Malayalam superstar and the president of Association of Malayalam Movie Actors (Amma) Mohanlal on Monday labelled the rousing #MeToo movement against sexual assault and harassment in the film industry as a short-lived ‘fad’.
“There’s no big problem in the Malayalam industry … You shouldn’t think of the #MeToo as a movement actually. It’s a fad and it’s turning into something of a fashion. Anything like that will have a lifespan for a bit,” said Mohanlal at a press conference in Dubai.
“It [sexual misconduct] can happen anywhere in life, not just in films,” said Mohanlal. In an interview with Gulf News tabloid! a few minutes later, the actor claimed he didn’t know much about the #MeToo movement to be an authority on that subject.
‘Drama’ is a very small film and it’s a story that takes place over four days. It’s set in the UK and it has a good message. It’s different. Go watch that film.
Mohanlal and Amma — a film body that was established to safeguard its actors and actresses — has come under attack for its soft stand towards actor Dileep who was accused of allegedly orchestrating the sexual assault of an actress. In the last few months, Amma’s cavalier and patriarchal attitude prompted several women to resign and form their own parallel group called Women In Cinema Collective (WCC) for better representation. Dileep’s re-instatement into Amma and his subsequent resignation has tarnished Amma’s reputation.
“But Amma is doing great things,” Mohanlal maintained.
The award-winning actor was in the UAE to announce his charity fund-raiser Onnanu Nammal in Abu Dhabi on December 7 at the Armed Forces Officers Club. The proceeds of the concert, held in association with the Malayalam TV channel Asianet, will go towards the rehabilitation of Kerala flood survivors.
As many as 50 top artists from the Malayalam movie industry — including Manju Warrier, Nivin Pauly and Mammootty — will participate in the five-hour song-dance spectacle.
Asked if women will play a prime role in the show, Mohanlal said: “Of course, they can dance, they can sing …”
The actor also revealed his plans of doing another big show spearheaded by Amma in March in Kerala. Asked if Dileep, who was asked to resign from Amma, will be allowed to participate in that show, Mohanlal said that decision remains a question mark.
“If he wants to participate, then he can… But since he’s not in the association anymore, that’s a question mark. Your answer lies in your question itself,” said Mohanlal.
Here are excerpts from our five-minute interview with the actor…
Q: Can you tell us more about Amma’s fund-raiser Onnanu Nammal which will be held in Abu Dhabi next month?
A: The show is going to be a great one and will be based on ‘Pancha Bhootas’ [five elements]. The five-hour show will be divided into five segments lasting an hour each. Elements including earth, fire, water and sky will be touched upon and we are trying to go big with laser and 3D mapping.
Q: As the president of Amma, you have come under fire recently as an actor and an individual about the way in which Dileep issue was dealt with … What should be done differently?
A: In Kerala, people are aware of the organisation Amma. But outside Kerala, they don’t know if it’s Amma or Mohanlal saying it. Suddenly, they assume that I have done something wrong. Amma is an association and fortunately or unfortunately, I am the president of that association. We have around 450 people in this association whom we support by giving them Rs5000 [Dh256] a month. It’s not easy to support so many people. We are constructing many houses for people in our industry. It’s [Amma] a beautiful fraternity. It’s a small association of artists. So, when anything happens they will target us first.
Q: Are you claiming that you and Amma are soft targets?
A: I don’t mind [being a soft target], but I have to say that it’s not me Mohanlal who’s making those decisions [independently]. It’s my position as a president of this association who’s saying it. Sometimes, we have to speak up.
Q: Is this fund-raiser in Abu Dhabi a brand-building exercise? Amma’s image has taken a harsh beating with even the national media debating your organisation’s decisions…
A: Let it happen and may you have a golden tongue about Amma becoming a big brand. But honestly, we don’t want to come into the limelight or be in that league. By joining hands with Asianet, all we are doing is generating some money through our collective consciousness. We have to associate with people from across the world… Let this fund-raiser happen, we [Amma] are doing good things.
Q: Recently, you made it clear that the women who resigned from WCC needn’t apologise but the association will take them in only after they express interest to return… Your thoughts?
A: If somebody resigns from an association, there’s a process where they have to apply again. Let them come back, what’s wrong in it? We don’t have any grudges against them.
Q: A skit by Amma was panned for being misogynistic, sexist and anti-WCC? Will you be more sensitive towards the content this time around for your show in Abu Dhabi?
A: Again, let me tell you that it’s your perception. We have no problems against WCC and Amma is just a small club with its own set of rules. When you watch our programme, it’s your decision on how to perceive it. It’s your judgement and if you think that we are ridiculing you, then it’s your intelligence… We have never focused on such things. It’s their demand and intelligence that makes them feel that we have done something wrong. If you are very particular, then we will try to bring out a skit this time?
Q: A more gender-neutral one, perhaps…
A: You wait and watch the show…
Q: A few minutes before at the press conference, you labelled the #MeToo movement as a fashionable trend... But it’s a movement that the world has woken up to, but not you. Aren’t you dissing women who have been sexually assaulted in real life?
A: We [men] can also come out with a #MeToo, gender-wise. I cannot make a comment on that. Only when you experience something like that, you can make a comment on it. Just giving a comment on it isn’t the right thing. I don’t know much about it [#MeToo].
Q: If you were to re-visit the episode over Dileep, would you or Amma do anything differently in the way you conducted yourself?
A: I don’t know. With the support of all of you, we can build so many things. We are trying to come out with some great things. Let’s wait and watch.
Q: What’s happening with your film ‘Randammoozham’, produced by a UAE businessman?
A: We are trying to come out with it. In between, we had a few issues with it on the scripting level. But we are trying to sort it out. So, let it happen.
What: Onnanu Nammal
When: December 7, 2018
Where: Armed Forces Officers Club, Abu Dhabi
Tickets: Dh100, Dh500, Dh1,000