By Sanu George
The year 2017 is one that the Malayalam film industry would perhaps like to forget, given the unexpected and shocking after-effects of the abduction of a popular woman actor.
The industry was stunned when news broke in February that the actor had been kidnapped when she was on her way to a friend's place in the commercial capital of the state, Kochi.
After a two-hour ordeal in a vehicle, she was left near the home of a well-known director, to whom she narrated what she had gone through.
Soon, the police began their work and, in a week's time, members of the gang that abducted her were arrested. Just when everyone thought that things had returned to normalcy, the news came that the abduction was pre-planned and that it had allegedly been masterminded by Dileep -- Malayalam cinema's 50-year-old reigning superstar.
With state police chief Loknath Behra contending there was enough evidence to nail Dileep, Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan took the firm position that the law should take its course, sans interference. Despite pressure from the top brass of the film industry, Dileep was arrested and it was only after 85 days in jail that he was granted bail.
With the chargesheet now filed naming Dileep as the eighth accused, it appears that the law will catch up with anyone who breaks it.
The incident had caused major fallouts in the industry.
The powerful actors' body - the Association of Malayalam Movies Artistes (AMMA) - headed by Lok Sabha member and comedian Innocent, saw murmurings with superstars Mammootty and Mohanlal failing to get their view across after strong opposition surfaced against giving a clean chit to Dileep, especially from upcoming superstar Prithviraj and his supporters.
Following this, AMMA was forced to remove Dileep from the treasurer's post and he was also suspended from the association. With differences of opinion continuing, AMMA has been unable to call a meeting of its executives after July.
For Dileep, however, there was one saving grace - the box office success of his film Ramaleela that was released when he was in jail.
Another result of this incident was the formation of a new organisation of women in the Malayalam film industry. They got together under the leadership of Dileep's former wife Manju Warrier to launch the Women in Cinema Collective (WCC) to identify the problems faced by women in the industry and explore ways to address them.
The new body had the backing of Chief Minister Vijayan who also announced the setting up of a new committee to study the issues faced by the women in the industry and directed it to submit a detailed report.
Overall, because of the fallout of the abduction and the arrest of Dileep, it appears the sway that AMMA had over the political fabric of the state has suffered a huge setback. To some extent, the star status of those in the industry also suffered â€“ there were sections of people who were not keen to go to the theatres to watch their films.
In the coming new year, all eyes will be on the trial in the abduction case. And with Dileepâ€™s future hanging in balance, the fluid state in the industry is only likely to continue.
(Sanu George can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org)