Blockbusters, duds, great debuts, superb debutants, chartbusters that went viral, freshly brewed stories with loads of local flavour, upping the crores at the box office, superstar battles and then some more. Malayalam cinema had all that and more. But it was also the most controversial year in the history of our cinema, with incidents that shook the conscience of the common man. Here are the highlights.
Darkest hour for our cinema
The year began on a terrible note. Somewhere, in the middle of February, broke the news that at first seemed hard to believe. One of our female actors was abducted and molested in a moving car on a February night. The mortifying details of the kidnapping came as an absolute shock to the world. While social media went on a rampage to declare their unsolicited support to the actress, Malayalam cinema held a public meet to declare solidarity with their colleague. The meeting presided over by senior actors and directors came under censure for the overtly patriarchal tone and the irony of how some of their own words were contradictory to the kind of misogynistic dialogues they were guilty of writing. Manju Warrier was the lone voice that expressed doubts about the crime being of an organised nature and the need to probe further into it.
In a major breakthrough, the police arrested Pulsar Suni, the prime accused on Feb 23rd. Soon enough rumours were rife about the possible involvement of Dileep in the case. The actor took to the social media to blast the media for falsely linking his name into the case. The case took a drastic turn when the main accused, Pulsar Suni, wrote a letter to Dileep in jail on April 12. Dileep and Nadirsha were interrogated for over 13 hours at the Aluva Police Club on June 28th.
The next day, AMMA expressed its ire over the actress's abduction and maintained that they were with both their colleagues on this. At the press meet, actors Mukesh and Ganesh Kumar shouted their solidarity to Dileep and were rude to the media present there. Mammootty and Mohanlal, who were seated at the dais were conspicuous in their silence.
On July 10, Dileep was arrested by the police in connection with the actress's abduction and assault case. He was arrested on the charges of criminal conspiracy.
The very next morning, a hurried meeting was called at Mammootty's residence in Kochi and the collective decision was to expel Dileep from the association.
Jail, visitors and bail
After nearly 2 months in jail, Dileep was suddenly inundated by a line-up of visitors from Malayalam cinema. Ganesh Kumar held an impromptu press meet outside the jail where he “urged those who enjoyed Dileep’s generosity to extend their support to him.”
On the fifth attempt, Dileep was granted bail, after spending nearly 83 days in jail. He was welcomed with surprising fanfare and sweets were distributed outside the jail.
Not so innocent and about taking a stand
MP and President of AMMA, Innocent stirred a hornet’s nest while commenting on the casting couch. He maintained that “bad actresses” might share 'the bed' at will. When senior actors chose to maintain a deafening silence, it was Prithviraj who earned everyone’s respect when he apologised and promised not to be part of films that endorsed misogyny in any way in the future.
Ram Leela-to watch or not to watch
In the middle of this mess, one of Dileep’s most awaited films, Ram Leela, came under siege after his arrest. So when the release date was announced, social media was divided into two—the ones who chose to boycott it citing morality and the other section that felt cinema cannot be taken personally, after all a lot of people’s hard work is behind it.
Amidst widespread opposition the film released to positive reviews and has been declared a box office winner.
Women’s collective—looking forward
This incident resulted in a group of women, including top actors, directors, technicians and singers, coming together to create the Women in Cinema Collective (WCC) in a bid to voice the problems faced by women in the industry and explore ways to address them. The WCC kicked off with a meeting with Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan on 18th May. Their demands included the formation of an anti-harassment cell during film production and increased representation of women on movie sets. The collective has also asked the state government to commission a study of the problems faced by women in the industry and provide legal measures that will be binding across the board. Apart from fundamental equality and a safe working environment for female artists and technicians, the group also wants to ensure maternity benefits for its members.
Vidya Balan and Ami
Vidya Balan essaying the role of Kamala Das in her biopic titled Aami, directed by Kamal was considered a casting coup of sorts. But soon the actress opted out citing “creative differences” while Kamal maintained that the reason could be his own troubles with the right wing brigade. The role eventually went to Manju Warrier.
S… Durga saga
Initially called Sexy Durga, the film’s name was changed to S Durga by the CBFC while giving clearance with a U/A certificate. The film also received 21 audio mutes but no scene-cuts. Directed by Sanal Kumar Sasidharan, the film highlights the patriarchal set up in Kerala, through the eyes of an eloping couple and the horrors they endure on the way. But the film, which was first included in the IFFI, Goa was later removed from the list of Indian Panorama section at the behest of the Union Ministry (that considered the title to be insulting to the Hindu sentiments). The director then approached the Kerala High Court that in turn ordered the film to be screened at IFFI.
Strangely Sanal has withdrawn S Durga from the forthcoming International Film Festival of Kerala (IFFK) and conducted a screening of the film at Thiruvananthapuram. It was alleged that he withdrew the film as it wasn’t included in the international competition. The director maintains that it was withdrawn in protest against the attitude of the academy. They had placed it in the category of Malayalam Cinema Today, which is meant to promote contemporary Malayalam cinema that needs support.
Anna Rajan and Mammootty fans
What started off as an innocuous query about the actor she wanted to be paired with snowballed into an ugly social media fan war in the case of actress Anna Rajan (Angamaly Diaries). “I want to be Dulquer Salmaan’s heroine.” "Oh! and Mammootty," persisted the interviewer—“Oh I can play his daughter then” she cooed. That opened the floodgates of abuse from Megastar fans. From being called ‘aunty’ to accusing her of being a Mohanlal fan to getting too big for her boots, Anna Rajan’s FB page turned into a battlefield. On another timeline, actor-singer-director Vineeth Sreenivasan faced the brunt of fangiri when he innocently called Mohanlal 'Lal Uncle.' Lal fans didn’t spare him either. It’s only after the actress came on facebook live, all teary-eyed and apologised for her remarks that the fans cooled down. Later, the actress posted on the wall that Mammootty called her up and consoled her for the cruel onslaught of his fans.
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Fullpicture is an exclusive, comprehensive, online English magazine on Malayalam cinema, put together by a team of experienced journalists who share a passion for everything about Malayalam cinema. The idea is to put out well-written and well-researched features, exclusive interviews,...