In line with the Kerala High Court’s order on November 26 which stated that AMMA’s grievance cell is not the same as an Internal Complaints Committee, the Association of Malayalam Movie Artistes (AMMA) may have formed an ICC. No public announcement has been made yet. Members of the WCC, who filed the petition, haven’t been informed about this either. When contacted by Silverscreen, Jagadhesh, a member of AMMA said that they were busy with rehearsals for their upcoming show in Abu Dhabi, and cannot confirm as yet.
According to a report by TNM, after the court’s verdict on Monday, the association contacted Lakshmi Gopalaswamy, Asha Sharath, Shweta Menon and Rachana Narayanankutty from AMMA, to be a part of ICC. Preethi Ramakrishnan, a practicing lawyer in Kerala High Court, was also asked to be a part of the panel. As required by Vishaka guidelines and Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition and Redressal) Act 2013, or PoSH Act, ICC is mandatory for all organisations, and the committee is required to have members from within the association, and a woman external member who is either a lawyer or a social worker.
The Kerala High Court verdict was a response to a writ petition filed by the Women in Cinema Collective (WCC) on October 16. They had approached the court to seek a directive to AMMA to form an ICC. When the petition came up for hearing, the counsel representing AMMA submitted that there was already a grievance committee in place, and since AMMA was not an employer or a workplace, it did not have to form an ICC. To this, the WCC filed a counter saying that AMMA was an employer for shows, and asked for an ICC to be formed before their Abu Dhabi show on December 7. The court then directed AMMA to form ICC in accordance with the Act.
Sajitha Madathil, a member of the WCC, believes that if the committee has been formed now, it is due to the pressure of the court’s order and their upcoming show. She also told Silverscreen, “They unofficially say we are the ones who are troublemakers and we don’t work with the system. But now after the case, they will make it seem like they have decided to do it, and it’s not because of the court’s order.”
She also said that AMMA accused them of not working within the system, when the WCC in fact only believed in the system and took matters to court: “We know that having ICC is better than nothing, and it’s the first step.”
She also wondered why the association has not responded to the legal complaint sent by actor Divya Gopinath, accusing their member Alencier Ley Lopez of sexual harassment.
In October, as a part of the #MeToo movement, Divya accused Alencier of inappropriate gestures, conversations, and sexual harassment on the sets of a film where they worked together. She said she’d chosen not to report it to the film union after seeing how they treated one of their members who had been sexually harassed in 2017. She’d asked, “She [the actress] didn’t get justice from AMMA even though she was a member. I am not a member of AMMA. Will I even be heard?”
Divya is still not a member, but following the WCC’s petition, she decided to send the association a legal complaint against Alencier. She told Silverscreen, “They have an office address which is said to be accessible. So I sent a legal note by post explaining in detail how he mentally disturbed me. I told them I hope your members take the right action.”
Divya sent the complaint on November 23 and hasn’t received a response. She said she’s not sure if they even have a functioning office; and if it’s true that ICC has been formed now, she wondered when if her complaint will be acted upon. “Some are saying that they have chosen people to form ICC, but the members of AMMA were also the ones who said #MeToo is a fashion, so I don’t have much hope. But if the committee is set up, legally, they might put themselves in our position and it will be be helpful especially for new actors.”
Members of AMMA, and its president Mohanlal, have previously been charged with going soft on its members accused of sexual harassment, particularly in the 2017 actor assault case when the accused was actor Dileep. Dileep was expelled from AMMA soon after his arrest in the case, but was taken back after his release on bail in October 2017. WCC, a pressure group that was formed post this attack, has since called out on AMMA’s evasiveness on various occasions.
Featured image credit: The Hindu