Recently, facing charges of sexual harassment, Public Works Minister, P J Jospeh quit the Communist ministry. The allegation that he misbehaved with a woman on a Kingfisher flight from Chennai to Kochi was investigated by police and found to be true. Thus P J Joseph joined the long line of ministers like Neelalohithadas Nadar and Kunjalikutti to quit public office after facing sexual harassment charges.
Ministers are representatives of people and when they misbehave like this, can the public be far behind? The case which rocked Kerala was the Suryanelli case in which a 16 year old girl was sexually abused by forty people in that many days. Then there is the Vithura case in which a minor girl was was raped by more than 40 persons for several days together after she was lured by a woman in her neighborhood. Ice-cream parlor and mobile prostitution ring have become regular features in our highly literate state.
How did the movie industry react to all these? If you look at the blockbuster movies of the past year you may get an impression that Malayalam movies create mainly escapist fare. One more movie in which Suresh Gopi plays a cop or another one in which Dileep and Kavya dance in New Zealand, or the M&M’s acting as do-gooders will be at the top of your memory. The troubling atmosphere in Kerala has been dealt with realism by various film makers, but since they did not star any superstars, they did not get noticed.>
Sheelabati, directed by R.Sharath and starring Kavya Madhavan and Sunil covers various issues. On a visit to Kerala from Bengal, Sheelabati (Kavya) notices the exploitation of both the land and the people. The movie covers issues like the shortage of water, the troubles of farmers and the sexual abuse of girls. The movie was filmed like a documentary, appeared confused and failed to make any impact on us.
Imagine someone knocks your head with a coconut every five minutes and says, “Look, girls are being abused”. This is the technique which T.V.Chandran used in his film Kathavaseshan starring Dileep as Gopinatha Menon, who commits suicide unable to bear the society. This movie also failed to impress us due to its contrived script and unbelievable characters.Compared to the above two, Kanne Madanguka had a straightforward narration. There was no artificiality or scenes of someone walking along the road for five minutes which is typical of movies trying to act serious. The movie traced the transformation of a poor but brilliant school student, Karunya (Navya Nair), from a rank holder to a prostitute. In the movie, Karunya leaves the house to work in Gulf and is later found in Nagercoil in a jail. What actually happens to her is never shown and there lay the brilliance of the movie.
While Kanne Madanguka ended with the arrest of Karunya, Achanurangatha Veedu depicted what happens to the victims and their families after that. Salim Kumar played the role of a Govt. Employee with three daughters. One of them, again like Karunya, who is good in studies does not come home one day. Later she is caught in a prostitution ring and comes back home. Politicians, Media, Courts and Police does not make life easy for this middle class family and their helplessness is captured brilliantly by Lal Jose in this movie written by Babu Janardhanan.
We liked some of the movies and did not like some. But Dileep, Radhakrishnan Nagavally, K G Prasannan and Reji Kuthazhath, the producers of the four movies have our respect for talking about these issues. We also admire Kavya Madhavan, Navya Nair, Dileep, Jyothirmayi, Sunil, Murali, Samvritha and Salim Kumar, who are well known commercial actors for acting in such low budget but important movies. It gives us hope that good realistic cinema is not dead in Malayalam.