The standoff between the Association of Malayalam Movie Artists (AMMA) and the Women in Cinema Collective (WCC) intensified over the membership status of actor Dileep, who is accused in a sexual assault case, with both the groups exchanging verbal spat, ruling out any kind of rapprochement, according to an IE report.
In a new turn of event, actor Siddique, who is also the Secretary of AMMA along with KPAC Lalitha, a general body member spoke to the media in Kochi this afternoon defending its actions and refuting the charges leveled by the members of the WCC. Siddique, who corroborated the fact that the actor Dileep had tendered his resignation from Amma and added that that would be ratified by AMMA’s Executive Committee soon. The actor also defended the decision of the general body of AMMA to revoke Dileep’s expulsion from the Association.
While speaking to the reporters, Siddique said, “We must remember that he is an accused and has not been found guilty yet. When he was arrested last year, an emergency executive committee took the decision to remove him. That decision was revoked by 280 members of the general body who took the stand that the court must find him either guilty or innocent. Only then, will we take a decision to expel him. The executive committee cannot overrule the general body of AMMA,” Siddique told reporters in Kochi.
Siddique and Lalitha also lashed out at the members of WCC stressing that those who have walked out of AMMA must apologise for their mistakes before they return. “Many things happen within an organisation. That must not be discussed outside. Before we agree to take them (WCC members who have quit) back, let them come and apologise for their mistakes,” said Lalitha, adding that AMMA has always given everyone an opportunity to address their grievances at the meetings.
The survivor of the sexual assault and three members of the WCC had walked out of AMMA earlier this year after the general body of the organisation took the decision to revoke Dileep’s expulsion. “Who said we are not with the victim? Who said we didn’t do anything? After the incident was reported, I and others including Mohanlal spoke with the chief minister for days asking the government to take the issue seriously. The culprit, Pulsar Suni, was arrested a few days later. We did not expel the victim. She walked out on her own expressing her disagreement with the stand of AMMA. We have always stood with her. All the people in Kerala are standing with her”, Siddique said. The AMMA secretary also warned that action will be taken against certain WCC members for making distasteful comments about AMMA president and actor Mohanlal. “These attempts to break the unity within AMMA will never work. It will never happen,” he added.
Yesterday, The founding members of the Women in Cinema Collective (WCC), an organisation formed in 2017 to look after the interests of female actors in the Malayalam film industry, came out all guns blazing on Saturday stating that they were ‘hurt, disrespected and very angry’ with the conduct of the leadership of Association of Malayalam Movie Artists, the film body of Malayalam actors.
The WCC, formed in the backdrop of the sexual assault of a leading Malayalam actress in February 2017, had been involved in a dialogue with AMMA’s executive council over the subject of the membership of actor Dileep, who has been charge sheeted in the sexual assault case and accused of heinous crimes like gangrape, abduction and criminal conspiracy. While the actor was expelled from AMMA at the time of his arrest, the expulsion was later reportedly revoked by the larger general body of AMMA. The WCC has been questioning why AMMA took such a decision when the case’s trial was still underway.
“It’s such a big case of sexual violence and for some reason, they are trying to support the accused. They are doing victim-shaming. The leadership (of AMMA) has been clearly lying to us. After so many letters and grievances, they haven’t done anything. They don’t have a grievance redressal system. They are trying to hide something. Whom are they trying to fool?” said Padmapriya, member of both the WCC and the general body of AMMA, at a press conference in Kochi.
With a list of demands including keeping Dileep out of AMMA and taking back the survivor, three WCC members had a dialogue with AMMA’s executive council on August 7 which was said to have ended on a ‘productive’ note. But two months after that meeting, in which WCC members said they were promised positive steps, the AMMA has not agreed to any of their demands, the women’s collective said.
“We believed and went for the meeting (on August 7) because we wanted to bring about a change. This is a big industry and encompasses a lot of talents and arts. It should be a safe place for women…in the letter they wrote to us, they have not agreed to any of the demands, there is not a mention of the survivor,” said Revathy, a senior actor and founding member of WCC.
The WCC members alleged that the leadership of AMMA never wanted to do anything for the survivor and kept exploiting the loopholes in the bye-laws they themselves made to pass the buck. They underlined that they had invested a lot of their time and risked their personal lives and professional careers to speak against AMMA. Stressing that they still had faith in AMMA, they said similar could not be said of its leadership.
Parvathy Thiruvoth, one of the founding WCC members and a leading actress in the industry, said, “This (AMMA) is not a happy family. The next step is to keep exposing. It is not going to quiet down. We are not going anywhere. We will be here, but we will not shut our eyes and keep quiet.”