The Malayalam film industry is still reeling under the ripple effect of actor Dileep’s arrest in the case of abduction and sexual assault of a woman actor.
Even as the industry is trying to deal with the aftermath, a case has been registered against director Jean Paul Lal, production house Lal Media and two technicians Anoop and Anirudh for using a body double for a debutant woman actor.
Jean Paul Lal is the son of popular actor and filmmaker Lal.
According to a complaint filed by Meghna Nair, at the Panangad police station in Ernakulam, the director had used a body double in a way that was intended to harm the actor's reputation.
Initial media reports, including one filed by TNM, had said that the case was filed against four people including actor Sreenath Bhasi for making lewd comments at the actor when she asked for remuneration for acting in the movie Honey Bee 2: Celebrations.
These reports were based on what the police had told the media. However, the actor in a chat with KochiPost.com has said that there was no complaint against Sreenath Bhasi and that she had sent a legal notice for using her body double in a derogatory way.
"I am against objectifying women and had my reservations about a particular scene where my exposed back and stomach is shown. When I refused to do that, they asked me to leave the set and told me that they would call me for another scene which was to be later shot. They never called me and when the movie was released with a different scene from what I was told, I realised they have used a body double," she told KochiPost.
Coincidentally, this is the second police case revolving around the making of the movie Honey bee 2. The infamous actor abduction and assault case in February 2017, the case in which actor Dileep was arrested, also happened when the female actor travelled from Thrissur to Ernakulam while she was doing some work for Honey Bee 2.
According to the legal notice that was sent to Lal media, the movie's assistant director asked the costume designer, “If she bends down in this dress, will it be possible to see anything?”. The scene, according to Meghna, involved her getting out of a taxi and bending down to take her bags. The legal notice alleges that since Meghna refused to do this vulgar scene, the director went ahead and shot the scene using a body double. It was only when the movie released that she realised they had used a body double.
Meghna told Kochipost that she had tried to solve the problem amicably but the production house never responded. “I did ask for damages, but I need justice for threatening, insulting and cheating. They have not acknowledged the use of the body double still," she said.
Lal and Jean Paul Lal
However, reacting to the police complaint against his son, Lal said that the complainant is making use of the current situation in the industry. He asked why the woman would otherwise choose to complain after such a long time.
“We needed a woman who could speak well in English. She has anchored some TV program and approached us for the role. She came to the house and we explained the role. When we offered the role later, she would not pick the call. She was unprofessional. The day she reached for her shot, Sreenivasan was unwell and we had to shoot his scene first. She was irritated. The next day she was not comfortable with a scene and Jean asked her to leave. He completed the shoot with another actor. Jean had offered Rs 50,000 for her, but she withdrew from the project saying she was not comfortable. Jean had told me she was very bad in acting. We did not pay money. Later after one month she had sent a legal notice asking Rs 10 lakh as compensation. At one point we thought we would give Rs 50000, but now she is asking for Rs 10 lakh.
She wants the money and also wants Jean to apologise on TV,” Lal told media.
He added that he had learnt to respect women and his son had been taught the same. “I am a decent man and never use any bad words on women. There were so many women in this movie, and no one had any issues. My son has the same values as me,” Lal said.
Point of law: Under Indian law, any crime that has a maximum punishment of 3 years has a statute of limitation; this means that you cannot report the crime after a certain period of time.
For instance, in cases of sexual harassment under 354A, where the maximum punishment is one year, the crime cannot be reported more than a year after it was committed. But this doesn't apply to rape, where the maximum punishment is seven years. In such cases, where the maximum punishment exceeds three years, the court will decide on the merit of the case.