Actor Siddique addressed a press meet on behalf of the Association of Malayalam Movie Artistes (AMMA) along with veteran actor KPAC Lalitha on Monday. Siddique, who is the Secretary of AMMA, said that there is no need for the organisation to call an urgent General Body meeting right now.
The statement comes after the Women in Cinema Collective (WCC) called for a press meet on Saturday where they expressed their disappointment with AMMA in no uncertain terms. The WCC had called for the press meet following months of inaction from AMMA's end regarding the controversy generated by reinstating Dileep. The actor stands accused of masterminding the abduction and sexual assault of a prominent woman actor in February last year.
Siddique alleged that the WCC had called for the press meet to "defame" Mohanlal, who is the President of AMMA. "Dileep resigned on October 10th. Knowing this, WCC called for this press meet," he said. "WCC's intention was to defame Mohanlal."
On inviting back WCC members who'd resigned
During the AMMA Executive Council meeting in August, actors Parvathy, Padmapriya and Revathy, had asked AMMA to invite the survivor, Rima Kallingal, Geethu Mohandas and Remya Nambeeshan back to the organisation. Though the four who resigned had made no such demands, the three actors who went for the meeting, told the AMMA EC that inviting them back would show that AMMA stood for its women members.
"Let those who resigned apologise first," said Siddique, referring to the four women who'd quit AMMA. At the Saturday press meet, the WCC members had spoken about AMMA's reluctance to invite the members who'd resigned while they'd been so eager to take back Dileep in their fold.
He also called the WCC "juvenile" for taking issue with Mohanlal addressing them as "actors". Revathy had spoken at the press meet about how Mohanlal had referred to them condescendingly at the Executive Council meeting in August and refused to look at them as individuals with varied opinions.
Siddique further added that the WCC could have expressed their disappointment in AMMA at that meeting itself but that they'd not done so. He made it clear that the members who had resigned would not be called back.
"They can write to us if they want to come," he said.
Siddique and KPAC Lalitha claimed that the WCC was "misusing" the #MeToo movement that has taken the country by storm.
"We cannot block Dileep from acting," added Siddique. He suggested instead that this was a "conspiracy" to ruin AMMA.
"There is someone behind the scenes who is using WCC members to destroy AMMA," he alleged.
The organsation has to send a response to the questions raised by the WCC by 7th of November.
"All this takes time. It's not something that can be done immediately. PK Shashi has a police case against him, right? But he's still an MLA, right?" asked Siddique, referring to the CPI(M) politician who has been accused of sexually harassing a woman party member.
Rubbishing the allegations that Dileep had denied work to women actors in the past because of their association with his ex-wife Manju Warrier, Siddique said, "Name one director who Dileep has called to not give opportunities to the survivors. Give specific names."
KPAC Lalitha acknowledged that the #MeToo movement was necessary but she added that there was no point in complaining after 10-15 years. "#MeToo is required, not just in Malayalam, but world-over. Women who are getting harassed and abused are all mothers and sisters and daughters of people. They have to be protected. What’s the point of complaining after 10-15 years?" she said.
Siddique also mocked director Aashiq Abu's efforts to set me an Internal Complaints Committee (ICC) for his films. Aashiq Abu is married to Rima Kallingal, a vocal member of the WCC.
"I don't think there is a need for Internal Complaints Committee in my movies, because no harassment happens. Maybe Aashiq Abu needs one in his movie sets. When I think there is need, I will form the ICC," said Siddique.
Categorically arguing for Dileep's continued presence in the Malayalam film industry, Siddique said, "The three members wanted Dileep banned from movies. How can somebody ask another person to leave his/her profession based on allegations? They gave examples of Akshay Kumar and Aamir Khan that they decided to walk out of movies. What they did was wrong."
On AMMA's "generosity"
Responding to the criticism on AMMA's silence about many issues, Siddique said, "AMMA is not an association to mock anybody or cast aspersion on anybody. Its members may not answer to all questions or allegations against it. It is not out of fear or with the intention to maintain silence. We have not been responding so far because we did not feel the need to so. We decided to respond now because we have a responsibility towards the public."
"Apart from the four female actors who resigned, there are other actors under AMMA's fold. Many are not financially well off and worries when and where they will get their next film project. We have a lot of responsibility in helping them," KPAC Lalitha added.
Stating that AMMA was a welfare association and not a union, Siddique and KPAC Lalitha defended the organisation's complete lack of will in dealing with Dileep with a firm hand. "Committees are just to please and placate people. In our profession, we don’t need a committee, we can talk to each other and sort it out," they also bizarrely claimed.
Despite the irony of the whole situation, they claimed that they would take complaints of sexual harassment seriously. "If female actors are ready to speak up or call out their molesters in the industry, please come forward; reveal the names. We will take criminal action against them," they said, noting that the survivor had not issued a complaint against the accused in AMMA.
On the survivor
KPAC Lalitha, who received flak for meeting Dileep in prison, defended herself saying she'd also met with the survivor. "The survivor is a lady, I have gone to her house and asked about her. You guys do not speak about that. You only talk about me going to the prison to meet Dileep," she said.
Siddique claimed that the organisation was with the survivor. "We are with the survivor. We are against Pulsar Suni, we want him punished. He's the one who named Dileep. What if he names me tomorrow? What if he names any of you?" said Siddique.
Putting the onus on the survivor who had resigned after Dileep was reinstated, Siddique said, "Let the survivor decide if she wants to come back to AMMA."
"Conspiracy" against Mohanlal
Batting for Mohanlal, the two actors said, "Why are they against Mohanlal? He went to the State Film Awards event based on the invite from AK Balan and the CM. Instead, WCC sent a memorandum, which also had some fake signatures. But look what happened - people received Mohanlal with open arms."
This is a reference to a protest letter which had over a 100 signatures, calling for a re-think on inviting Mohanlal to be the chief guest at the Kerala State Film Awards ceremony.
KPAC Lalitha further commended Dileep on his "decency" by saying, "What Dileep has done is a very decent thing, that’s all I can say." Dileep had decided not to come back to AMMA soon after the organisation had made a move to reinstate him.