Actor Anna Rajan, who is known as Lichy, the character she played in her debut film Angamaly Diaries, is the latest victim of the ugly misogyny of online trolls.
In a recent interview with Surya TV, Anna had been asked if she'd like to act with Dulquer Salmaan or Mammootty. Anna had responded saying that she'd like to be Dulquer's heroine and Mammootty could act as his father.
This comment was taken as an insult by Mammootty and Dulquer fans who unleashed a stream of abuse on the actor. Since Anna had acted with Mohanlal in a lead role in the Onam release Velipadinte Pusthakam, self-righteous fans believe she'd no business throwing such an "insult" at Mammootty. It's puzzling why Mammootty playing Dulquer's on-screen father should be considered humiliating, given that they are actually father and son - but since when has logic been the strong point of trolls?
Unable to take the harsh memes and abuse, the actor posted a Facebook Live, tearing up even as she said that her words had been twisted. Anna added that she'd been forced to answer the question and that since she wanted to act with both, she'd given such a response in jest. She further reiterated that she'd love to act with Mammootty as his heroine and that she was deeply sorry for her words.
While Anna is well within her rights to act with whomever she wishes, the fact that she was reduced to tears by the abuse she faced should not be taken as a victory by Mammootty or Dulquer fans.
It's a matter of shame, not pride, that heroes are paired with women who are several decades younger than they are on a routine basis. It's a consequence of the rampant sexism within the cinema industry and that's nothing to celebrate.
The shelf life of a woman actor, to play a lead role, is at best the early thirties. The few exceptions like Meena and Asha Sharath, who have starred with big names like Mammootty and Mohanlal, are in their early forties - which is still over 15 years younger than the superstars.
On the other hand, women actors like Kaviyoor Ponnamma and KPAC Lalitha, who have been playing mother roles for several years to the superstars, are only a few years older than the 66-year-old Mammootty, and a little over a decade older than the 57-year-old Mohanlal.
In comparison to the other southern industries (and Bollywood - remember Kangana's 'Coz I have a vagina re' that termed this tradition as paedophilia?), where there are barely any women actors over 35 who act in lead roles, the Malayalam industry still fares better. However, as can be seen from the responses of fans, it's still considered "normal" for older male actors to act with very young women.
Indeed, they seem to think it's a matter of right and that the woman actor doesn't even have a say.
Age limit selectively applied
Coming out in support of Anna, actor Rima Kallingal wrote on Facebook that she didn't see the problem with Mammootty playing a father role, considering how talented and versatile an actor he is.
This is, of course, true and it's not necessary for the ageing superstars of any industry to stick to playing their age always. The problem lies in the fact that the age limit is applied selectively to women actors who lose out as they grow older. If the male stars will only act with women decades younger to them, there's little that their contemporaries in age can do other than fade out. Further, substantial women characters that go beyond the Amma role are seldom written for older women, so their potential goes wasted.
Anna Rajan is only two films old and is in no position to stand up to established traditions such as this in the cinema industry. However, one hopes that either Dulquer or Mammootty will acknowledge what has happened and speak up about the issue. Considering these stars have a significant presence on social media, ignoring the abuse that a colleague is going through is not very heroic, especially when the Malayalam industry has been making noises about addressing sexism and misogyny.
Posted by Anna Rajan on Monday, 25 September 2017