Malayalam Filmmaker Sanal Kumar Sasidharan was released on bail on Friday after being arrested on Thursday in a stalking case filed based on actor Manju Warrier’s complaint.
Sasidharan had recently been claiming on social media that Warrier’s life was in danger and that the actor was being held in the custody of those with vested interests.
Warrier, however, has alleged that the filmmaker had been making unsolicited advances towards her, personally and through social media, since August 2019.
Following his dramatic arrest on Thursday, which was captured in a Facebook Live session of the filmmaker, the police offered to grant him station bail, but Sasidharan denied it and demanded to be produced at the court. Bail was subsequently granted to Saisdharan by the Aluva magistrate.
It may be noted that in the recent past, the Malayalam film industry has witnessed multiple cases of crime against women. Several male technicians and artists are facing criminal charges, such as actor Dileep, who is facing trial as the chief conspirator in the infamous 2017 female actor abduction and assault case, debutant filmmaker Liju Krishna, who was arrested on rape charges, and actor-producer Vijay Babu, who is also facing a rape charge. The latest in this list is the stalking case against Sasidharan.
Who is Sanal Kumar Sasidharan?
Born in Thiruvananthapuram, Sasidharan is a 45-year-old filmmaker, lawyer and poet. He was a recipient of the prestigious Tiger Award at the International Film Festival Rotterdam for his film Sexy Durga.
Sasidharan began his film career in 2000 as an art assistant for the Malayalam film Mankolangal. In 2001, he formed a film society, Kazhcha Chalachithra Vedi, with his colleagues in order to make independent movies through crowdfunding. His first short film Wonder World was produced by the film society.
Later, in 2008, he directed Parole. That same year, his third short film Frog won the Kerala State Television Award. His first feature film Oraalppokkam got Fipresci and Network for the Promotion of Asian Cinema awards for best Malayalam film at the International Film Festival of Kerala 2014. He has also received the Kerala State Film Award for Best Director for the film. His second feature Ozhivudivasathe Kali bagged the top honour at the Kerala Film awards in 2015.
In 2017, his film Sexy Durga, later renamed as S Durga in the aftermath of a controversy over the title and a ban by the Central Board of Film Certification in India, received the Hivos Tiger Award. It was the first Indian film to win this award.
Later, Sasidharan directed Chola, featuring Joju George and Nimisha Sajayan. The film premiered at the 76th Venice International Film Festival in the Orizzonti Competition section.
In 2019, he directed Warrier in a film titled A’hr/Kayattam, which has not been released yet. Warrier also co-produced the film. It is notable that in her recent complaint, the actor has stated that Sasidharan has allegedly been stalking her since 2019.
Sasidharan’s social media posts about Warrier
In a December 2021 Facebook post praising Warrier, the filmmaker said that he had no opportunity to talk in private to her about his ‘admiration’ and added that he wanted to ask Warrier about her feelings the next time he got two minutes in person. He also posted a couple of photos of Warrier taken during the shoot of Kayattam.
On April 27, 2022, he wrote a long post about working on Kayattam with Warrier, the issues surrounding the film’s release, and the alleged interference of her managers Binish Chandran and Binu Nair.
On May 1, the filmmaker took to Instagram and wrote, “It has been four days since I posted on social media that the life of famous Malayalam actress Manju Warrier is in danger and she is in the custody of some people with vested interests. I posted the names of her managers Bineesh Chandran and Binu Nair and the reasons why I believe she is under detention. But so far, neither Manju Warrier nor anyone else concerned has responded. Manju Warrier’s silence reinforces my suspicion.”
In another post, Sasidharan shared a letter addressed to the President of India and the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court. In the letter, he expressed his apprehensions surrounding the law and order situation in Kerala in the wake of incidents such as the murder of a woman named Shalu and the alleged suicide of a trans woman. He also mentioned his concerns about Warrier’s safety and wrote about the 2017 female actor abduction and sexual assault case. Sasidharan further said he suspected that Warrier was kept under confinement when the investigating officer in the actor assault case was transferred right after recording her statement.
Sasidharan’s arrest and what followed
On Thursday, a source from the Elamakkara station confirmed to Silverscreen India that an FIR had been registered against the filmmaker and that the sections he is charged under would be determined after a preliminary investigation.
Earlier on Thursday morning, the filmmaker went live on Facebook, while the police were trying to take him into custody at Parassala, Thiruvananthapuram. In the video, the filmmaker appears to not be cooperating with the authorities.
The filmmaker was taken to Elamakkara station around 9.30 pm on Thursday and his arrest was recorded subsequently. Elamakkara police have charged the filmmaker under IPC section 354 (D). This section denotes the offence of stalking, defined as any man who follows a woman and contacts or attempts to contact such woman to foster personal interaction repeatedly despite a clear indication of disinterest by such woman.
When he was produced at the court, Sasidharan alleged that the police did not return his mobile phone. However, a police source told The Hindu that taking an accused’s phone into custody is a routine procedure. The source also added that the phone was submitted to the court and the accused could collect it through his lawyer.
Speaking to the media after being released on bail, Sasidharan denied that he had continuously disturbed Warrier. He also said he had messaged her about his suspicion that she was being held against her will and that he had intimated that he would post about it on social media. “I did not get any response from her. It was only then that I wrote to the President and the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court. I tried to meet Manju Warrier in person to talk about the delay in releasing Kayattam, but I was not permitted to do so,” he added.