Readers Write In #31: Parvathy and the Mammookka trolls

Posted on January 19, 2018


It all first began when a Malayalam actress was abducted and assaulted in her own car. Women in Malayalam cinema came together after this, and formed a group called Women in Cinema Collective (WCC). They began speaking out against a topic that was largely unspoken about until then : sexism in the Malayalam film industry.

In the last International Film Festival of Kerala (IFFK) in Thiruvananthapuram during an open panel discussion, Parvathy said, regarding the Mammootty starrer Kasaba, “I had watched a film recently, to my bad luck. With all respect to the makers, the film disappointed me, as it featured a great actor speaking totally misogynistic dialogues. A lot of people feel cinema reflects life and society, that is true. But a line that is drawn is, whether we glorify it or we don’t glorify it. When a superstar mouths such a dialogue, it gives many people the licence to do the same, because people might think it’s sexy and cool.”

Watch the controversial scene here :

She went on to say how she herself had earlier normalised misogyny and thought an abusive relationship to be normal, due to the influence of the cinema she had seen. The 2016 movie had been criticised earlier by the Kerala State Women’s Commission for some dialogues by the cop played by Mammootty, but in an industry that tends to eulogize stars and muffle any critical voices, Parvathy’s comments never the less still stood out :

All Parvathy did was express an opinion, in a panel discussion, when asked  about the topic. But it made countless Mammootty fans, including some women, wage a war against her, in what was taken as a personal attack on their hero. Some of them allege that the criticism is a personal vendata by vested interests against Mammootty, and that Parvathy is being used as their pawn. They abused her online, and sent her rape threats. According to scriptwriter Deedi Damodaran, the issue is not just a movie “I don’t think one can limit the statements to Kasaba. What irked many is how Parvathy chose to challenge a male-dominated system.” Others however believe it is only a knee jerk reaction to what is perceived as an attack on their idol, similar to the reaction of fans during the cyber attack on Sharapova some years back, for not knowing who Tendulkar is.

Jude Anthany Joseph, who paradoxically directed the female centric movie, Om Shanthi Oshana,  and a movie on child sexual abuse, on Twitter, criticized Parvathy for not speaking out against abuse when she was in the process of being abused, but only when she was in a position of influence. In retaliation, Parvathy sent out a Twitter post depicting an acronym that in Malayalam translates into the equivalent of the middle finger.

She also gave a complaint to the cyber police against the abuses and rape threats, and two people were arrested. When one of them was let out on bail, the producer of Kasaba , Joby George, offered him a job. “If you can contact me or come to my home or office, you have a job till I die, in India, UK, Dubai, Australia or drop in your number I will call you,”  he wrote on his facebook page. Parvathy has however put up an incredibly brave face despite all the abuse, and recently put up this tweet : Parvathy T K (@parvatweets) Tweeted:

What a glorious time to be alive!

Everyone showing their truest colours 😜 sits back with popcorn and watches on

Her brave reaction to the trolling seem to have angered the Mammokka fans even further. For a long time, Mammootty himself kept a silence, but after the arrest by the cyber police, he clarified that he has not assigned anyone to debate or respond on his behalf. “I don’t go after controversies. What we need are meaningful debates. We all abide by freedom of speech and right to opinion”, he said.

The trolling continues unabated, with the word “Feminichi” (a combination of the words feminist and ammachi, meaning mother) being used to refer to the WCC members. And that in turn has led to retaliation by some using the Twitter handle #feminichispeaking and has led to the spawning of feminist memes that use that handle. One sad thing that emerges from all this hullabaloo is how the word ‘feminist’ seems to have become an insult. Though it only means that one stands for equal rights for women, it seems to be misconstrued by many to stand for misandry and female supremacism. Even the chief minister of Kerala appears a little confused in this regard, because in a recent television show when asked by Rima Kallingal if he was a feminist, he replied, “No gender should dominate”.

Two recent movie releases were targetted by the Mamookka trolls. The first was Mayaanadhi, which was directed by Rima Kallingal’s (an outspoken member of the WCC) husband Aashiq Abu. The second is the Prithviraj – Parvathy starrer My story, which had a song featuring the leading pair. The trolls went on a roll in the comment section under the YouTube release of the song, and the video notched up an unprecedented number of dislikes.

They threaten to boycott both these movies. Mayaanadhi however is doing well so far, despite the boycott threats.

Kerala is a model state with high tolerance of minorities, good per capita income, high female literacy, a high percentage of working women, and health care indices comparable to first world countries. Glorification of misogyny in Malayalam movies is probably dying a natural death, with the waning of the stars of yesteryears like Mammootty, Mohan Lal, Jayaram and Dileep. There are not many other recent Malayalam movies that can be cherry picked for their depiction of misogyny, other than Kasaba, which was not a big hit. However, this controversy has brought all of Kerala’s misogynists crawling out of the woodwork. And if anyone had any doubts at all that heroes depicting glorified negative traits on screen would blind their hero worshipping fans from seeing the negativity of their actions, and lead them to emulate them, then the continuing behaviour of innumerable Mammootty fans over the Kasaba criticism, is probably the best proof that this is so.

– tonks

I also got the following submission, which was too short to be its own post. But it fits in this space, so putting it up here. This is by sairam suresh, and titled “Time to stem the rot“.

I had some conversations with few of my friends regarding the ordeal women all over the world are putting up with.Barring a few, most of them did not think twice to cast the blame on women for most of the sexual crimes women are subjected to .They asserted that if a woman stands at the receiving end of sexual assaults she should be determined to make peace by accepting the fact that she has provided the fodder for a man to get invited and force himself upon her.They were ready to land in a conclusion that a woman who choose to clad herself in revealing outfit does not stand a testimony to the doctrines of moral books.I really believe that some people dont understand that those moral books are self fabricated and self imposed.Without taking name, i would like to quote one of my friends.He said “dude men are supposed to get sexually instigated when their eyeballs capture a woman who is clad in a revealing outfit and you are considered to be deprived of your masculinity if u dont get aroused”. This is not an appropriate comment to make on a woman.Even some of my female friends affirmed that in most cases its the women who is at the fault for dressing a certain way. They too were of the opinion that women are supposed to dress a certain way.People all over the world keep on moaning the fact that this society is bereft of male feminists.I guess we are in a dire need of female feminists.It would do a lot of good if women themselves would sow a seed of thought that they are on par or some steps ahead of men in every capacities.Its 2018 and still we bore witness to slut shaming ,period shaming and body shaming.Its high time that we detach these element of absurdities from a woman.I would like to opine that its a prerogative of a women to choose her attire.Similarly its her prerogative to shed or embrace abstinence.Nobody has the right to judge her.If a woman would chose to turn out in a revealing outfit under a public glare,it does not mean that she has given a blank cheque to gaze at her inappropriately.Even if a women would celebrate her nudity it does not imply that a man  can get provoked to deflower her virginity. Its really shocking to realize that we are living in a world where a misogynist has come out trumping in a leadership election to lead this world.Its time we grow out of obsolete way of looking at things and shed stereotyping of a woman.For aeons men have been leading and its time for men to pass on the baton to the other half of world population.i would like to conclude by saying that dont ever tell your daughter what she has to wear,instead teach your son to respect a woman.