The Women in Cinema Collective (WCC) termed the discussion on the implementation of the Justice Hema Commission report to address issues of sexual harassment in the film industry, on Wednesday, 4 May, as "disappointing".
However, other movie outfits, including the Association of Malayalam Movie Artists (AMMA) welcomed the majority of recommendations and called it "fruitful".
A meeting of Malayalam film industry bodies was convened by the culture department to discuss the draft recommendations that will be implemented to ensure equality and security of women in the film industry.
At the end of several hours of the meeting, all the outfits left without clarity. They will be meeting again in two weeks.
What Were the Draft Recommendations?
The Hema Committee was formed in 2017, after the sexual assault on a female actor in Kochi, allegedly masterminded by actor Dileep. The committee was constituted under Justice Hema to do a comprehensive study on the problems faced by women actors in the Malayalam film industry. It submitted its report in 2019 based on the depositions of scores of women in the industry.
The Hema panel called for a comprehensive film policy, providing equal opportunities and remuneration to men and women actors and technicians.
In the meeting on Wednesday, Cultural Minister Saji Cherian highlighted that as per the recommendations made in the report, contracts will be made compulsory in the film industry. A ban will be imposed on alcohol and drugs, basic facilities will be ensured for women in the film industry, equal wages for all genders will be assured, contracts for all works in movies will be given, proper behaviour towards women will be assured, safe place of stay for women will be provided and there will be ban on entry of people with criminal backgrounds to sets.
Producers are bound to provide safe and secure accommodation and transport for women. Drivers with criminal background should not be engaged, recalling the involvement of 'Pulsar' Suni, an accused in the 2017 case.
Three officials of the cultural department were appointed to prepare the instructions.
An Inconclusive Meeting: WCC
Calling the meeting a failure, the office-bearers of the pro-women outfit WCC told reporters that they strongly believe the suggestions, observations, and findings of the Commission should be made public.
Although the department had presented a summary of recommendations of around 40 points, the WCC insisted on seeing the basis on which these findings were made.
A few members highlighted that while the panel recommended equal pay in the film industry, there was no clarification as to who had made the allegations and how this can be regularised.
Actor Padmapriya, a WCC member, said, "Several questions will crop up if one reads it. So, I don't know if the state has taken enough time and consideration to put this together. In a way, it is very disappointing. Though we all spent our time (for the meeting), it is as inconclusive or even more inconclusive than before.
"There was also no clarity in Wednesday's meeting about the roadmap regarding the implementation of the panel's suggestions," she said.
She recalled that the report compiled by a panel headed by director Adoor Gopalakrishnan on some aspects of the film industry was made a public document.
Minister Saji Cheriyan reiterated the government's stand that the Hema Committee report could not be published as it included personal accounts of women working in the film industry. He pointed out that even Justice Hema objected to its release.
Film editor Bina Paul, representing the WCC, retorted that the identities of the women could be kept confidential while still publishing the report.
"The government has approved the contents of the report, from which a strong law to protect women in the industry will be evolved. We need not go into controversies and divert focus from the contents of the report. There is no specific benefit in making this report public."Saji Cherian, Kerala Cultural Minister
Good and Healthy Discussion: AMMA
Meanwhile, the Association of Malayalam Movie Artists (AMMA) said that the meeting was constructive and that majority of the suggestions put forward by the government during the meeting were welcomed by the association.
"It was a very good and healthy discussion. The findings of the Hema panel also seemed to be very good. In some areas, we requested for more clarity," actor Siddique, representing AMMA, said.
He also pointed out that they do not have any objection in making the Hema Committee report public.
However, one of the objections from AMMA was on the recommendation for equal remuneration for male and female actors. The Producers Association and Film Chamber were opposed to the suggestion of a regulatory authority, as they were reluctant to have an external body controlling them.