The Malayalam film industry is passing through an unprecedented moral and ethical crisis, and at the center of it are a bunch of women who stood up to the powerful leadership of AMMA (Association Of Malayalam Movie Actors). The dirt that the industry had been sweeping under the carpet became public in February last year, when a young actress was allegedly waylaid and sexually abused by a man who claimed to be an aide of a male superstar.
Here is the timeline of the case:
February 18: An actress is waylaid and sexually abused inside a moving vehicle in Kochi in the wee hours while on her way to Thrissur. On the same night, she files a complaint with the police.
February 19: Martin, her driver, and two more accused are taken into custody. The police begins hunt for the main accused, Sunil Kumar a.k.a Pulsar Suni.
February 24: Suni is taken into police custody inside the premises of the high court where he had come to present himself before the court, thereby evade police arrest.
June 4: A group of female artistes in the Malayalam industry, including Manju Warrier, Parvathy, editor Bina Paul, Rima Kallingal and Geethu Mohandas, announce the formation of Women In Cinema Collective, an organisation for women working in Malayalam cinema. They begin an informal campaign on social media Avalodoppam (With Her), in solidarity with the rape survivor, that goes viral.
As the first step, the members meet Chief Minister of Kerala, Pinarayi Vijayan, and submit a plea.
June 24: Police obtains a letter that Suni allegedly wrote to actor Dileep from Kakkanad prison. Also, a cellmate of Suni reveals the details of a phone call between Suni and Dileep, bringing to light the latter’s involvement in the case.
June 25: Dileep and his friend Nadirshah tell the media that they were being blackmailed by an aide of Suni for Rs 1.5 crores in April 2017.
Dileep also issues public statements defaming the actress, alleging that she was friends with the accused, Suni. He also gave a highly contentious television interview in which he lashed out at several people, including the survivor, for trying to frame him.
June 28: Police summons Dileep and Nadirshah and records their statements. The process continues for over 12 hours.
AMMA holds a press meet where the main members declare solidarity with Dileep.
July 10: Dileep is arrested by the police for conspiring the sexual assault of the actress.
July 11: AMMA cancels Dileep’s primary membership from the organisation where he had been serving as a treasurer.
July 25: The court extends Dileep’s police custody till August 8 on the grounds that the Special Investigation Team wants more time to collect evidence.
The investigation team reported to the court that they had strong evidence confirming the actor’s involvement in the crime.
Call records and deposition of eyewitnesses confirm his role. Refuting Dileep’s claim he did not know Pulsar Suni, the prosecution said the actor had met Suni more than four times at different places. Dileep had handed over Rs 10,000 as an advance from his car to Suni to allegedly commit rape and record it.
July 31: Dileep’s manager Appunni, who had been evading arrest, surrenders before the police.
August 2017: Police questions Dileep’s wife Kavya Madhavan, his former wife Manju Warrier, her brother Madhu Warrier and Nadirshah, singer Rimi Tomy with regard to the case.
During Onam, a number of senior actors and celebrities, including Antony Perumbavoor and Jayaram visit Dileep in the jail. Subsequently, the court asks the police to tighten the security inside the jail as celebrity visitors could influence the investigation.
September 27: Prosecution discloses several details of the conspiracy behind the crime, including the tidbit that Dileep had offered Suni Rs 3 Crores for the act.
September 28: Ramaleela, the film Dileep had been working on, releases in theatres amidst calls for boycott. However, a successful campaign by the actor’s fans and friends like filmmaker Lal Jose turns the tide in favour of the actor.
October 3: Dileep is granted bail as the investigation was nearly complete. He presented a bond of Rs 1 Lakh before the court, and agreed to not the leave the country without the court’s nod.
The actor’s fans and friends in the industry wait outside the jail, and give him a hero’s welcome.
November 1: The WCC is registered as an official body.
December 2017: At the International Film Festival Of Kerala held in Thiruvananthapuram, actress Parvathy, at an open forum attended by a few members of WCC, calls out the misogyny in Malayalam cinema, citing a recent film starring actor Mammootty. This is followed by a severe hate campaign against the actress and other members of the WCC on social media. Those behind the online attack even send rape threats to the women, and call for boycott of their films. None of the actors, including Mammootty in whose name the attack is being carried out, respond.
May 2018: AMMA, under the banner of Mazhavil Manorama television channel, organises a stage show involving the members. In a skit featuring Mammootty, Mohanlal and National Award winning actress Surabhi Lakshmi, the WCC is ridiculed and maligned.
June 24: In a general body meeting of AMMA where Mohanlal takes charge as the president following Innocent’s retirement, a section of members, including Siddique and Urmila Unni demand that Dileep be reinstated, and the leadership approves the demand.
Subsequently, WCC registers its protest through a Facebook post where it condemned the act of reinstalling a rape accused member as unethical. Actress Rima Kallingal, on a television interview aired on the same evening, states that AMMA is not a democratic platform to register protests, and cites the example of the Mazhavil Azhakil AMMA skit.
June 28: Four members of WCC – Rima Kallingal, Geetu Mohandas, Remya Nambeesan and the rape survivor – resign from AMMA and announce it through a strongly worded official statement issued through the WCC Facebook page. The artistes declare that they would continue fighting for justice for outside AMMA.