the actress had been at loggerheads for a while over personal matters.

"It was a unanimous sentiment that was raised in the general body meeting that action against Dileep be frozen. The decision to revoke the removal of Dileep had no voice of opposition. The AMMA leadership has only gone by the basic democratic decency to stand with the unanimous opinion of the general body,'' wrote Mohanlal.

At the risk of sounding rude, this is a pathetic defence. If soon after the incident, "Lalettan" (elder brother) — as Mohanlal is referred to affectionately by his fans — thought that those who carried out the assault were "worse than animals'', what changed in 16 months. By Mohanlal's own admission, everyone at that meeting thought tainted Dileep should do a ghar waapsi to AMMA. In the bargain, the organisation proved it is a home without a soul.

Mohanlal does not say what was his personal opinion while he was chairing that first meeting as AMMA president. Was he in favour of what others clamoured for or was he against such a decision? Since Mohanlal does not reveal his mind, I would assume he stands by that Facebook post. Why did he then not put out a dissenting note? Why did he not assert the position that bringing back Dileep would be seen as taking sides? Why did he not underline that such a decision would be immoral?

Mohanlal kept quiet, proving that he is a hero only with greasepaint. He did not show the heroism to stand up to the pro-Dileep AMMA gang. To make it worse, Mohanlal is now more bothered about the 'trial by media' that he says AMMA is being subjected to. Lalettan should be more bothered about falling in the eyes of the Kerala public and even more importantly, letting down the survivor.

Dileep. Image via Facebook

Dileep. Image via Facebook

It could be argued that all of AMMA is at fault and Mohanlal should not be singled out. The actor will be because he is the AMMA chief and if he wanted, he could have walked out of the meeting but refused to endorse the "unanimous position". Even otherwise, because of his stature in Mollywood, if Mohanlal put his foot down, the others would have been forced to listen. It was a moment to show spine but Lalettan proved that his Facebook post was a mere "candle holding'' moment.

Without taking names, Mohanlal says those who are trying to "destroy the organisation'' can be ignored. He is wrong. It is AMMA that has destroyed AMMA as it exposed the fact that it has no moral compass. The question is not about whether Dileep is innocent till proven guilty. The question is what was the hurry to bring the actor back, without realising it reinforced misogyny and patriarchy.

Mohanlal now says to call AMMA as anti-women is "inhuman''. It is strange that the actor does not realise the messaging of the decision — that women actors and technicians are second-grade members who will have to fall in line when the males decide to back a rape accused.

Fortunately, there has been stiff resistance to the decision, that has dented Mohanlal's freshly minted AMMA presidency. Four actress including the survivor have resigned from AMMA; leading lights of the LDF including Finance minister Thomas Isaac have opposed the move and the AIYF, the youth wing of the CPI even burnt Mohanlal's effigy. One hundred leading film personalities have demanded that the elected representatives at AMMA step down.

But none of this has made a difference. AMMA office bearers have dismissed the actresses as "perennial trouble makers''. The irony is that AMMA vice presidents, actors Mukesh and Ganesh Kumar are both MLAs of the LDF and the loudest Dileep supporters. The LDF leadership should have pulled them up for endorsing such a decision.

CPM politburo member MA Baby is unwilling to look at the development as an internal affair of AMMA. "Every action of its members influences Malayali society,'' he wrote in a post on Facebook.

It is no longer about Dileep refusing to come back to any film body till he is cleared of all charges. It is not about Mohanlal's willingness to hear grievances against the AMMA decision. It is about how one of the tallest of the Mollywood stars, Mohanlal did not realise the import of the "unanimous'' decision.

Updated Date: Jul 01, 2018 09:38 AM