Two days after resigning from the Women in Cinema Collective (WCC), writer-director Vidhu Vincent has raised serious allegations against the association.
Vidhu alleged that WCC has different rules for different artistes. "While she was criticised for joining hands with producer B Unnikrishnan, who stood with Dileep, the key accused in actress attack case, no one questioned Parvathy for working with Siddique, who openly supported Dileep after the sexual assault," she wrote on he Facebook post.
She said WCC did not support her while she was gearing up for her second movie 'Stand Up', jointly produced by B Unnikrishnan and Anto Joseph. The film has Nimisha Sajayan and Rajisha Vijayan in the lead roles. Through the post, Vidhu pointed fingers at some of WCC's notable members, such as actress Rima Kallingal, Parvathy, scriptwriter Deedi Damodaran and director Anjali Menon.
Vidhu begins the long note by saying that she is aware that the issues related to the organization should be discussed within it. She points out that she became the voice of the organization in the public despite having certain differences, just to uphold the spirit of the ideal that the organization represented.
“Even when I thought I couldn't comply with some of the ways and ideals of the WCC, the fact that we were joined by a larger political ideal made me stand with the organization. In my knowledge, the main objectives of the WCC were to question the misogynistic trends in the Malayalam cinema, to support women artists and technicians and to create safe work spaces for women in cinema. I decided not to discuss my issues in public as I thought that it may negatively affect the above mentioned objectives of the WCC. However, I have decided to publish my resignation letter as some people have been trying to tarnish my image by spreading untrue rumors and creating false theories, even after I had quit the organization. I am publishing this resignation letter that I had submitted a week ago, as the lies that have been spread by some people in the WCC may affect others as well,” Vidhu wrote in her post.
It was in 2017, when Vidhu was busy with the script of her second movie that she became a founding member of the WCC. So, she notes that her journey in cinema from then onwards is intertwined with the WCC as well.
“When one of our colleagues was attacked, we gave her moral support and wished to become a guardian angel so that no woman would face something like that in the future. Like all of you, I too came on board of WCC to be part of a wonderful dream to end all discriminations against women in cinema and to form an amazing bond of sisterhood. I express my gratitude to Rima and Sajitha for making me part of that dream. During those days, I was also roaming around, with a completed screenplay, desperately looking for a producer. I had discussed my screenplay with some of my colleagues including Rima. I gratefully recall how Rima had given me some constructive opinions. Though I had met quite a lot of people to make my project work, nothing materialized,” Vidhu wrote in her resignation letter.
Vidhu says she had chased her dream after giving up her job and she had struggled financially even when she was looking for a producer who could finance her movie. Each journey to meet new producers only pushed her into more debts. It was during that time that Sajitha Madathil found a producer for her movie. But, that project didn’t take off due to many reasons. Sajitha then suggested Vidhu’s name to the producer and they had expressed interest in another script written by Vidhu.
From then onwards, Sajitha had been directly or indirectly part of Vidhu's cinema. The producer liked the script of Stand Up and the crew had begun the pre-production work as well. However, the producer’s assets in Aluva got flooded in the 2018 floods and he had to back out of many projects including Vidhu’s movie. Vidhu admits it had affected her severely.
Unfortunately, nothing worked out and Vidhu called Sandeep Senan and B Unnikrishnan. Meanwhile, B Unnikrishnan promised her he would speak to some producers about her project. Vidhu confirms those producers had later called her and said that Unnikrishnan had called them about her movie. However, the producers said they could only work with her in the future as their hands were already full with ongoing projects. She informed Unnikrishnan about this and he invited her to a meeting. They discussed about the theme, cast and crew and the first look poster of the movie and said he could arrange a meeting with Viacom. Vidhu says she didn’t even have the money to travel to Mumbai at that time. She and the scriptwriter borrowed some money from their friends and flew to Mumbai to meet the officials of Viacom. Anjali too had contacted Gurmeet; but Vidhu couldn’t meet her as the executive was on an American trip.
Though Viacom liked the project, their fund processing would take some time. By that time, Vidhu would lose the dates of her actors and other crew members. So, they ended the discussions with Viacom. Meanwhile, she contacted Unnikrishnan again and hinted that she was dropping the project. Next day, Unnkrishnan called Vidhu and said he had spoken to producer Anto Joseph about her movie and that she should convince the latter.
“After hearing the details about the project, Anto agreed to finance the movie. Meanwhile, he mentioned that they had discussed about bankrolling Deedi’s daughter’s movie. However, they had decided to go ahead with my movie as I had already begun the pre-production and had been persistently working for it. Anto Joseph had agreed to give Rs 1.5 crores and instructed that the budget shouldn’t exceed this amount. Even though it was decided that Anto would produce the movie and RD Illuminations would distribute it, he suggested that both their names should appear as producers on the second look poster as they had decided to collaborate,” notes Vidhu.
