The four women who resigned from the Association of Malayalam Movie Artistes (AMMA) may join back if they apologise, actors Siddique and KPAC Lalitha said at a press conference earlier on Monday. They were talking about actors Geetu Mohandas, Rima Kallingal, Remya Nambeesan and the survivor of a sexual assault, who resigned when AMMA took back actor Dileep, who has been accused of masterminding the sexual assault.
TNM speaks to Rima Kallingal, who responds to a few statements made at the AMMA press conference, coming after the WCC press meet held in Kochi on Saturday.
Q. How do you respond to KPAC Lalitha’s statement that the four of you who resigned could join back AMMA after giving an apology?
Lalithamma (KPAC Lalitha) has written in her autobiography about the harassment she faced from the late actor Adoor Bhasi. She should know why women who face harassment in the industry could not speak out sometimes. If she had thought about it at least for a small amount of time, she would understand why some women had to remain silent for years.
I feel sympathy for her that she has to stay there, without an option, while we are able to stand up and say we are leaving. And when they say we should apologise to join again, I can say ‘go to hell’ to AMMA. I feel bad that she could not experience, for once, the beauty of being able to cross that huge moral ethical ground and look back with content.
I do not want to be in an association that protects the accused of a sexual assault. They have made it very clear that they stand with the accused.
Q. During the AMMA Executive meeting in August, actors Parvathy, Padmapriya and Revathy, had asked AMMA to invite the survivor, Rima, Geetu and Remya back to the organisation. Though the four who resigned had made no such demands, the three actors who went for the meeting, told AMMA Executive council that inviting them back would show that AMMA stood for its women members.
They said that. But what has AMMA been doing for its women members? Even the annual show they do every year has been for glorifying the men. The women are just used as props. A male star would come and dance to five songs with five women who are active in the industry at the time. Where are the brilliant women actors of the yesteryears, who used to work with them? They have become invisible.
It is true that AMMA reaches out to senior and ailing actors. That is good. But how are they protecting the rights of actors who are active in the industry now? I want protection now, not just when I am old and ailing and without a chance to act. If I can work right now, I can safeguard my future.
Q. There was a remark made by Siddique about constituting internal committees. He said that he never felt the need to have one in any of the film sets he has been part of. Ashiq Abu may have had one since he felt things like that could happen in his set.
I think the women should say that, not him (Siddique). Where do you then make a complaint about sexual harassment if there is no internal committee? Maybe they are not brave enough to constitute one. Try forming one and see if complaints come.
Q. Even as the whole world is erupting with the Me Too movement and Bollywood actors like Akshay Kumar and Aamir Khan have walked away from film sets to make their stand clear, Siddique says that Dileep would continue working in films. That’s up to producers and directors calling him. Action should be taken against Aamir Khan and Akshay Kumar for affecting the jobs of other people, Siddique said.
That’s what, nationally and internationally and even regionally at other states, we see a trend of supporting women. In Tamil, there is Vishal heading Nadigar Sangam, and taking such a democratic stand, and they have constituted a panel for women. In Telugu too, Amala Akkineni says they have started a platform called Voice of Women where women can come and complain (about harassment). But in Kerala, the most literate National Award-winning state, we are thinking - how to help the accused, how to take a case against the people who support the survivor.
I am talking about the leadership, not the other members. They are in the association believing that AMMA will look after their welfare, stand with them when there is a problem. They should now stand up and ask, ‘Is this how you are going to take care of our affairs?’ At least keep the accused out of the association until he is proven not guilty. That is the only moral stand any sane person could take.
AMMA has failed to safeguard the victim here. And stood with the accused. Why should I want to be a part of an organisation like that?