Reception of Actor Dileep Lifts the Veil Off A Misogynistic Kerala
Case of actor Dileep embroiled in an alleged rape and abduction case exposes hypocrisy of Malayalam film industry.
(This article was first published on 6 October 2017 and has been reposted from The Quint archives. On 15 October 2020, the prosecution requested the Additional Special Sessions Court in Kochi to adjourn the trial in the sensational actor abduction case. They wanted the case transferred to the High Court.)
Actor Dileep, who is an accused in the actor abduction and sexual assault case, came out of Aluva sub-jail on 3 October after spending 85 days. The Kerala High Court, after rejecting four applications, finally released him on bail.
The police claim they have incriminating evidence to prove Dileep’s involvement in what they call the “quotation” rape case. It is upto the court to decide if the evidence is enough to prove the popular actor’s involvement in the crime. However, the entire story speaks volumes about the societal change that Kerala has undergone.
Hypocrisy of ‘Progressive’ People Exposed
Ever since the shocking news of the abduction and assault of the female actor surfaced on 17 February, the response has exposed the sheer misogyny, hypocrisy and the perverted outlook of many “progressive” people. The carefully crafted image of a modern state, which many proud malayalees like to flaunt, lay in tatters as thousands thronged the sub-jail to greet a rape accused.
Just after the actor was abducted, the powers-that-be of the film industry, including Dileep, assembled at Kochi’s Durbar Hall ground. They expressed solidarity with the survivor and urged the government to bring the culprits to book.
However, the solidarity dissipated as soon as the needle of suspicion pointed towards Dileep, said to be the most powerful person in Malayalam cinema industry.
Flip-Flop by the Association of Malyalam Movie Artists
Association of Malayalam Movie Artists (AMMA) assembled in Kochi on 29 June, a day after Dileep was questioned for nine hours, and expressed complete faith in the actor. Despite demands by female artists and others, the meeting did not discuss the issue in detail.
Dileep had previously accused the survivor of keeping company of people like Sunil Kumar aka Pulsar Suni, the main accused in the case. According to Dileep, this resulted in the alleged abduction and sexual assault.
Office-bearers of AMMA, including CPI(M) legislators and actors Innocent and Mukesh, were vociferous in their support.
Despite all of this, there was very little public sympathy for Dileep.
Female artists under the banner of Women Collective in Cinema, expressed reservation against those who tried to shame the survivor. When Dileep was arrested in 10 July, an angry mob destroyed his business establishments.
Fearing public outcry, AMMA changed its position and expelled Dileep. Some actors who earlier defended him now tried to salvage their image by denouncing him publicly. Other film organisations followed suit and took action against the actor.
However, all of this changed, slowly. Fans associations and other groups supporting Dileep took to social media in a clandestine campaign to generate sympathy for him. The campaign became more explicit after the second bail campaign was rejected by the court.
Creating False Perception of Sympathy
Film personalities and social activists were roped in to cast doubt on the police investigation and to shame the survivor. Many actors visited Dileep in jail and defended him, influencing public opinion.
Media personality and former MP Sebastian Paul, who has an image of being a human rights activist, published an article equating Dileep with hundreds of political prisoners languishing in various jails, drawing a sharp reaction from the civil society and sparking a debate on media ethics. The article, published in the news portal SouthLive, resulted in the resignations of all but one journalists working there, including this writer. Sebastian Paul, in an interview given to Manorama News, demanded an explanation from the police for arresting Dileep and keeping him in jail for 85 days. He represented himself as the Devil’s advocate and said he did not care if he is branded as a supporter of the actor.
The PR machinery of supporters of Dileep – from fans’ associations to Sebastian Paul – appears to have succeeded in creating sympathy for the actor, as later events would suggest.
Grand Success of ‘Ramaleela’
The expressions of support for Dileep were not merely meant to influence the court. In a judicial system which ought to follow the dictum of “bail is the norm, jail is the exception” Dileep should get bail as well.
Apart from the bail, what these writings and statements sought to accomplish was to sanitise his image and help him get back the positions he had lost in various organisations that run the Malayalam film industry.
The urgency with which the accused in a rape case was reinstated as the president of Film Exhibitors United Organisation of Kerala (FEUOK) points towards this.
Release of Ramaleela, starring Dileep, was successfully used by his supporters and well-wishers to refurbish his image. On the day of the release, jacket advertisements were given in many dailies including Deshabhimani, the mouthpiece of the CPI(M).
According to some estimates the film has already collected Rs 18 crore (this writer could not independently verify this). The fans attributed the success of the film to the support Dileep gets from the general public and their belief that he is innocent in the case.
Friends of Dileep have already started demanding revocation of his suspension from AMMA. The grand welcome accorded to him in front of the jail was, in fact, a show of strength.
All this is a reflection of the deeper malaise that is plaguing Kerala society.
The political Malayalee as a tribe is fast disappearing. Now vast sections of society proudly flaunt their disdain for anything political. When people become apolitical they display misogyny and patriarchy without any qualms. Heroic reception for Dileep and the utter disregard for the travails of a rape survivor are the latest manifestations of this.
(The writer is former Executive Editor, SouthLive. He can be reached @NKBhoopesh . This is an opinion piece and the views expressed above are the author’s own. The Quint neither endorses nor is responsible for the same.)
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