Mohanlal Image Credit: Clint Egbert/Gulf News

Indian National Award-winning actor and Association of Malayalam Movie Artists (Amma) president was called out for trivialising sexual assaults and adopting a reductive approach towards the #MeToo movement this week.

“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 on November 19.

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A few minutes later in a sit-down interview with Gulf News tabloid!, the actor continued to be flippant with this journalist when questioned about labelling #MeToo as a “fad”.

“We [men] can also come out with a #MeToo, gender-wise,” said Mohanlal.

When prodded about what he meant by his remark, he added: “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.”

As soon our interview (in video and print) was posted online on Monday, netizens across the globe were up in arms expressing their indignation, censure and disappointment at their idol’s toxic attitude towards the cause and his blatant display of male privilege.

Activist and author Sandhya Menon (@RestlessQuill), who was responsible for triggering the #MeToo stories wave in India through her Twitter account, called the actor’s comments “highly irresponsible”

“Highly irresponsible and hypocritical of @Mohanlal to call the #metoo movement a trend. And he can’t comment on it because he doesn’t know? Aamir Khan has set a nice template for these people follow,” tweeted Menon, along with the Gulf News video interview of Mohanlal.

Actress and TV presenter Shruti Seth expressed her shock at her colleague’s insensitive remarks and posted a tweet dripping with sarcasm.

“#metoo is a FAD???? Yes women allow themselves to be preyed upon by entitled, misogynistic predators to be fashionable and in the news. We’re so hard up for fame, aren’t we?” tweeted Seth.

South Indian singer Shrinavas, who has sung for actors such as Rajinikanth, tweeted: “Mohanlal puts his foot in his mouth... Or is he just projecting the irritating macho image that many men think that they are entitled to project? Either way, he needs to introspect and talk to women and understand what they truly are... Sad statement from an actor par excellence.”

Amritha Thomas expressed her shock at the actor’s comments saying: “The fact that you referred to #MeToo as a fad speaks volumes about the kind of person you are. It’s disheartening that you are considered as a role model. Thankfully the youth of today have more sense! #mohanlal #lalletandisssapoints”.

Sreejith Mullappili was willing to give the actor the benefit of the doubt.

“Cannot believe #Mohanlal termed #MeToo, the most significant movement since the Civil Rights, a “fad”. Hopefully, he does not mean what he said or he just has not verbalized it well,” he tweeted.

Others weren’t so kind.

Gurumurthy Rathnam tweeted: “And no, you cannot get away with anything you say. It is definitely not a joke. If you’ve been harassed, we are ready to listen to you. #Mohanlal.”

Anuradha Sridhar extolled the actor not to indulge in loose talk.

“Have watched his fabulous Bharatham with my grandmother. Mohanlal is not a loose talker. And if he hasn’t been harassed, it shows male privilege. Let the women speak. He can stay silent. #MeToo,” she tweeted.

Dr Roshan was disappointed that his role model had feet of clay.

“Mohanlal calls #MeToo a fad. I have grown up loving him as an actor but have always been disappointed by the man himself in real life, especially in recent times when it has come to using his powerful position to take a stand for women,” tweeted Roshan.

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Here’s a look at a few other tweets

“That’s what Mohanlal was saying, maybe? People above certain age are not able to understand #MeToo phenomenon. All of them. Please pardon the childhood idols. Mohanlal cannot be septic tank.” — @Anuradha_Thota

“#Mohanlal made a series of still more absurd statements, with the confidence and utter obliviousness to irony that a certain kind of man can pull off effortlessly. #MeToo #MeTooIndia #Amma #MalayalamMovies #ActressAttack #Dileep #RapeApologists.” — @Sa_Beeee

“For God’s sake, the #MeToo campaign isn’t gender specific. If you know about the movement, talk. If you don’t, ask. Don’t spread misinformation. It is cancerous. #Mohanlal.” — @VeryFunnyGuru

“Didn’t expect anything better from #Mohanlal, who has exposed his misogynistic attitude many times before. Or is it some sort of anticipatory bail kind!” — @mohan71105

“It’s confirmed #Mohanlal, you are a [expletive] good actor but even more a [expletive]. How dare you call #metoo a fad! People like you should be banished for your sheer ignorance. I regret for ever having watching your movies. Not anymore!” — @0variesofsteel