Celebrations over Dileep's release should wait till he is proven innocent
We should have the decency to empathise with the actress who is a victim of sexual assault.
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Incredible as it may seem, Malayalam superstar Dileep, who is out on bail after being charged with contracting a man to rape a well-known Kerala actress, has played villain in two important films in recent times.
One of them has been directed by no less a luminary than Adoor Gopalakrishnan. Titled, Pinneyum (Once Again), the movie is a brutal take on insurance fraud with Dileep, playing Purushotaman Nair, murdering an innocent bystander and passing off his burnt body as his own in order to claim a huge insurance amount.
Nair plans to disappear for a while before asking his wife (essayed by his now off-screen wife, Kavya Madhavan) and daughter to join him abroad. The scheme goes horribly wrong when the police smell a rat, arrest the wife's father, brother and uncle. Nair cannot return for years, and when he finally does with his facial features completely altered through cosmetic surgery, his daughter is all grown up and his wife refuses to go along with him.
If Pinneyum is a strong critique of the avarice of a family desperate to improve their economic situation, a family which even kills to achieve what it wants, Dileep's latest blockbuster, Ramaleela, also talks about bloodshed. In Ramaleela, the bloodshed is all for revenge and political ambition. As Ramanunni, Dileep portrays a con with a sense of impeccable planning to murder an important party member, who was instrumental in killing Dileep's father. Dileep plans the crime to make it appear the handiwork of another party functionary.
The most important question in my mind is if such negative roles help Dileep win back public sympathy and fan support? In fact, Ramaleela's plot may often appear to be running close to the case of sexual assault on an actress in which Dileep is an important suspect.
The charge against Dileep is a very serious one.
However, reports indicate that Dileep is "gaining the ground he lost" during his 85-day incarceration at the Aluva sub-jail in Kerala. As he emerged in a white shirt, dozens of fans who had assembled around, greeted him and began to distribute sweets - a kind of celebratory atmosphere that prevails every time the actor's film opens. We are told that there was also an old woman in the crowd who said that she had wanted to meet Dileep in jail, but could not do so, because of stringent rules.
I have seen in the course of my long stint as a cinema journalist that fan frenzy often defies logic and a sense of balance. It does not seem to be very different in the case of Dileep. With some organisations already offering to reinstate the star in the positions he had held before being arrested, I find the speed at which men are prepared to overlook an incident as heinous as rape hard to believe. Not just rape, but also the temerity to videotape it all.
I agree that nobody is guilty until proven so, until courts decide so. And Dileep should also enjoy this right.
But having said this, I must also add that the charge against Dileep is a very serious one. Sexual harassment is a crime that India has been fighting against for a long time, with the intensity of public anger against rape and other forms of maltreatment of women having shot up after the brutality we saw being perpetrated on Nirbhaya in 2012.
One hopes that cinema organisations in Kerala would not sprint to woo the actor, who carries a horrific stigma which only courts can erase. That is if he is innocent.
Finally, let us not forget that in a country where we revere women as goddesses, we should at least have the decency to empathise with a woman who has clearly been wronged - and wait till the judgement in the case is pronounced before we go celebrating Dileep.