The director of ‘Stand Up’ has accused WCC of showing double standards.

Filmmaker and former journalist Vidhu Vincent with a microphone at an event
Flix Controversy Monday, July 06, 2020 - 19:59

A week after leaving the Women in Cinema Collective (WCC) of the Malayalam film industry, filmmaker and former journalist Vidhu Vincent published the resignation letter she wrote to the organisation, triggering many discussions.

She had to publish the letter after false campaigns about her had risen in the past few days, Vidhu writes in a Facebook post on Monday.

The letter is an explanation of her choice of producer for her last film Stand Up as well as accusations against the WCC for ‘showing double standards’ in treating different members differently. She alleges classist and elitist behaviour and gives examples of instances when each of them had to associate with people who supported actor Dileep, the man accused in the sexual assault of a woman actor in a moving car in Kochi in 2017. The WCC was formed soon after this, with the members expressing solidarity with the survivor actor and wanting no other woman in the industry to go through such an experience. Trial on the case, delayed for years with various petitions by Dileep, is now going on.

Read: How the accused in Malayalam actor sexual assault case have delayed justice for 2 yrs

Vidhu’s film Stand Up was co-produced by Anto Joseph and B Unnikrishnan. The latter -- director, producer and general secretary of the Film Employees Federation of Kerala (FEFKA) -- had made a movie with Dileep in the lead, while he remained an accused in the case and this led to questions over Vidhu’s choice of working with him.

Her resignation letter begins with what Revathy, veteran actor and important member of the WCC, asked of Vidhu, regarding an explanation about the production of her recent film Stand Up.

It is when she began work on her second film that the WCC was formed in 2017, Vidhu writes, thanking Rima and Sajitha (both actors) for making her a part of it.

Vidhu writes in detail about knocking on several doors for her project. Someone who had liked the script of Stand Up and agreed to produce it had to withdraw from it, following a huge loss they suffered in the 2018 floods. Director Anjali Menon and actor Sajitha Madathil had helped her a lot in trying to get a producer, she mentions, though nothing worked out in the end.

She also writes about approaching Parvathy to play one of the leads in the film, since three of her friends in the Gulf were ready to produce such a project. But after waiting for months, and even after getting Anjali Menon to mediate, nothing came out of it. She wrote that It was very humiliating to realise that she did not deserve to get a 'No'.

At one point, she had thought of dropping cinema entirely and finding a job to make a living, says Vidhu. 

She says that she then approached Rajisha Vijayan and Nimisha Sajayan, two other actors, and both agreed to work in the film. However, as she got the dates and everything ready, one of the producers had to back out. She was back to square one, making many frantic calls till B Unnikrishnan connected her to Viacom, a leading producer of entertainment content. With borrowed money, she and her scriptwriter went to Mumbai, for a meeting with the people at Viacom. Though they liked the project, their fundraising process took a lot of time, by when she would lose the dates of her actors. 

Read: ‘Stand Up’ is a survivor’s story we want to tell: Vidhu Vincent interview

Vidhu writes that she was on the verge of dropping it again when Unnikrishnan connected her to Anto Joseph who agreed to do the film. As it proceeded however, both Anto and Unnikrishnan became joint producers of the film. 

During the post-production work of her film, Anjali called to tell Vidhu about a WCC meeting happening the next day. "She said that some members are disturbed by the inclusion of B Unnikrishnan as a producer of the film. She also said that if they call me during the meeting, I should explain how it happened. I agreed though I was not convinced," Vidhu writes.

However no calls came. But then a journalist called her two days later to ask her if WCC had issues in Unnikrishnan turning a producer for Vidhu's film. He alleged there are talks within the organisation against it.

"What I want to tell WCC about this is that B Unnikrishnan is the leader of a workers union in Malayalam cinema. He is a writer, scriptwriter, director, distributor and producer. I know him before coming to cinema, through his interventions in the literary criticism field. The person I know is not a murderer or an assaulter or a criminal who was questioned in court,” she writes.

She then goes on to allege that different members of the WCC have sought the help of Unnikrishnan for different needs. "So everyone can approach him for their personal reasons. But when I publicly accepted a professional help from him, there rose the argument that it should happen only after getting the permission of the WCC. That shows an elitist arrogance," she alleges.

She then questions the 'double standards' taken by the WCC in not questioning other members who have associated with Dileep supporters. Parvathy had acted with Siddique, a public supporter of Dileep and a vocal critic of the WCC, in Uyare last year, and no one questioned her, she says. Ranjith, a film director who has visited Dileep in the jail and voiced his support for the actor, acted in Anjali's Koode. Actor Ramya Nambeesan's (also WCC member from the beginning) brother's studio in Kochi was launched with the work of Kodathi Samaksham Balan Vakkeel, in which Dileep played the lead. 

Vidhu points out that there have been no guidelines on notifying the WCC about such associations. Asking what all then becomes ‘untouchable’, she accuses that 'class' and 'caste' were not mere words between them.

Will the untouchability extend to theatres owned by Dileep and theatres that have played his films, she questions. These should be made clear. And if a different rule exists for some people, that should also be specified, she says. 

Pointing out a note by Rima earlier that unlike Parvathy (who is an actor), Anjali and Vidhu have the option to choose whom to work with, Vidhu says that there was no comparision between the two filmmakers. "It is not enough to talk about gender politics, but also the class and caste differences in it."

But her main issue seems to be with Deedi Damodaran. Several of her acquaintances have asked her if Deedi has a problem with her, Vidhu writes, mentioning the instances. Someone even quoted Deedi as having said that 'their problem' is not with Unnikrishnan but with Vidhu.

Earlier for an interview with The Cue, Vidhu said that if someone tries to take a film without including anyone who has associated with Dileep in some way, there would be less than 5% people in the industry to work with. Quoting this interview, Vidhu said that at a work place, you will have to join together in certain areas and where there is disagreement, point that out too. 

Since she has no capital of her own and will have to depend on others again for financial help, and she doesn’t want to hear that 'Vidhu cheated WCC', she is resigning, she writes.

Sources in WCC, however, told TNM that Vidhu was not asked for an explanation on why she was working with B Unnikrishnan, but they stepped in when they felt that Vidhu had been concealing certain details. When asked if WCC would come out with an official response, the source said that the General Body was meeting on Monday evening and a decision would be taken after that.

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