Some female personalities have passed sexist remarks on March 8, while speaking at an event organised by Association of Malayalam Movie Artists (AMMA).
The event, which was called Aarjava 2022, celebrated ‘The Phenomenal Women’, marking the occasion of International Women’s Day. The organisation of AMMA, dedicated to actors working in the Malayalam film industry, was instituted in 1994.
The event saw the presence of dignitaries including former Kerala Health Minister KK Shailaja, Former DGP IPS Sreelekha and Shabani Ajmal of Ajmal Bismi groups. Several artists of the Malayalam industry including Urvashi, Menaka and Mamta Mohandas also took part in the program.
However, statements made by some artists turned out to be misogynistic and sexist. Addressing the gathering, Urvashi said, “We don’t have a habit of talking back to male family members in our family. Because we all have to eventually go back to our homes.”
She further went on to normalise harassment, noting that the problems persisted across the years and actors like Mohanlal would make sure to protect women on set. “When I started acting, Mohanlal would make sure that women went back home safely. Not just me, but all women artists and he would leave only after us. In the past and currently, the problems have persisted. Senior artists like Lalitha chechi were there to aid us with techniques to smartly handle them, without letting others know and creating chaos.”
The actor went on to add that with the current growth of social media, many related incidents are being openly addressed and expressed her sympathy after learning about recent occurrences. “Yet I think that we can’t generally blame all men because of one or few individuals who have hurt us. Hence, I thank all the men here who are rooting for us. Only with your support, we are here.”
Following which, veteran actor Menaka Sureshkumar began her speech by thanking the “men behind the new panel at AMMA.” She said, “Women are like Navaratnas (precious stones), men are gold and gold ornaments with Navaratnas are beautiful.” She also made a joke, which pointed that Edavela Babu, AMMA’s General Secretary, is a bachelor for the sake of women like Shweta and herself, who are also members of the organisation.
On the contrary, KK Shailaja spoke about the history of Women’s Day and how previous generations of women fought battles for female liberation from patriarchy. Emphasising the importance of the establishment of an Internal Complaint Cell (ICC) and need for equal pay, the actor appreciated the seminar on the Prevention of Sexual Harassment (POSH guidelines) at the workplace, conducted by AMMA. The former minister also expressed her happiness about actor Manju Warrier choosing to work after her marriage and appreciated the female actor, who was abducted and sexually assaulted in 2017, noting that she called herself a ‘survivor’, and not a ‘victim.’
However, Shailaja also remarked, “Some say they were tortured for many years. Why should they wait for years to complain about it? When a bad gaze, a bad word or a bad touch, happens for the first time, we should say no and stop it. Why do we get an education, if we don’t have the courage to speak up against it and face it.”
This comes at a time, when a young woman raised a complaint against debutant filmmaker Liju Krishna for allegedly raping her for two years. Maintaining her anonymity, in a Facebook page named Women Against Sexual Harassment, the survivor mentioned that there was no official grievance redressal cell in the production to complain about the sexual abuse. She also noted that she sought a psychiatrist’s help to deal with the trauma. “But Liju Krishna had enslaved me to an extent that I couldn’t come out of the toxic relationship,” she added.