Actor assault: Will Kerala govt act on panel report?

Actor assault case: Will Kerala govt act on panel report?

Dileep in ‘Keshu Ee Veedinte Nadhan’. This is his sixth release since the start of the case in 2017.

Popular Malayalam actor Dileep, one of the accused in the 2017 actress assault case, is facing fresh charges of hatching a conspiracy to attack police officers who arraigned him in the case.

Soon after the development, the survivor, a well-known south Indian actor, pleaded for justice through a social media post. 

Many voices are again seeking a monitoring mechanism to curb unethical and unlawful practices in the Malayalam film industry. The Kerala government is also facing criticism for inaction on a two-year-old committee report that documented the exploitation in the film industry and suggested measures to curb it. 

The fresh twist in the case came with filmmaker Balachandra Kumar's revelations about a plan allegedly hatched by Dileep to attack the investigation officers and sabotage the case. Police have registered a case against the 54-year-old actor.

As the second prosecutor handling the case tendered a resignation, the assault survivor had to urge the Kerala government to make sure justice was served. Recently, on Instagram, she said the wrongdoers must be punished. It received backing from a host of stars, including the two big superstars Mammootty and Mohanlal.

A panel headed by retired Kerala High Court judge K Hema submitted a 5,000-odd-page report to the Kerala government on December 31, 2019. It reportedly talks about specific instances of sexual exploitation, wage disparity, and denial of basic amenities on film sets. The panel, comprising veteran actress Sharada and retired IAS officer K B Valsala Kumari, was formed in 2017 on the request of the Women in Cinema Collective, a forum formed in the wake of the assault in 2017.

Reports suggest the panel had named big names, but Justice Hema told Showtime the report was not about individuals. She refused to make any further comments on what it contained.

It is reliably learnt that the panel wanted the government to ensure confidentiality of the report to protect victims of exploitation.

Filmmaker Vidhu Vincent says protecting the privacy of those who deposed before the panel is important, but at the same time, unethical practices in the industry must be exposed. Pressure from influential people could be one of the reasons for the delay, she told Showtime.

The government blames the delay on the Covid situation. The panel has reportedly suggested the setting up of a tribunal to address problems faced by actors, both male and female, and other film professionals.

Saji Cheriyan, the Kerala cultural affairs minister, says a three-member committee of officials of the departments concerned is studying the Hema panel report in detail to formulate an action plan.

Kerala Film Producers Association president M Ranjith says producers would welcome any measures to curb unlawful activities on film sets. But a majority of the film shootings take place outdoors, and the industry will face practical difficulties in forming internal complaints committees, he says.

Meanwhile, a section in the film industry feels organisations and laws already exist to curb exploitation. "There is no dearth of rights forums in our state. How many aggrieved persons in the film industry have so far approached them? Like in many industries, exploitation takes place in the film industry too. We need to sensitise those coming into the industry,” says a seasoned film personality.

Row over actor on cover page

Dileep’s picture with his family on the cover of a popular Malayalam women’s magazine has triggered a row. Various forums denounced it as an attempt to glorify the actor at a time when he was facing a trial. Mass petitions signed by many known personalities were also sent to the publication demanding that the issue be withdrawn from the stands.