Saturday's press conference by Women in Cinema Collective in Kochi could be a game changer for the male-dominated Malayalam film industry.
Saturday’s press conference by Women in Cinema Collective in Kochi could be a game changer for the male-dominated Malayalam film industry. Formed last year in response to an attack on an actress, WCC has been vocal in demanding action against the accused actor. The press conference was called to express the collective’s disappointment over the way the Association of Malayalam Movie Artistes (AMMA) conducted itself after the attack.
Some well-know actors and technicians of Malayalam cinema such as Parvathy, Revathi, Anjali Menon, Padmapriya,Remya Nambeesan, Rima Kallingal, Sajitha Madathil, Didi Damodaran and Beena Paul addressed the press conference. Here’s what they told the media.
Revathi (Actor, Director)
“I have worked in 130 films in a career spanning over three decades. I took AMMA membership in the year it was launched. The AMMA president referred to us as ‘actresses’. He could not even mention three names? That is why we chose to introduce ourselves now, who we are and what we have done. We have been working actively in the industry for decades. And this is how he chose to refer to us – without our names. For this reason, each of us are introducing our names, work profile and experience to all of you. We feel hurt.”
Revathi, a top Malayalam actress of 1980s and 1990s, acted in some successful Bollywood films such as ‘Love’ with Salman Khan, ‘Ab Tak Chappan’ with Nana Patekar and ‘2 states’ with Arjun Kapoor and Alia Bhatt. In 2002, she marked her directorial debut with an Indian English film , ‘Mitr-My Friend’.
“I have never been invited to any of AMMA’s events because I am not a commercial person. I have never gone for any of their events or functions nor have they invited me. I prefer to stick to myself. The only reason I have come forward now because of the empowerment that WCC gives each one of us. So why did we bring this up? The survivor of the attack has been forced to resign from AMMA, while the person accused of the attack remains a member. I want to ask, Is this just?” she said.
“Why were we quiet? We hoped there would be a solution and so we started a dialogue. AMMA had decided to issue a joint statement at a press meet and that nothing would be said separately to the press. Now why should we keep quiet. We have decided to give out the latest updates to you. AMMA is a big organisation. This is not a personal fight. It is about asking for justice, which is denied by the official office bearers. It is not versus AMMA alone but against the Executive Committee, that represents the AMMA. I feel that they are not just, Revathi added.
“During the dialogue, AMMA president said that in his personal opinion, he can support the survivor but said he cannot take back a decision of taken by AMMA General Body meet. WCC had specifically asked 3 things: We wanted to understand the status of the accused, reinstatement of the survivor and what action is taken in such cases. The response we received was strange. They told us if the survivor refuses their offer to reinstate her, it would be a loss of face for them, We see this differently. Firstly, AMMA is not supporting the survivor. She has gone through so much victim shaming. Then they even tried to intervene with her complaint. For some reason, they are trying to support the accused, not the survivor. They have no bylaw to cite why they have supported the accused actor despite his resignation from the organisation. The AMMA recalls the bylaw when it comes to the survivor, but they ignore it when it comes to the accused. This means that the rights of a person who has suffered a grievous crime have been subjected to the vote of a general body meeting,” Padmapriya said.
“The point is that AMMA made these bylaws. Such a big grievance of the survivor has been taken so lightly. Our third question is what is the grievance addressal system of AMMA ? Who are they trying to fool? They seem to be hiding something,” she added.
Padmapriya Janakiraman has several Malayalam movies to her credit. She marked her debut in Bollywood with the movie ‘Chef’ which also featured Saif Ali Khan and Milind Soman.
Parvathy Thiruvoth (Actress)
“AMMA has given vague reasons regarding the status of the accused member. I called AMMA’s General Secretary and he was more concerned that we are hurting AMMA’s reputation. He promised a fair discussion. We trusted AMMA to come up with corrective action. What we faced during the first 40 minutes of our dialogue with AMMA was full of accusations . We kept asking to be heard and requested several times for an opportunity to represent our views. But they did not listen to us. Not just that, they had brought up issues related to the survivor, which should not have been done,” Parvathy said.
Known for her strong portrayal of woman protagonists, Parvathy Thiruvoth made her mark with the critically acclaimed Malayalam film ‘Take Off’. Last year, Parvathy made her Bollywood debut with ‘Qarib Qarib Singlle’ in which she is paired with Irfan Khan.
Anjali Menon (Film maker)
“An actress was attacked last year and she did not receive the support she deserved from the film industry association that is supposed to represent us. We wanted a proper mechanism that addresses the concerns of women in the industry. Now, the country is witnessing a movement which has also received strong support from the government of India and film industry bodies such as FWICE on behalf of women who are speaking up, but this is not the case in Kerala,”she said.
Anjali Menon is a film maker and made her debut with the Malayalam film ‘Manjaadikuru’, followed by ‘Bangalore Days’ and ‘Koode’.