Film buffs protest bias in cinema

Film buffs protest bias in cinema

The recent decision by Malayalam film body AMMA to reinstate actor Dileep, who is accused of orchestrating an attack on a female co-star, received flak from film artistes and cinephiles in Bengaluru. The event held at East Cultural Association highlighted the same.

I cut down my cable connection because I didn’t want my children to watch the junk films that come on television nowadays. I pick and select the movies they watch.”

Applause filled the hall as the speaker sat down. Similar sentiments echoed through the hall as cinema lovers and artistes from the industry converged at East Cultural Association on a rainy evening to protest against the recent developments in a case that has shocked the conscience of the movie industry and the society as a whole.

Bengaluru-based filmmakers and cinephiles were present at a discussion on gender discrimination in cinema. They event was in protest against the Association of Malayalam Movie Artistes’ (AMMA) decision to reinstate superstar Dileep who is accused of orchestrating the abduction and harassment of a female co-star.

“In Indian cinema in general, and Malayalam cinema in particular, there is no parity in the way men and women are treated,” says Prakash Bare, theater and film actor and one of the organisers of the event.

Speaking about the incident in question here, he says, “The case was going on in the right direction but for the last few weeks, some manipulation is taking place. AMMA is now trying to take back the accused whom they expelled. Despite being faced with severe criticism, the organisation is not admitting that they are wrong. They are now saying that the star himself doesn’t want to come back. This is a critical moment and we realised that we needed to escalate the support we are giving to the victim in her fight.”

Actor Abhija Sivakala, who is part of the Women in Cinema Collective (WCC), an organisation working towards the issues faced by women working in the Malayalam cinema industry, was also present at the event. Talking about the vicious nexus of power and misogyny present in all spheres of life, she says, “Women who are part of the WCC are aware of their capabilities. We want to continue working in the field but recent incidents forced us to come together and question what has been accepted for so long. People with grievances should not be silent because they don’t have a place to air their problems.”

When asked about the support they received from outside, she says, “WCC is getting a lot of support; there are many people who feel that such an organisation is absolutely necessary. However, there is very little support coming from the main male stars of Malayalam film industry; no one is saying or supporting us openly.”

The members of the audience too didn’t shy away from expressing their strong displeasure and angst at the rot that seems to be pervading all layers and strata of the film world. While one participant said that it seemed as if actors speak up depending on the level at which they have reached, another lady talked about how disillusioned she was with Mollywood superstars whom she had grown up admiring on screen. To a question by Dhanya Rajendran, the moderator, about whether such incidents had spoiled the act of cinema viewing for them, most people answered in the affirmative and said that they look at movies differently. 

Filmmaker K P Sasi says the deep-rooted patriarchal practices in Indian film industry are very evident.

“I have made three feature films myself and I have seen how women artistes are treated even by production controllers. My own assistants, who were women, were not spared.”

- K P Sasi, director

“There have been instances of women trying to protest against harassment or unfair treatment meted out to them but the problem is that most of it is silenced. Some people speak out, some people don’t for concerns of their safety or profession,” he added.

Reshma, a professional working with kids cartoon channels, spoke about such incidents only reinforce her initial scepticism of the film industry. “I feel that unless you are a star kid, this can happen to anyone.”

Akshata, an actor in the Kannada film industry, spoke about how people like Kavitha Lankesh, Chethan and Sruthi Hariharan were trying to form an internal complaints committee in the movie industry here. “Females working in smaller roles face more problems. More established actors may join with protest initially but then they get busy with their work and move on. So such a committee will help the junior actors who get harassed a lot.”

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