Kerala Producers Association promptly bars Bhasi, what about Vijay Babu and Liju?

The KFPA has imposed a ‘temporary ban’ on an actor who verbally abused an anchor, but actor-producer Vijay Babu and director Liju Krishna, accused of rape, are yet to face any action.

Allegations of abusive behaviour during a promotional interview has cost Malayalam actor Sreenath Bhasi dear. A day after he was arrested for verbally abusing a woman anchor and was released on bail, he has now been ‘temporarily banned’ by the Kerala Film Producers’ Association (KFPA). Speaking to the media, the executive members of the KFPA had said that they were happy with how Bhasi was responding to the consequences of his actions. He had apparently “acknowledged his mistake and expressed regret”, and reacted in a “responsible manner” when he was summoned for an explanation. The association, however, is “duty-bound” to take action, especially considering he is still under police investigation. 

Fair enough, if one thinks about it. If an actor is under investigation in a criminal case, with the charges including sections of the Indian Penal Code such as 509 (word, gesture or act intended to insult the modesty of a woman) and 354 A (sexual harassment), one can assume that the association is taking a moral high ground by imposing a ban on the actor.

Besides, this is far from the first time the KFPA has imposed a ban on an actor for ‘bad behaviour’. Around three years ago, the association had banned Shane Nigam from all their movies on charges of indiscipline — a move that came in the middle of an ugly spat between the actor and film producer Joby Joseph. The fight had infamously started off with Shane having a haircut without informing the makers of the film Veyil, and ended up with two of the actor’s projects getting shelved. The KFPA even went on to write to the South Indian Film Chamber (SIFC), the apex body for Tamil, Telugu, Kannada and Malayalam film industries, seeking a ban on Shane until he compensated the producers for the two projects that have been shelved. The KFPA ban was lifted later, after Shane apologised to Joby, and the latter held a discussion with the association and called for peace.

All of which begs the question: where is the KFPA drawing the line? Clearly, indiscipline is not acceptable, nor is the verbal abuse of an interviewer. But considering how actor-producer Vijay Babu has been coming out with project after project, with the first look poster of his latest Malayalam film released as recently as on September 1, an actor accused of rape seems to be perfectly admissible. So are filmmakers accused of rape, as has been seen in the case of Padavettu director Liju Krishna.

Vijay Babu is currently under investigation for allegedly sexually assaulting a female actor, and then going on to disclose the survivor’s identity through a Facebook live session. Despite the severity of the nature of the charges against him, the actor, however, has faced no ban from any association in the Malayalam film industry yet. Not from the KFPA, and to nobody’s surprise, definitely not from the Association of Malayalam Movie Artistes (A.M.M.A.). In fact, it was Vijay himself, a former executive committee member of the A.M.M.A., who wrote to the association saying he would stay away from it, until he was proven innocent of the charges against him.

Let’s say the associations feel Vijay Babu’s guilt or innocence hasn’t been proven, and are hence giving him the benefit of the doubt. Still, he did make public the name of the complainant, a very objective violation of the law and a survivor’s privacy. But even this did not warrant any action from any of the associations, not even a censure.

Read: ‘Why cry rape when you consented?’: Vijay Babu case and workplace sexual harassment

Vijay Babu isn’t the only one whose transgressions have been conveniently ignored by the KFPA, or the A.M.M.A. for that matter. A case of sexual assault was filed against Liju Krishna earlier this year at the Kakkanad police station in Ernakulam, within days of which the filmmaker was arrested from the sets of his film in Thrissur. 

The survivor, who is learnt to be in a very poor health condition, had eventually requested the production team of Yoodlee Films (of Saregama Ltd) to at least remove his name from the credits of his debut directorial film Padavettu, which is set for release in October. But neither did Saregama acknowledge the request, nor did any of the associations react to the survivor’s plight. Instead, Liju’s name has been retained in the titles of the film, and what more, the release of Padavettu — which has Nivin Pauly in the lead — is being awaited with much fanfare on social media.

KFPA certainly seems to have its priorities straight. It acknowledges that it is “duty-bound” to take action against an actor who messed up and abused an interviewer, and was quick to take action. But a severe charge like rape, unfortunately, seems to be conveniently out of the bounds of that “duty”, absolving them of any obligations.


 

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