Many argue that the movie’s success will embolden Dileep’s supporters and alienate the survivor in the case further.

Can Dileeps performance be separated from allegations against him Ramaleela debate rages on
news Film Industry Sunday, September 17, 2017 - 19:29

In January this year, protests by feminists groups forced 83-year-old Polish director Roman Polanski to step down as the president of the prestigious César Awards. Polanski, accused of raping a 13-year-old girl in 1977 in the US at the age of 43, had fled from the country to settle in France, before the US court could sentence him. 

The award-winning director's elevation as the President of Cesar Awards was met with strong resistance from women activists, who stood up against the Académie des Arts et Techniques du Cinéma’s decision and launched a massive social media campaign calling for #BoycottCesar. They slammed him for being "protected by his status as a celebrity."

Several of Polanksi's supporters argued that he shouldn't be scrutinised for a crime he committed forty years ago. However, days after feminists groups threatened to boycott the event, Polanksi was forced to step down.

In Kerala, a similar campaign has been gaining momentum in the last couple of weeks. The prominent person in question is Malayalam actor Dileep, who is an accused in the abduction and alleged assault of a woman actor in February this year.

Dileep, who has been in judicial custody for more than 60 days, has been accused of conspiring against the woman actor, hiring criminals to abduct, sexually assault her and film the entire incident. The police have also slapped gang-rape charges against Dileep.

Dileep has not been convicted, a charge sheet has not been filed against him, but there are many who have advocated a boycott of his new movie.

The film Ramaleela is set to hit the theatres on September 28. People have taken to social media with the hashtag #BoycottRamaleela, indefinitely pledging their support to the woman survivor. 

Neelima Menon, founder and Editor of Fullpicture.in, an online magazine on Malayalam cinema, said that the magazine will not watch and review Ramaleela

"Can you not see a film as a film, people ask me. No, I cannot. If it were so, then why would film studies emerge as a branch of study? Why do we write about misogyny and castiesm in cinema? Because cinema reflects the society and vice versa," Neelima tells TNM. 

Neelima disagrees with the argument that a debutant director’s art was at stake.

"This is Fullpicture's stand to be with the actress. This whole argument about a new director's cinema and the hard work that goes behind it is not acceptable. We all know cinema is not really about art alone, it is also a business, about selling a brand name. And Ramaleela is about brand Dileep. So many good films don't get proper screens. So, why this sudden sentiment for a new director and his hard work? Isn't this also about standing up for someone from their own tribe?"

Social activist Anila Balakrishnan argues that fans rally around a super star’s persona, and it isn’t based on the characters they portray.

“So it is falsehood to say that one watches a movie for the sake of Dileep the actor, keeping Dileep the person aside,” she says.

Arguing that Dileep was a powerful personality in Malayalam cinema, who controlled the industry to a large extent, Anila says that the movie’s success will embolden his supporters and alienate the survivor in the case further.

Taking to Facebook, Kerala Chalachitra Academy executive member GP Ramachandran called for a massive boycott of the film. Terming it a "vulgar film," Ramachandran said that theatres that run the film must be destroyed. 

Ramaleela's producer Tomichan Mulakuppadam who had previously approached the Kerala High Court seeking police protection for the release, filed a complaint with the police on Sunday against Ramachandran. Following this, Ramachandran clarified on Facebook that he had deleted the post that he uploaded out of "over excitement", but that certain people were circulating the screenshots.

Many have opposed the boycott saying that a movie was a collective effort and a boycott would defeat teamwork and bring down the morale of everyone who worked in the movie. But this logic too has been called out by others who have questioned why the supporters don’t support independent film makers.

The chorus has got louder

"Why should Malayalam cinema continue to have a tainted actor, when it already has talented artists to take it forward? If Ramaleela becomes a success, it runs the risk of setting a dangerous precedent," wrote a user.

"Boycott Ramaleela because it is a question of supporting or opposing a vice

If the film turns out to be a triumph,it will give the world a false message

whoever perpetrates a crime can exonerate himself if he is mighty

But if the film turns out to be a flop,then the message shall be like this

Behold...he sinned...he suffers

Which option do you prefer?" wrote another.

Another user Unni Gopalkrishna wrote that the film’s success may be able to create a misunderstanding that Dileep’s fan base was intact.

“Emotional blackmail about a director's hard work will not work. Director and other technicians have already been paid for. Now the loss the producer will face should be borne by Dileep," he wrote. 

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