A popular Malayalam actress, who also worked in few South Indian language films, was allegedly chased, attacked and abducted in Kochi on Friday night.
Despite it being a case of molestation, the local, as well as national media, showed no remorse in revealing the identity of the victim during initial stages of reporting. The news flashes and tickers carried the name of the actress and some showed even her images while explaining her ‘pathetic’ status. Later, they were all forced to withheld her identity after the investigating officer requested them to do so.
But the news coverage and subsequent response from a few known names of the Malayalam industry reflected a deeper malaise that is plaguing the ‘progressive’ Kerala society i.e., patriarchy.
Kairali TV, controlled by the ruling CPI(M), stooped to a new low in its coverage of the incident. The stance of the channel in airing stories that further victimised the actor has come under serious attack. They were, later, forced to tender an apology for 'being insensitive' towards the victim.
Though the channel has been broadcasting insensitive reports from the morning, what made them retract from them was a fierce FB post the prominent actor Rima Kallingal had written against them in the way they handled the story.
Rima Kallingal who is known for taking positions on matters of socio-political importance came down heavily on Kairali and its MD John Brittas, who is also the media advisor to chief minister Pinarayi Vijayan, for having time and nerve to find sensational stories for the channel.
“When a human being is going through the biggest horror of her life you had time and nerve to find sensational stories for your air time?,” said Rima in her FB post.
She also asked John Brittas to resign if he does not know what his channel is airing. The channel, while reporting the incident, cast aspersion on the victim by saying that the relation she had with her car driver was dubious. Police took the car driver after it was found that he had connived with the gang in abducting the actress.
Since after Rima Kallingal made her ire felt on FB, the post has generated a huge reaction from the public. Some commentators, ostensibly CPI (M) cadres and sympathisers, even tried to target her for coming out in such open.
A section asked why she kept silent when crimes of similar nature were committed earlier. Some detractors asked whether she is still a left sympathiser. Meanwhile, her post had helped many film personalities to come with their share of opinion on the incident so strongly and courageously. Some even not shunned away from criticising media in the way they handled the story.
Prithvi Raj, South Indian actor, was vociferous in his reaction and said he hangs his head as a man who has to ‘share the responsibility of a society that bears this shame’. The actor’s note on FB calling the perpetrators as bastards also went viral. The post was accepted as the stand of a brave man. Unlike Rima, questions were not asked about his political leanings or his use of the patriarchal word 'bastard' in his post.
It did not end there. Major Ravi, an ex-army officer and director, with pro-RSS leanings, fumed with anger. He was also at his supremacist low when he dared the perpetrators to engage with 'men' to prove their manliness!.
Ravi here also reminded the offenders about his military past, which he flaunts whenever he gets an opportunity.
Dulquar Salman, the heartthrob of film flocks, was late to react on social media which he explained was due to his ‘respect for the victim’. The young actor, who was part of some of the innovative films of young directors, did not break the convention of stereotyping women as a tribe that need to be protected by men. He advised men and boys, young and old, to be alert and vigilant. It's equally our responsibility to care about, look out for, and to respect and protect our women.
This is perhaps the first time a celebrity woman is being attacked and molested in public in the state and this rare factor has helped the incident getting maximum response from the public. But as in the past, the general pattern of reaction to this gruesome attack also cement one particular characteristic of the Mallus, their love to shield their innate patriarchy under the facade of progressiveness.