Actor Vinayakan, who predominantly works in Malayalam cinema, has been criticised for his misogynistic comments at a press meet organised by the team of the recently-released Malayalam film Oruthee, on Wednesday.
The team had called the press meet to announce a sequel to Oruthee. Those present included director VK Prakash and actors Navya Nair and Vinayakan.
While speaking at the event, Vinayakan expressed his ignorance of the #MeToo movement. “What is MeToo? I don’t know! Is groping a woman called MeToo? Let me ask: if I want to have sex with a woman, what should I do?” he said.
When media persons tried to explain the concept to him, he went on to say that he had had physical relationships with ten women in his life. “I asked those ten women if they would like to have a physical relationship with me. If this is what you mean by MeToo, I will ask it again,” he said.
Further, Vinayakan pointed to a woman journalist in the crowd and said, “If I want to have sex with that woman, I will ask her.”
It is to be noted that Vinayakan’s remarks come a week after the Kerala High Court ordered production houses and film bodies in the Malayalam industry to set up Internal Complaint Committees (ICC) as per the Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition and Redressal) PoSH Act, 2013.
Vinayakan’s remarks on the #MeToo movement and consent have been criticised by several actors and technicians across the Malayalam film industry, including filmmaker Kunjila, actors Parvathy Thiruvothu and Rima Kallingal.
Kunjila’s piece criticising Vinayakan’s statements and educating readers about consent was widely shared by social media users.
Meanwhile, actor Hareesh Peradi, while condemning Vinayakan’s statements in a Facebook post, also took a jibe at the Women in Cinema Collective (WCC) for not speaking out about the incident. He remarked that the organisation and its progressive supporters would have not kept silent if someone from the Association of Malayalam Movie Artists (AMMA) had said this.
On the other hand, Rima, in an Instagram story, questioned, “Why is it always the WCC that needs to respond and enrage at such insensitivity? Do the 99% of men who make up this industry have nothing to say?” She also noted that Vinayakan’s remarks and the journalists laughing at them are partly responsible for women not opening up about the abuse they face.
Congress leader Shanimol Usman, in a Facebook post, called out the statements made by Vinayakan. Noting that he is a good actor, she said his views on women are distorted.
Vinayakan won Kerala State Award for his performance in Kammatipaadam in 2016. Aside from acting, he is also known for composing music. He has acted in films like Maanthrikam, Stop Violence, Vellithira and Thottappan.
Earlier, in 2019, Dalit activist Mrudula Devi S had filed a police complaint accusing Vinayakan of speaking to her inappropriately, when she had called him to talk about a function that she was attending. The activist had also submitted an audio recording of her conversation with the actor, along with her complaint. The case was registered by the Kalpetta police, who later released Vinayakan on bail, after recording his statements.
In a Facebook post shared by Mrudula, which was removed later, she had said that while she admired Vinayakan for speaking up for the female actor who was abducted and assaulted in 2017, in reality, he was no different from the perpetrators of that horrendous act. “I personally experienced his anti-woman mentality,” she had added.