#MeToo: Survivor wants 'Padavettu' director discredited

Liju Krishna

Kochi: The survivor in a rape case in which Malayalam filmmaker Liju Krishna is an accused has demanded the removal of his name from the title credits of his upcoming movie 'Padavettu'.

Liju Krishna, who helms the upcoming Manju Warrier and Nivin Pauly-starrer 'Padavettu', was arrested in March this year while the shooting of the movie was progressing in Kannur, his hometown, after the survivor who was also associated with the movie alleged that he had raped her multiple times.

The survivor who spoke to PTI over the phone on Saturday said Krishna, out on bail within three weeks after his arrest, was engaged in the post-production work of the movie while she was recovering from the trauma suffered due to him.

"Is there space for survivors in this society? Does anyone know what happened to her after being raped? Has anyone enquired about her health? The least I can ask is to remove his name from the title credit of that movie. I have approached the Central Board of Film Certification (CBFC) and even moved the court in this regard," she said.

Meanwhile, Thrikkakara police, which probed the case, told PTI that the chargesheet was filed in a local court here and rape charges have been levelled against the director.

"He is a rape accused. But it's still possible for him to go around, make a movie, engage in post-production works as if nothing has happened," she said.

The survivor, who said she had earlier made an attempt to harm herself, added that she was still undergoing treatment for depression and post-traumatic stress disorder.

As per the complaint registered with the Kakkanad police, which was later handed over to Thrikkakara police, he had sexually abused the complainant several times in various places for two years after befriending her on social media.

The survivor, through the Facebook page of Women in Cinema Collective (WCC), a pro-women outfit in the Malayalam film industry, had March given a detailed account of the physical, mental and professional torture she had to suffer from Krishna.

Alleging that she got pregnant and was forced to undergo an abortion, she accused him of also portraying the relationship as a consensual affair, which caused her "constant mental and physical stress", destroying her self-esteem and her desire to continue living.

She said there was no official internal grievance redressal cell (IC) in the production house, where she could complain about the physical, mental and sexual abuse that director Liju Krishna had put her through for two years. She said she tried to inform the film crew but to no avail.

She said Krishna's cruel and inhuman act of forcing physical and sexual acts on her without her consent had caused her "great pain and mental anguish."

WCC urges govt, women's commission to intervene

In light of the allegations against Liju Krishna and Padavettu's executive producer Bibin Paul, the Women in Cinema Collective (WCC) has called on the state government and the Kerala Women's Commission to intervene and strictly ensure all film units in the industry have a functioning internal committee.

In a Facebook post published on Saturday in support of the survivor, WCC said: "Violating the provisions of Prevention of Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace (POSH) Act, the sets of Padavettu did not have an IC unit. All those bound to hear her complaint turned a blind eye, forcing her to go to the police, who then took appropriate action. However, he is now out on bail and celebrating his upcoming release, while she is at the hospital struggling to cope with the trauma subjected to her."

On the allegations made by another survivor against Bibin Paul, WCC pointed out the existence of fake casting couches that have been entrapping young women.

Lashing out at the producers of Padavettu through the post, WCC said that despite repeated cries for help, the producers of the movie blatantly flouted their moral and legal responsibility towards the survivors by making this film and that their entire focus was only on exploiting the commercial aspects of the movie.

"The system prevalent today is such that a movie which has used birds or animals will only get clearance from the censor board if it is certified that the animals were not harmed during the shoot. But a woman worker is abused on the sets and nobody even raises an eyebrow. This is inhuman and illegal," stated WCC.

Following a writ petition filed by the WCC, the Kerala High Court ordered that all film sets should have an internal committee to ensure that POSH Act is followed. "However, several producers are openly defying this law,” said the statement from WCC.

The collective stated the urgency for stronger measures to ensure that women in cinema can work and live with dignity. "The Hema Committee recommendations, which were expected to be implemented at the earliest, are still nowhere to be seen."

The post further stated: "To ensure every Malayalam movie production has an IC, a monitoring committee was formed with the members of all film organisations under the leadership of the Women's Commission. This committee should be given more powers legally to ensure IC units work efficiently. We hope the committee will also have the authority to take legal action against non-compliant producers. Once again, WCC requests the serious intervention of the government on this issue."

(With PTI inputs)

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