“If you kick me when I’m down you better pray I don’t get up!”
If you take these words to be the dialogue out of any latest Hollywood super-hero flick, then you are well off the mark because this intimidating message emerges out of the most recent promotional video of none other Dileep’s Ramaleela.
He might still be inside the Aluva sub-jail having failed for a fourth time to secure a bail, but the rape accused actor Dileep has certainly been calling the shots from even inside the four walls of his prison.
At least his team outside had been burning the midnight oil in doing whatever it takes to ensure that his latest and perhaps the most important make or break a film of his career Ramaleela releasing on September 28th across the state and elsewhere has a smooth sailing.
Certainly, the sails are likely to be met with some very rough weather if the news emerging from the industry is to be trusted as Kerala’s average moviegoer oscillates from one side to another on this very crucial question – To watch or not to watch the Dileep starrer.
For the man had gone to prison not for having led a mass struggle for a common cause nor he is a political prisoner waiting his turn at emancipation, but the once omnipotent force of Mollywood is behind bars accused of conspiring and meticulously planning a gang rape on one of his colleagues and then asking the perpetrator to even make a video out of it.
This makes Dileep’s crime gravest of the grave something if proved in a court of law in the can fetch anywhere between 20 years to life imprisonment. That the courts are very well aware of the fact that prima facie there is crucial evidence against Dileep of his irrefutable involvement is a testimony to the court’s blatant refusal to award bail four times.
More significantly, what has raised a bigger moral question is the actions of his supporters over the past one month. This question goes well beyond the ambit of the film world, let alone justifying the still vibrant sycophancy that strives to portray him as the victim rather than the perpetrator continuously.
Actor turned politician KB Ganesh Kumar had set the ball rolling without even realising for a moment that his responsibility and services as an MLA of the present government need to be channelised for the people who voted him to power and not to sustain what he calls decades-old friendship with the actor.
“When you are equating a rape victim with a perpetrator and say that just like you people are standing with the victim, we are with the accused till he is proved guilty, you are doing a grave injustice to the system itself.
"This is what is happening where the entire narrative has been shifted to sound as if the perpetrator is the victim now. This has to be opposed which could also mean opposing the movie to send out a strong message,’’ noted activist Dr P Geetha points out the anomaly.
But what takes a much uglier turn that justifies those who say that Ramaleela should be boycotted is the gross insensibility depicted by Team Dileep in using the situation to promote the film by fishing in troubled waters.
The latest promotional video that has title track of the film playing on it has videos of Dileep’s so-called tribulation in the last couple of months as visuals. The lyrics which have been twisted to favour the occasion and send a larger message out outlines the actor as the victim of a deep conspiracy.
Lord Rama has a new avatar
If according to the Hindu mythological text Ramayana Lord Rama had gone to the jungles in exile as per the orders of his father but for no crime of his, ‘Lord Dileep’ is behind bars for no mistake of his, says the latest video promotional campaign on the actor’s latest flick.
Such bizarre attempts are the ones that have perhaps got the civil society in Kerala sit up and now think if they should indeed make it to the theatres on Thursday.
Every production team that makes a film is well within its rights to promote a film according to their wishes but it is perhaps for the first time that the trials of a rape accused is being glorified to drum support for a movie in which he happens to be the protagonist.
“Is it ethical to use real visuals of a rape accused, whoever he is being taken by the police to various places to gather evidence against the crime to promote something that has such a high aesthetic value as cinema? I will not be surprised if finding these totally unacceptable people stay away from theatres. I think that’s what people should do to send a message to such elements,’’ well-known Director Vinayan said.
From his arrest to being taken to court at various times of presentation to the bearded sympathy seeking actor emerging out for his father’s remembrance day, it is an all-out blockbuster that has been carefully woven to attract the crowd in large numbers to the theatre.
The message of boycott
On Sunday surprising a lot of people, Manju Warrier, Dileep’s former wife and someone who is standing on the other side of the fence as far as the case is concerned with her unrelenting support for the victim, said that it would not be right to boycott to the film as a movie does not belong to any one person but it is the collective work of a lot of people.
It is Warrier’s grace that she could use such words and perhaps it also shows the thorough professional she is when it comes to her work. But that does not in any way answer the moral question especially when the other side that supports Dileep continues to attack the actress.
Even an argument as naive as put forth by the top brass of the Association of Malayalam Movie Arstists (AMMA) when they say that both the actor and actress are part of our one big family it only reflects the insensitivity of the industry in dealing with an issue as grave as the rape of a woman and will not help in any way diminish the magnitude of the crime that the actor had done.
Hence for many who had flocked to the Aluva sub-jail including actor and Padmashree award winner Jayaram all the way from Chennai, Ramaleela running low on audience would be right answer to at least attempt to realise the gross neglect and insult that the organized sector of the Malayalam film world had showered upon the actress.
There were a lot of people who had asked me why I could not just see a movie as a movie alone and that boycott will be an injustice to the director and crew.
But the fact is that no one is going to see Ramaleela because of its director but because it is a Dileep move. It is the brand Dileep that will be at play here and nothing else,’’ says Neelima Menon from Fullpicture.in.
Like a few other websites, fullpicture.in has also made a collective decision not to watch Ramaleela and also not to write a review on it.
But the real test for Dileep on the September 28 will not come from the movie reviewers or the literary intelligentsia of the state. But rather it would be left to lakhs of middle-class filmgoers who had been his mass support base throughout the last two decades when he ruled Mollywood as the unchallenged family hero.
If they get back to the theatres, it would mean a new lease of life for the actor that will give him more hope to fight the legal battle.
But if they keep off in large numbers it would not only start the countdown for Dileep, the actor but also send a powerful message to Mollywood that over the last few months has been at its worst when it comes to gender sensitivity.
[The opinion expressed in this column are solely that of the author.]