On June 28, the patriarchal nature of the (Association of Malayalam Movie Actors) AMMA was in full display at the 23rd General Body meeting, as male actors like Mukesh, Innocent, Devan, Idavela Babu, and Sadiq occupied the stage and put up a united front, even as superstars Mammootty and Mohanlal remained silent. The former unanimously spoke in defence of actor Dileep (also on the dais), whose involvement in the case of abduction and assault of an actress in February this year is still being investigated by the police.
The meeting is usually a flamboyant affair with members of the Association clicking selfies, posing for press photos, and a final group photo that tends to resemble an upper class joint family portrait – with the male superstars and senior-most actors in the middle, and the younger actors perched on the floor with their arms wrapped around each other in brotherly fashion.
This meeting was no exception.
Mukesh also happens to be an incumbent MLA, while Innocent is a Member of Parliament. When press reporters raised questions on the Association’s stand on the issue, which falls under the category of gender violence, actors Mukesh, Ganesh and Devan shouted them down. Together, they dismissed rumours about a rift in the Association, which surfaced after the formation of a Women’s Cinema Collective. Instead, they said that the AMMA’s “familial bond” was unbreakable.
The two superstars remained quiet the entire time.
It was the first general body meet of the Association after an actress was assaulted earlier in February this year. One of the biggest stars in the industry, actor Dileep, was earlier grilled by the police at Aluva Police Club in connection with the case, along with his friend and filmmaker Nadirshah.
Over the last few days, a number of male stars, including Aju Varghese and Salim Kumar, have extended support to Dileep on social media. Aju Varghese, in his Facebook post, revealed the name of the assault victim, and Salim Kumar, used sharp words to demand that the actress be put through a Narco Analysis to “bring out the truth”.
In an interview with Reporter TV, Dileep claimed that the actress and the main accused were close friends.
There had been speculation that these incidents of victim-shaming and victim-blaming would be discussed at the AMMA meeting. Also, the newly formed Women In Cinema collective members, Rima Kallingal and Ramya Nambeesan, were expected to raise the issues surrounding the actress’s assault.
“Since this is the first general body meeting post the formation of a women’s guild, ‘Women in Cinema Collective’, we have decided to raise the issue strongly for discussion and this is of high importance in today’s meeting,” Ramya had told the media in the morning, before she left for the meeting.
At the press meet however, Innocent, who is the president of AMMA, said that the Association had decided to not comment on the issue, now a high-profile police case. When asked about the statement made on the TV channel, that the actress and Suni were friends, Dileep blamed the media for “twisting his words”. “I have already apologised for what I said,” he said, and before the media could ask further questions, other actors intervened and invited the press to attend the inaugural event of Dileep’s theatre association in the evening.
There were no comments on the statements made by the other actors about the actress.
The actors became agitated when the press quoted Rima, who had said that the actress’s case was not discussed at the meeting, even though she had raised it. “No one raised the issue at the meeting. If someone told you otherwise, ask them,” said Innocent and Mukesh. The latter shouted at a reporter who asked if there was a conspiracy to corner and shun Dileep.
When asked if the Women In Cinema Collective had been formed as an alternative to the male-centred AMMA, he said that the Women’s Collective were a part of AMMA, and declared that the members of the women’s group were happy with AMMA’s stand.
Later that evening, a press note issued by the WCC read, “The present case involving our member and colleague was not taken for discussion (at the general body meeting of AMMA). WCC decided against raising it as the case is still sub judice and also it is not a case that has to be discussed only when raised by WCC.”
Further, “WCC is working in its own capacity to ensure all support to our colleague and helping her get legal counselling. WCC has also taken strong measures to counter victimisation of the victim. A complaint on behalf of WCC is being sent to the women’s commission regarding the same, requesting them to take immediate action.”
Further, “Whatever work need to be done by AMMA should be their prerogative. As the person who has suffered terrible indignity is a member of AMMA, we hope they will stand by her and ensure a fair trial.”