Kerala actor-turned-MP Innocent is known for his jokes both off-screen and on-screen. His comical roles and his funny style of speaking endear him to the masses, which is why when he cracks a joke, the whole state rocks in laughter. He is also President of the AMMA – an organization that represents Malayalam cinema’s actors and protects their interests. However, AMMA President Innocent’s recent statements to media persons came as a shocker to the film industry.
When media persons asked a question about the ‘casting couch,’ this is what the 72-year-old Kerala MP Innocent said, “Malayalam film industry is clean, there is no such thing as the casting couch and if there was such a thing happening, media will know it immediately these days.”
The veteran actor did not stop there. He was quoted as saying, “If actresses are bad, they may share beds”
The leader of Opposition Ramesh Chennithala demanded his resignation stating, “Innocent should resign. His statements have insulted women. The CPM and LDF and even the Chief Minister did not say anything to his anti-women comments.”
This statement by Innocent, a well-known actor and an MP, has shaken up the Malayalam film industry as it comes from a veteran actor, an MP and one who holds the highest position in the organization called AMMA, which aims to protect the interests of its actor members.
Reactions from prominent personalities including film directors flew in thick and fast on local TV channels.
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Well-known director Rajasenan, who is known for his family entertainers, told local media channels, “Innocent’s statement has not only insulted every actor and actress in the film industry, but he has insulted all women of the state. His statement has brought shame for the entire industry.”
Kerala MP Innocent’s ”not-so-funny” statements hit a raw nerve with the Women in Cinema Collective, a recently formed outfit of women artists who work in Malayalam cinema. They put out a Facebook post which categorically slammed AMMA President Innocent’s statement which was on the lines of “Malayalam film industry is clean, there is no such thing as the casting couch…”
“New artists in the Malayalam film industry face different forms of sexual abuse and even our contemporaries like Parvathy and Lakshmi Rai had spoken about the issue of casting couch openly…one should be cautious while making public statements on a sensitive issue like this. We strongly express dissent with Innocent’s statement that film industry is free of sexual harassment,” their Facebook post said.
SN Swami, an eminent screenplay writer who shot to fame with his famous thriller movie series titled ‘CBI Diary Kurippu’ told Malayalam TV channels that the casting couch was unheard of earlier in Malayalam cinema.
“This is a recent trend, such a thing had never happened before. It came to my notice recently when a few actresses mentioned this and I was completely taken by surprise. A solution must be found to this problem that has now come out in the open.” SN Swami told local TV channels.
Following the uproar on his statement, Kerala actor-turned-MP Innocent clarified the intention behind his statement in a Facebook post where he wrote, “Some portions of my comments to media have been wrongly interpreted – it is not what I intended. I only meant to say that the film industry environment is women-friendly. AMMA will always oppose any practices that are anti-women.”
A slight censure for the local media was also evident in his Facebook post where the Kerala MP cautioned, “Media should refrain from quoting out of context.”
His clarification has fueled more debate among women artists in Kerala.
Actress Ranjini, who has taken a pro-active role in questioning AMMA’s handling of the case pertaining to the Malayalam actress who was attacked, has now called for Innocent’s resignation from the post of AMMA President, stating, “Every day, he issues statements that insult and shame women. He should resign. He does not have the qualities of a good leader, or else he would not have made these statements that shame women. A criminal case should be instituted against him for making these statements,” as quoted by South Live.
In 2014, Innocent was elected to the Parliament from Chalakudy in Thrissur and he was supported by the Left.