Nearly ten months after the Kerala government formed an one-of-its kind committee to look into the issues faced by women actors in the Malayalam film industry, it appears that the committee is in limbo.
The LDF government in Kerala had formed a three-member committee headed by retired Justice Hema in June last year. Senior actor Sharada and former bureaucrat KB Valsala Kumari are the other members. This, after the Women in Cinema Collective (WCC) approached the Chief Minister seeking to establish a panel that would look into issues faced by the women artists in the industry. From security issues to pay parity, the committee is expected to look into matters affecting women in the industry.
However, nearly ten months after the committee was formed, the WCC has now questioned why the committee has not come up with any reports so far.
In a Facebook post in Malayalam, the WCC said that they have submitted a memorandum to CM Pinarayi Vijayan in the matter.
"We have requested the CM to look into the reasons behind the delay and request his continued attention in this matter in the future as well. We expect appropriate intervention by the government into this matter without any further delay," the post read.
Saying that the WCC was "saddened" that the committee hasn't come up with any reports on its work till now, the collective said:
"The notification issued by the LDF government directing the formation of the commission - the first of its kind in the state - showed deep insight and utmost seriousness in addressing the problems. We believe that such a study report will prove to be helpful in identifying the problems in the industry and proposing possible solutions to them. The Justice Hema Commission was formed without any delay. But we are extremely saddened and troubled by the fact that this commission has been unable to come up with any kind of report after six months of its formation."
Speaking to TNM, WCC member and filmmaker Vidhu Vincent confirmed that the memorandum was submitted to the CM two weeks ago.
"It is appalling that the committee has not done anything in all these months. It is in that context that we approached the CM again last month. We hope the government will take appropriate measures," Vidhu said.
When TNM reached out to Retd Justice Hema, she said that the committee has indeed begun work, but added that the committee will not be able to finish it in the stipulated six months.
"Whatever is needed is being done. We are not answerable to WCC or any other organisation, although the commission was set up based on their petition. Their complaint was important, but now we will do our job. The work assigned to us is an important one, it is for a very good cause and it will be done. We will be doing it dutifully, there is no cause for worry," she said.
When asked if the WCC's main complaint about disparity in wages was true, Justice Hema said that they had not yet looked into the aspects.
Earlier in December, a few writers and activists, including Sarah Joseph and KG Shankaran Pillai, had submitted a memorandum to the state government, asking for the working status of the committee. A few days after this, the committee had issued its terms of reference.
The Justice Hema Commission is an outcome of the meeting that took place between the representatives of the Women in Cinema Collective (WCC) and the Chief Minister of Kerala on May 17, 2017. The representatives discussed in detail the various problems faced by the women artists in the industry and the existing gender gap. They drew the CMâ€™s attention to the sparse representation of women in the technical field and discussed the possibilities of coming up with scholarships and other strategies to enhance their participation in different departments.