The film maker recalls editor Beena Paul, Sajitha Madathil and Deedi Damodharan visiting the sets of her movie in Thiruvananthapuram. Sajitha had even essayed a role in it. However, Vidhu later learned that Deedi wasn’t interested in visiting the sets and she had come along after Sajitha and Beena compelled her. While the post production works were going on, Anjali called Vidhu and informed that a WCC meeting would be held the next day in which the issue about her movie would be discussed.
Anjali told her that some members were unhappy that Unnikrishnan was the producer of Vidhu’s movie and that she should explain everything if she is called at the meeting. “Though I wasn’t convinced then, I agreed to explain myself. I didn’t understand why WCC had a problem as Unnikrishnan was someone who was approached by many in our group for personal or professional matters. I learned that the meeting was held; but no one called me seeking any explanation. A few days after this meeting, Kamalesh, a reporter called me and said that some people in the WCC were unhappy about my movie. He also wished to talk to me in detail about this. However, I told Kamalesh that if there were any issues I would rather address it within the organization and not talk to him. I was surprised because it was only a week ago that Kamalesh had sent a crew to my set to cover its details. He hadn’t told me anything then but asked me whether there were any issues just two days after WCC’s meeting. Later, such questions quoting the WCC were raised in the press meeting arranged in Kochi after the filming got over. ‘Is the same person who cast Dileep in the movie Kodathi Samaksham Balan Vakeel’ the producer of Stand Up? Wasn’t the same money used in your project as well? Did you seek WCC’s permission? Was WCC unhappy when Parvathy acted alongside Sidhique in Uyare?’ were some of the questions that were raised in that press meet. I clearly remember answering all those questions without any scope for doubts,” wrote Vidhu.
Addressing the WCC, Vidhu points out that B Unnikrishnan is the leader of a labor organization in cinema and is also a noted director and producer. She says she had known Unnikrishnan as an active commentator and critic in the literary scene, even before both of them entered the movies. “The Unnikrishnan I know is not a criminal who had committed murder or indicted by the court for immoral acts. I realize that it is not possible to engage in a dialogue with those who issue directives that one should collaborate with Unnikrishnan only after dissecting his social, political and personal life. (By the way, it would be interesting to see how that discussion would take shape is such a topic is put into discussion in a larger frame, I mean the whole film industry). I had already mentioned that many in our organization had approached Unnikrishnan for many matters. I wish to remind that many including Beena Paul had sought Unnikrishnan’s help at many significant moments. Does that mean that you could seek help discreetly, but not publicly? Didn’t the members of our organization approach him as he heads a prominent trade union in cinema,” asks Vidhu.
Vidhu also asks whether these people have resigned from the organization that Unnikrishnan leads or not approached him for compromise talks, just because he had cast Dileep in his movie. She wonders whether WCC had asked its members to strictly refrain from collaborating with such people. “I cannot help but notice the upper class aggressiveness in their arguement that Vidhu Vincent was supposed to seek WCC’s permission to work with Unnikrishnan publicly while others can approach him discreetly for personal and professional favors. A group of people in this society is obliged to prove their talent and confidence regularly to get validation. Even when they keep proving themselves, fingers would be pointed against them. It doesn’t bother me now as I am one of those people who are always questioned. At least, I would be happy to realize that I am not two faced like many of you. My life and work are open in front of you as I have nothing to hide or have won anything discreetly. Never have I ever achieved something by catering to opportunism or by showing double standards,” Vidhu expresses in strong words.
Vidhu points out that actor Sidhique had visited Dileep in jail multiple times and had even publicly proclaimed his support to the latter. Besides, Sidhique has tried to tarnish WCC at all possible occasions. Vidhu asks whether the organization has asked its members not to work with him. She is curious whether the WCC members were confused when Parvathy acted alongside Sidhique in the movie Uyare. She asks whether an explanation had been sought from Parvathy as well.
She also mentions actor and director Renjith who had visited Dileep in jail and extended his support publicly. Vidhu wonders whether Renjith too had become an outcast for the WCC members or whether they planned to declare him as one.
The film maker revealed that Kodathi Samaksham Balan Vakeel was the inaugural movie exhibited at the DI studio owned by Ramya Nambeesan’s brother. It was even inaugurated by Unnikrishnan. Vidhu cannot help but wonder whether the ‘ban’ would include this studio as well. Vidhu sarcastically asks whether the members or their family members need to seek permission prior to collaborating professionally with such people. She isn’t sure whether WCC had discussed about these matters.
“I am against public inquisitions. I resist untouchability and social and professional banishment. Those who wish to tread that path can do so. However, I can assure that class and caste aren’t mere words here,” notes Vidhu.
Vidhu says the sound studio in Lal Media has been built with Dileep’s financial assistance. She asks whether the WCC members wouldn’t work here or whether they would ban their films from being exhibited in the theaters owned by Dileep. Vidhu also asks whether the organization thinks that some people could do whatever they like while some others cannot.
