Malayalam film Ira, which is expected to release on Friday, has been in the news for the close resemblance it bears to the Malayalam actor abduction and assault case.
The new official teaser which came out on March 11 has only added to the suspicion that the film will make liberal references to the real-life case even if it turns out to have a different plot.
Dressed in a blue shirt, actor Gokul Suresh is heard mumbling to reporters who are asking him questions. When the visual is played again on the request of a TV anchor, he's heard to be saying, "Endhina chetta verudhey vaayil thoniyadhokke vilichu parayunnadhu?" (Why are you speaking all that comes to your mouth, brother?)
These were the same words that Dileep, who stands accused of being the mastermind behind the actor abduction and assault case which shook Kerala in February, threw at the media.
The film takes potshots at the frenzy displayed by the journalists at the time, also referring to the infamous selfie which the police said established a link between Dileep and accused Pulsar Suni.
Ira, meaning 'prey', has been marketed as the 'Story of an accused'. The trailer, released in January this year, has lines like, "He was trapped" and "Did you make him an accused only because his cell phone had the same tower location?"
In the trailer, actor Unni Mukundan appears to be investigating the death of a minister - one can only hope that this is the primary mystery of the film and it doesn't play judge and jury over a case in which the trial is yet to begin.
Directed by Saiju SS, the film has been produced by Vyshakh and Udyakrishna under the banner Vyshakh Udayakrishna productions.
Pulimurugan director Vyshakh was among the first people to come out in support of Dileep soon after he was arrested. Writing on his Facebook wall, Vyshakh had waxed eloquent about the "goodness" of Dileep's heart and said that the pain he felt when the latter was arrested was akin to the earth splitting.
The brief sympathy he'd expressed for the survivor in his post appears to have evaporated altogether, going by the newly released teaser. Even if the film is not ultimately about the case, is it fair to capitalise on the survivor's trauma to get people into theatres?
The cheap marketing tactics for Ira isn't only about grabbing eyeballs - it can influence the public on the strength of the case against Dileep, too. The actor's Ramaleela, which released when he was still in police custody, had also made references to his real-life situation. Although the film wasn't written at the time of Dileep's arrest, the promos and posters were created with a view to make the public link the real-life drama with the one on screen. Ironically, Dileep played a man who plans an elaborate conspiracy for vengeance in the film.
When Dileep was arrested in July last year, there was palpable public anger against the actor. He was booed at when arrested and taken to Aluva sub-jail and social media was full of posts slamming the actor for his alleged role in the conspiracy.
However, there was a dramatic shift in the narrative with articles and posts by film industry members and newly opened social media accounts expressing disbelief at the turn of events and asserting that Dileep had been "trapped".
The trial in the case is set to begin on March 14 while the film will hit the screens on March 16. It was initially supposed to release in the first week of March but was postponed because of the tussle between film producers and Digital Service Providers (DSPs). Whatever be the story of Ira, the distasteful marketing strategy adopted by the makers of the film needs to be slammed.