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The question to ask after Edavela Babu’s insensitive remark about the actor survivor of sexual assault is – on which side is AMMA going to stand?
Yesterday, actor Parvathy resigned after AMMA general secretary Edavela Babu made an insensitive remark about the Malayalam industry actress who is a sexual assault survivor, and which was allegedly masterminded by actor Dileep.
Three years ago, a popular Malayalam actress was abducted and molested in a moving car. The case shook the conscience of Keralites and temporarily brought together everyone in Malayalam film industry.
After a months-long police investigation, the case pointed towards actor Dileep as the alleged mastermind of the attack because the survivor allegedly broke the news regarding his affair to his then-wife Manju Warrier. After this, the overall attitude towards the survivor has changed. Because until then, the whole industry was speaking up loudly for the survivor actress and the courage she showed to fight back her attackers.
Two years ago, after actor Dileep was taken back into AMMA (Association of Malayalam Movie Artists), four actresses including the survivor had resigned from the organisation after calling out the injustice. The survivor had specifically said that, apart from the attack she faced, she is also disappointed with the leadership because she had complained to AMMA’s head against Dileep for trying to block acting opportunities and no one did anything about it.
Today, the general secretary of the organisation, Edavela Babu, has met a new low with his insensitive remark.
In an interview with a news channel, Edavela Babu said that AMMA will be making a film to help get funds for the organisation. When asked if the actress survivor will be part of the film, Babu remarked that she is not part of AMMA and therefore will be absent.
After the reporter pressed the matter by pointing out that she had a prominent role in AMMA’s 2009 film ‘Twenty20’, Babu dropped his insensitive remark, “just like we can’t bring back those who are dead, we can only make films with those who are in AMMA.”
Edavela Babu remarked that the survivor actress will not be part of the film by using “death” as a metaphor to point out her absence in the organisation. Or rather, he is expressing his own attitude and feelings regarding the actress’s decision to resign in the first place.
After he made his remark, actress Parvathy Thiruvoth announced her decision to resign from AMMA in solidarity with the survivor. She also demanded the resignation of Edavela Babu from his role as general secretary of AMMA.
“His utterly disgusting and mortifying remark comparing a woman member who had been badly let down by this organisation and consequently left it, to a dead person is beyond correction… Mr. Babu may believe he just used a metaphor, but it shows his nauseating attitude and I pity him. I am sure that when the media starts discussing this remark, many of his peers will support him. I’m certain about this because of the way they have always dealt with issues pertaining to women” she said in her Facebook post.
As Parvathy herself pointed out, there is no doubt whatsoever that Edavela Babu’s colleagues will express their support by brushing off his remark as just a “joke” or “black humour.”
People might even take it up a notch with “feminichi” or “feminazi” tags along with the usual whataboutery fallacy that involves rape victims who died at the hands of male violence.
What should be pointed out is the fact that as the head of the organisation Edavela Babu has lent his voice to the cacophony that continues to make the industry look like a hostile environment for women.
First actor Dileep, while he was an accused in the case, was brought back into the organisation violating the norms mentioned in Vishaka guidelines and sexual harassment at the workplace act.
After the actresses resigned from the organisation, the leadership vilified them for opting out as opposed to taking a clear cut stand for the survivor.
Edavela Babu is one of the four colleagues of the survivor actress, who became hostile during the trial and changed their statements. Others being Bindu Panicker, Bhamaa, and Siddique (who is also the joint secretary of AMMA and a critic of Women in Cinema Collective (WCC)).
Today, Edavela Babu just brushed off the actress’s possible involvement with the “dead people” remark. All he had to do was stick to his statement, which is that she won’t be part of the film as she is not part of AMMA, instead of making insensitive, crass remarks like this.
He also denied that the actress survivor had given him a written complaint where she alleged that Dileep was trying to wreck her career.
In early 2018, there were reports of a leaked statement that Babu gave the police in which he had admitted that the survivor actor gave complaints.
On a personal note, I find it amusing that AMMA members made a big deal out of Parvathy referring to the organisation as A.M.M.A instead of “AMMA.”
Yet, when it comes to basic sensitivity and protection of women, the organisation continues to play it safe.
Earlier, the seniors of AMMA had decided that night shoots should be avoided for women in the name of safety because putting the onus of male violence on women is the usual norm.
Amidst all this, sensitivity as a facet is often disregarded in one’s desperate attempts to sound ‘logical’, ‘factual’ or ‘strong’.
As the president of the organisation, Mohanlal had spoken about all the things that organisation did and continued to do for the welfare of artists, especially the ones who were struggling due to lack of work or income.
When it comes to accountability, no one will deny all the good things AMMA did. Accountability is basic human decency.
If Edavela Babu continues to deny getting complaints then it also means that AMMA does not take complaints of fellow actors seriously, especially when a powerful person is involved on the other side. This is well against the kind of reputation the organisation is trying to build or project before the people.
If AMMA wants to build a good reputation then it is important to remove certain members from the leadership position and include younger or more sensitive people. AMMA was also criticised for not having women in leadership positions; and this is important so that aspects like Vishaka guidelines could be better highlighted.
Images source: By Vijayakumarblathur – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, Link and By Syed Shiyaz Mirza – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0, Link
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