Nameless & Shameless

The Survivor of a sexual assault survives not just bodily harm and deep psychological trauma but also the clamping of her identity. Her name isn’t mentioned, her face isn’t published and her voice remains largely unheard. At this stage many people succumb to weakness and trauma and choose to disappear. But a rare one chooses to speak up and fight for justice. Unseen and unheard she takes on a fight that is against the powerful who have once overpowered her. Does the equation seem imbalanced? Yes it is.

To make insinuations about such a survivor or liken her to the dead is deplorable.

In 2017 when the women’s collective was formed here, there were many questions about the need for it in our film industry. But the last 3 years have revealed the answer, in the prejudiced and sexist attitudes that are alive and kicking here.  Through this time many such unquotable quotes have emerged from within the industry and some outside it – each worse than the other. Cocktails of misogyny & patriarchy have been thrown about for public consumption.

From televised debates to stage shows to Whatsapp messages they shamelessly display their yellowed minds as they degrade other genders and survivors. Some thunder away to justify the people of their gender, without the ability to recognize the difference between humour and degradation. Others make thoughtless remarks on social media, then quickly delete/apologize/sign out when reproached.  These are all violators – of varying degrees.

But has the film fraternity ever corrected these people for such hate speech. The term ‘disciplinary action’ is famously used here, then why isn’t it used against those who hurl derogatory comments on survivors of sexual abuse?

I am also a member of the film industry but such dishonourable words do not reflect my values. Such words do not represent my thought. This is NOT my culture. And there are more who think like me. I have had wonderful empowered colleagues in this industry who respect women and cherish a self-respecting woman in this industry. But most of them are choosing to remain silent. This silence is far more dangerous. In the (im)balance between the silent and the speakers-of-shameless-words, our industry is being stamped with a misogynistic, chauvinistic identity.

Those of us who think differently should stand apart and say that we differ. We need to distance ourselves from these violators and stop sitting silently on that fence. If we don’t, the risk is that, we are quietly agreeing to be part of them. Any one who stands up for her rights is also standing for every woman here. She is more alive than many we know. Those who have blinkers on and refuse to see, those who muzzle themselves and wont move or react to any wrong – I don’t know how alive they are.

No, am not seeking just a social media post or a declaration of solidarity. Many of those have come and gone. Our empowered stance for equal rights needs to show up in the way we work and how we respond to situations. Until then we are simply ‘Shammi-es’* masquerading as “the perfect man”. We need a ‘mind-ware’ update to oust discriminatory values and embrace empathy from our workplace and industry. More than ever, now gender shouldn’t matter – it is more important that such ugly chauvinism is opposed irrespective of which gender we belong to.

Rather than preserve outdated values, I wish our representative organizations would use this opportunity to propel the film industry from the unorganized sector towards a better organized, legally compliant, entertainment & media industry with rights and welfare for all. But if we ignore this opportunity to do so, it is at our own peril.

The Malayalam film industry has had a history of progressive films, powerhouses of open thought and a pioneering history in organized welfare of cinema workers. That progressive legacy is ours to reclaim. Today, we have promising cinema on screen, new voices of different sensibilities and genders… Acknowledging the dark corners and the will to shine light at them will make the big difference to where we go from here.

*Toxic Shammi from Kumbalangi Nights

13 thoughts on “Nameless & Shameless

  1. You mentioned //Until then we are simply ‘Shammi-es’ masquerading as “the perfect man”. // I agree you added * to explain what it is as it is a blog you wrote. Assume you are in an interview with someone, and you mentioned the same, and you did not explain what “‘Shammi” you meant, assuming it is well understood. What if the next say Shammi Thilakan accused you of insulting him? Sounds similar to what happened here? Wasting our time for prejudice based silly assumptions is degrading you and WCC. It might be true that Idavela Babu’s prior actions where not in line with your expectation. But every time he opens his mouth if you try to find fault in it is very immature. Your recent action is just childish, and to be honest, should not represent WCC as many of us support the true cause of WCC. To be frank, many times you insult film lovers like me. You lecture us on how we should watch a movie and how we should understand a film, assuming we are stupid. 99% malayalees who watch movies are smart enough to take a film as a film. I admire you as a director. But you are far away from reality in gauging film audiences. A true progressive (I am assuming you are one) always stay away from boxing people and judging people. Unfortunately, all the members of WCC do that. If you still need support from thinking people like me better stay away from these petty accusations and focus on solving the real problem.

    1. It is a very well written comment sir, but I would want to politely disagree with your point that “99% malayalees who watch movies are smart enough to take a film as a film”
      Firstly, the question is not about being smart or stupid. Tons of research within the fields of visual studies and sociology have proved that films do affect the
      behaviour of the viewer
      The representation of this can be seen within films as well. For instance there is a scene in the film ‘Two countries’ where the protagonist is sitting on a flight along with his wife who is an alcoholic. He asks her to stop drinking but she doesn’t do so. At this point he watches a scene in a film which talks about how a man knows to keep his wife under control and inspired by it slaps his wife.
      The movie might have depicted an exaggeration for comic effect but it nevertheless throws light upon how human behaviour is affected by cinema.

  2. Very well put up. Though there are many worshipped and respected actors in the association nobody speaks up publicly and voice out for the right thing. Feel sad about it.

  3. The ones who portray “hero” in the movies are the most coward people there are. What kind of a moral or social responsibility do these so called “superstars” have towards the society? They stay silent as if they are too good to be involved in these matters? #Speak up cowards

    It is high time that the whole industry is dismantled and restart from scratch.

  4. I am with you dear Anjali in everything you have written. I would not only call you bold and forthright but someone who is able to stand with the truth that both the genders are equals, though our roles are totally different. In no way is the other superior or lacking in wisdom.

    Let me know how I can be of help and support other than prayer, which I love to.

  5. Sad to hear such statements and sad that the association they represent is called by the most sacred name ‘Amma’

  6. Unfortunately what you said is the truth. In this context if you take a close look other at fields, it is the type of money and people who flock in with hi ambitions regardless of the path they chose that decide the quality of that field overall. Take for instance politics, Gandhiji was in politics, Lal Bahdur Sastriji was in politics. Their goals and means adopted were incorruptible. Compare the later generations of politicians, they deprived poor Indians of their ability to buy cheaper gold for the marriages of their daughters by allowing gold to be bought only through smugglers who contribute heavily to the kitty of politicians. Take the communist leaders of yester years; their commitment to party ideology was unquestionable and now, less said the better. There is a common thread, the type of finance that flow into industry or politics or social arena. That decides the quality of that field.. Money is the blood stream and unbridled ambition for name and fame is the thought process that finally decides the right and wrong of what they do. One time a highly successful filim personality or politician uses the hawala route to launder money, he is in the trap of hawala operators who are finally controlled by bigger mafia in Dubai with all its ramifications in anti national activities.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s