“Please don’t say that it is an organization that represents women in cinema based on their class privileges. It is even alright to call it a ladies club, an NGO or a corporate forum just like the social media had called. When I sent a message regarding this to Rima, she replied that Parvathy didn’t have any options when it came to choices while I and Anjali had. Do you really think that Anjali and I have the same options? I don’t understand what tool Rima had used to equate Anjali and Vidhu. I have nothing more to say if the members have such ideas about class distinctions. I am one of the thousands of cinema lovers who roam after producers for years to achieve their dreams. Poverty and hopelessness still await us on our paths. Speaking about gender politics alone isn’t enough. It would really help if you could ponder about how the ignorance about the class and caste differences in it could weaken the movement,” reasons Vidhu.
Vidhu claims that while she was taking part in discussion about movies in Kannur, moderator Premachandran had asked her whether she had any problems with Deedi Damodharam. She also claimed that Premachandran had told her that Deedi had asked him not to write anything about Vidhu’s movie when he had written a review of Stand Up in Deshabimani.
Meanwhile, a journalist based in Bengaluru revealed to Vidhu that a WCC member had told her, ‘What Vidhu did is wrong’. When Vidhu called dubbing artist Bhagyalakshmi to apologize for not attending her son’s wedding, the latter too asked whether she had any problem with Deedi. Vidhu also claims that she had learned from a credible and reliable source that Deedi had once said that they didn’t have any problem with Unnikrishnan but had issues only with Vidhu. Vidhu asks who are the ‘they’ and wonders why they have problems with her when they are alright with Unnikrishnan.
“I doubted whether Deedi was upset because the person who was supposed to finance her daughter’s movie had produced my film. But I like to believe that Deedi is not someone who would play the nepotism game. I don’t know how many of you completely read my answer when a reporter asked me about Parvathy and Anjali’s movie during a promotional event of my movie. Malayalam cinema would have just 5% artists if a ban is imposed upon those who are associated with Dileep. So, I said that everyone should co-operate as much as possible in a work space and should openly point out when there are differences. Parvathy had called me one day after just reading the headline. I had asked her to read the whole article. I also recall how I couldn’t continue that conversation as I was at a place where there wasn’t proper mobile signal. I had invited the WCC members through email for the music launch of my movie. No one except Soumya and Indu came. I know everyone is extremely busy. However, I remember attending the audio launch of Uyare when producer Shegna invited me saying that someone from the WCC should attend. When movies like Uyare, Mangalyam Thantunanena, Koode, Moothon and Asuran came to the theaters, I had always tried to support by watching them or writing amazing reviews about those movies. Even when I had differences with some movies, I always believed that fraternity and sisterhood was mostly important,” says Vidhu.
“I, however, wasn’t surprised when they didn’t show me the same sisterhood as I had already realized the limitations of fraternity in a class – caste based society. I still believe that one should earn their place by continuously doing movies. It is through cinema that we could strongly and clearly express our political ideals. Malayalam cinema should reflect the changes from the women friendly spaces both in front of the camera and behind it,” notes Vidhu.
Vidhu says the WCC, which was formed as an organization to fight for equality, shouldn’t show double standards when it comes to extending whole hearted support to the actress who was attacked and limiting their interference in the case of the women who was assaulted by a producer. She hints that WCC has a heavy baggage of such double standards which she doesn’t wish to reveal.
Admitting that she had realized the elitist nature of the organization since its inception, Vidhu says, “At least some of us have discussed about this issue. There exists a class consciousness between the founding members and other members and between the founding members itself. Those who are supposed to raise criticisms that could nip such class consciousness in the bud aren’t doing that; instead they are busy judging Vidhu Vincent’s political correctness. All I have to say is that such practices won’t do any good to women’s politics.”
In the concluding portion of the note, Vidhu states that she would have to request for work in the future as well, as she doesn’t have any sort of capital with her. She says she had decided to end her relationship with the WCC as she doesn’t wish to hear rumors like she has cheated the organization when she finds work. “Anyways, I am grateful to the members of the WCC for making me understand that I am not someone who belongs to your school of thought. I wish to inform all of you that I resign from the organization as I have no intension to hurt myself or get insulted anymore. I am ending this letter without revealing more than what has been said. More than the hurtful circumstances that I went through, what pains me the most is recalling these instances,” she says.
Vidhu apologizes for writing such a long note. She also quotes the excerpts, ‘In the clutch I fell of circumstances, I have not winced or cried aloud. Under the bludgeoning of chance, my head is bloody but unbowed. I am the master of my fate. I am the captain of my soul.’
She concludes the letter by wishing good luck to everyone. Vidhu has also mentioned that some names have been removed from the post to ensure the confidentiality of the conversation and to avoid disclosing information of a case under investigation.
The WCC was formed in 2017 in response to the sexual assault against a popular Malayalam actress. The outfit has been demanding gender equality in the film industry since its inception. Vidhu had announced her resignation from the outfit on Saturday. In a Facebook post that day, she said she was quitting due to some personal and political differences with WCC.