On the 13th of October, the Women in Cinema Collective held a press conference in Ernakulam to discuss matters related to women and the Malayalam Film Industry. The press meet raised a lot of curiosity coming as it did in the wave of the #MeToo movement that has been taking the celebrity world by storm.
"We feel disrespected, insulted and angry," said Parvathy.
Helmed by Parvathy, Revathy, Padmapriya, Bina Paul and prominent Anjali Menon, script writer Deedi Damodaran and actresses Rima Kallingal, Ramya Nambeesan and Sajitha Madhathil the meet was another outright attack on the functioning of the AMMa body which the WCC claims is being insensitive and biased towards women in the industry.
The actresses also recounted a pervasive misogyny in the industry as well as alleged lack of action in the AMMa body with regards to the Dileep controversy. The actor is accused of paying a hitman to molest another prominent actress last year.
The "pongala" is a Malayali tradition that has evolved from a real-life tradition associated with prosperity and purification to an internet flame war that draws trolls like a moth to the flame. While Malayalis are generally a sarcastic and outright satirical bunch, the flame wars usually take an ugly turn when women or dissenting opinions that differ from popular narratives arise. The people who express such opinions (even harmless ones) may simply be trolled into oblivion or flooded with horrific levels of vitriol and abuse until they give in.
Malayalam actress Anna Rajan was viciously trolled by Mammooty fans for saying that the actor could play her father on-screen. Yes you read that right. She was eventually forced to issue a tearful apology.
Actress Parvathy Thiruvoth was sent rape treats and was incessantly insulted on social media for being "ugly" and "unattractive" because she expressed the opinion that a scene in the Mammooty-starrer Kasaba was misogynistic.
Roopesh Peethambaran was heavily trolled for fans for expressing a negative opinion about the Nivin Pauly-starrer Richie.
Now the WCC is facing daily threats and online harassment simply for existing.
These are only the tip of the iceberg.
Disagreements are a part of daily life. They require a skill called "communication" and the ability to respect differences even when you don't agree. This sentiment seems to be absent in the average Malayali online troll whose reactionary views only extend to juvenile insults such as "skirt washer" and a colourful repertoire of swear words which only serve to hide the troll's own fragile ego.
The internet is a great place to connect but it is not a place to harass and flood people with your intense wishes to rape and murder their family members simply because they disagree with you.
It's time we actually stood up to this nonsense and policed our own language and behaviour on the internet. The internet is no longer an anonymous forum where one can run rampant - it has real world consequences. A good dose of cyber-etiquette classes and some heavy lectures on cyber-bullying is necessary to educate the coming generation not to fall into the trap of this odious thinking.
Let the WCC talk. They too have a right to their voice.