Two weeks ago, film director P Balachandra Kumar, 49, was waiting outside the studios of a few major television channels in Kerala, requesting an appointment. Despite showing audio documents of actor Dileep, which allegedly prove his crucial involvement in the actor assault case, multiple channels turned away Kumar.
“Even when Dileep was arrested or jailed, I believed that he was innocent. Though his repeated denial of not knowing the main accused 'Pulsar' Suni had raised suspicion, I believed that he was just averting unwanted controversies,” Balachandra Kumar told The Quint. His perspective, however, changed in November 2017. Here's why.
Malayalam TV Channels Hesitant?
On Friday, 14 January, when this reporter met Balachandra Kumar, he was gearing up for an interview at the same channel where he once had stood waiting for hours. As the deadline given by the Supreme Court to end the trial in the actor assault case is set to expire in a month, the former friend of the Dileep has given an unexpected twist to the case by revealing secrets, which he claims he had hidden out of fear, for years.
On 12 January, Balachandra Kumar gave his statement, under Section 164, in front of the judicial magistrate. The deposition lasted for over five hours. He also gave statements to the police and has handed over evidence, including 40 audio clips to them.
The incident in connection with the sexual assault of a leading actor in Malayalam film industry happened on the night of 17 February 2017, in a moving car in Kochi. The survivor, who filed a police complaint, identified the first accused, Sunil Kumar alias 'Pulsar' Suni, who had been working as a driver for several Malayalam actors. Though the survivor and her friends had alleged criminal conspiracy behind the assault, the chargesheet filed by the police in April 2017 named only Suni and six others as accused in the abduction and sexual assault of the actor.
The alleged involvement of actor Dileep came out much later, in June 2017, when a letter purportedly sent by Suni to Dileep surfaced.
Following police questioning, Dileep was arrested on charges of criminal conspiracy and sent to Aluva sub-jail where he was incarcerated for 85 days.
What Made Balachandra Kumar Question the Accused?
Balachandra Kumar was a close associate of Dileep. He is believed to have been in constant touch with the actor before and after he was named in the case. Why then, did he testify against the star?
"It was only on 15 November 2018, more than a month after Dileep was released on bail, that I realised his true involvement in the case. I was shocked by a series of conversations related to the case that happened at his house."P Balachandra Kumar
Balachandra Kumar said he knew, in one instance, that "they were going to watch the video of the assault." That is when he started "recording the voices on a Samsung tab, in the guise of checking Facebook and news."
Kumar said that an unidentified person, 'a VIP', brought the video of the brutal assault. This person, who is not yet nabbed, seemed to be influential. He also had contacts even at the offices of ministers and judges, Kumar said.
According to Balachandra Kumar, the voice recordings have incriminating evidence against Dileep. In the recordings, the actor's brother P Shivakumar alias Anoop has admitted the former’s involvement in the crime, Kumar said. Anoop is also heard speaking about Dileep plotting to murder five investigation officers in the case, and narrating the way they influenced crucial witnesses.
"At one point, Dileep said that he was bearing with the case to save another woman. He was pointing to (someone) behind him. We know that a madam was involved in the case," Kumar said.
Balachandra Kumar’s association with Dileep began in 2014 when they started working on a project titled ‘Pickpocket’ where Dileep was set to play the lead role. It was Balachandra Kumar’s second directorial project, after Asif Ali-starred Cowboy.
As the project dragged on for multiple reasons, including Dileep’s arrest and COVID lockdown, Balachandra Kumar slowly started drifting away from Dileep, even without the actor's knowledge.
“I got a warning from a person close to Dileep that there is danger to my life as I, someone who knows his secrets, am moving away. This made me collate all the documents and write a 32-page letter to Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan on 25 November 2021."
Kumar had submitted documents, including 18 voice notes to the CM's office, he said. However, there was no response from the CM's office for over a month. "That was when I started knocking at the doors of the media. Except Nikesh sir (M V Nikesh Kumar, MD of Reporter Channel), no one paid heed to my words then,” he said.
'The Most Crucial Development in the Case'
The Special Investigating Team (SIT), which is probing the actor assault case, is planning to approach the Supreme Court to seek an extension of the 16 February deadline set to end the trial. However, Dileep, through his advocate Raman Pillai, has already challenged the reopening of the case on the basis of the latest revelations, police sources said.
Dileep has alleged that Balachandra Kumar was a trap laid by the police. But police officers plan to present the material evidence against him before the court. A raid was conducted at the houses and offices of Dileep and his brother on 13 January, to cross-verify the evidence submitted by Balachandra Kumar. The authenticity of the voice clips provided by Kumar is yet to be verified, police sources told The Quint.
Meanwhile, the Crime Branch has registered another case on the statement that Dileep and his accomplices plotted to kill the investigation officers, including Deputy Superintendent of Police Baiju Poulose.
Former Director-General of Prosecution, T Asafali, said that the latest revelations of director P Balachandra Kumar have been the most crucial development in the actor assault case.
“There is no doubt that a reinvestigation must be initiated based on the latest developments. Normally, it is difficult to prove the act of conspiracy. However, the director has claimed that the actor viewed the video of assault in his presence and has submitted audio recordings to prove the same," Asafali said.
Normally, further investigation is initiated when the investigators miss a particular aspect of a case, he added.
"If the video had reached actor Dileep, that is enough evidence to prove his role in the conspiracy, and that calls for a reinvestigation. A fresh chargesheet must be submitted."
Meanwhile, film editor and member of Women in Cinema Collective Beena Paul told The Quint that their fight does not end with a verdict in the actor assault case. “The case is one part of our larger fight demanding a safe and secure environment for our women colleagues. Despite our persistent efforts, the Hema committee report hasn’t come out. However, the current revelation in the case is a good sign. We are not pinpointing any particular person as accused."
"Let the facts come out. What has transpired over the years – be it the issue of witnesses turning hostile or the prosecutors’ resignation – is frightening. We want speedy justice to our colleague, who has gone through a lot of trauma."Beena Paul, Film Editor
(Jisha Surya is an independent journalist based in Thiruvananthapuram, Kerala.)