Costumer Liji Preman moves court against Ratheesh Poduval for harassment, non-payment

Liji Preman moved the court alleging that she was not given credit after designing 75% of the costumes for Ratheesh’s Malayalam film ‘Sureshanteyum Sumalathayudeyum Hridayahariyaya Pranayakadha’.
Liji Preman
Liji Preman
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Days after the release of the Malayalam movie Sureshanteyum Sumalathayudeyum Hridayahariyaya Pranayakadha, costume designer Liji Preman approached the Ernakulam Munsiff court alleging mental harassment and denial of credit by the film’s makers. Naming director Ratheesh Balakrishnan Poduval as the main defendant along with the producers as the other defendants, Liji mentioned in her complaint that after completing 75% of the film’s work as a costume designer, she was not given credit in the film’s titles or posters, besides not getting the full payment. She also alleged that Ratheesh verbally abused and insulted her before other artists during the shoot, and that months after joining the project, she was dismissed ‘without sufficient reason’.

The film, an experimental spin-off from Ratheesh’s critically-acclaimed Nna Thaan Case Kodu, featured the love story of Suresh (Rajesh Madhavan) and Sumalatha (Chitra Nair) in a theatrical setting. Liji wrote in her complaint that she was approached by the director in March 2023 to design the costumes for the male and female leads. She began work long before the shooting commenced and the director seemed happy with the work, she said. “As soon as the shooting started the peaceful atmosphere was lost. The 1st defendant (Ratheesh) was behaving rudely and indifferent towards everyone and was criticising each and everyone in the set. Due to his extreme violence and misbehavior, two of the Art Directors discontinued the project,” Liji’s complaint read.

Actors Rajesh Madhavan and Chitra Nair wearing Liji's costumes
Actors Rajesh Madhavan and Chitra Nair wearing Liji's costumes

The delay in shooting meant that the number of days she worked for the film extended to 110, far longer than the 45 she had committed to. However, on July 1, when she left for Delhi after getting permission from the makers and delegating her assistants to take charge, she was informed that she was no longer in the project, Liji said. She was replaced by another costume designer, Sujith Sudhakaran, whose name eventually appeared in the posters and the credits of the film.

“I approached the FEFKA (Film Employees Federation of Kerala) last year, with the complaint that my name was missing from the promotional posters and that it should be in the credits during the release of the film. They called the producers who said that my name would appear in the film’s titles. But when the film was released in May, I was named as the ‘First Unit Costume’, like I was an assistant [to Sujith Sudhakaran],” Liji told TNM.

She also alleged that she was not paid her full salary despite doing the work. “The court called for a mediation but the director did not appear. I understood that the producers agreed to put my name as Chief Costume Designer but the director was not willing,” Liji said.

FEFKA forwarded her complaint to the Kerala Film Producers Association (KFPA) and they had another discussion with the producers. “The producers are willing to give her credit, especially now that the film is getting ready for its OTT release. But it is understood the director is not ready to do that,” said B Rakesh, general secretary of KFPA.

Liji Preman
Sureshanteyum Sumalathayudeyum: A charming experiment that gets lost in its quirks

Ratheesh was not available for comment when TNM tried to reach him. 

Meanwhile, associate art director Anoop Chalissery alleged that Ratheesh did something similar to an art director during the filming of Nna Thaan Case Kodu. Anoop claimed that art director Ajay Mangad had designed most of the sets for the film but in the end, he was not given credit for it. The film ended up winning, among other recognitions, the Kerala State Award for Best Art Direction, an award that should have gone to Ajay Mangad, Anoop wrote on Facebook. 

Ratheesh’s debut film Android Kunjappan Version 5.25 had also won multiple awards including Best Actor for Suraj Venjaramood.

One of the concerns Liji raised in her complaint is that she will not be able to apply for awards if her name is not in the credits for Chief Costume Designer. In addition to credit and payment for her work, Liji has also asked for additional compensation for the mental agony she was put through, in her plea before the court.

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