“Even if it is Mammootty who says it, we will definitely act against anyone who creates trouble for producers. The Malayalam film industry has dignity and discipline of its own. Those who display such unruly behaviour will always be shown the door. A producer is someone who provides livelihood to people. They are not here to destroy lives. So I think, it is important that we should first understand the enormity of a situation before reacting.”
There is only one person who has the audacity to make such a statement in Malayalam cinema and that is the Kerala Film Chamber president and producer G. Suresh Kumar. He was reacting strongly to Mammootty’s statement regarding actor Srinath Bhasi’s ban.
Suresh Kumar said that they would react as strongly even if Mammootty or Mohanlal makes such a statement. They don’t fear anyone. And they are unafraid to react as well. He repeated that stern action will be taken against anyone who displays such unruly behaviour. Previously, AMMA banned so many actors including Thilakan. But neither the producers' association nor the film chamber has tried to question their actions. We have always maintained restraint reasoning that it was their internal matter. We are expecting a similar attitude from everyone.
We don’t understand why they have a problem when we are acting against such troublemakers. Such measures are being taken to avoid such behaviours from the actors in the future.
Suresh Kumar pointed out that the producers' association isn’t randomly banning every tom, dick, and harry. It's only when they are at the receiving end of such tantrums that they are forced to take such disciplinary action. Usually, producers are known to suffer all such tantrums in silence. If they complain, production will be stopped. If the film isn’t released the ones who invested crores in the film will suffer. Due to these reasons, many are wary of registering a complaint.
"Come on, everyone has a breaking point. That’s when the producers usually react. The Film Chamber and the Producers Association have an obligation to stand with the producer. Everyone should understand that there is a film only if there is a producer", says Suresh Kumar.
Could it be that Mammootty reacted without understanding things properly?
"I doubt if he has fully comprehended the situation. Someone like Mammootty should have responded after investigating and knowing the situation properly. He shouldn’t have reacted so impulsively. He could have replied that he will check and get back before making that comment at the press conference. As soon as Mammootty's comment came out, many media persons approached me for a response. I told them I will respond after fully understanding what Mammootty said. So this response comes after fully grasping what Mammootty said.
Srinath Bhasi has been given permission to complete the four films he is currently acting in. We took this disciplinary action with the intention of reforming him. Srinath is a good actor. If he decides to improve, it will be good for him and the film industry. Mammootty should have responded after understanding the gravity of the situation.
Should we be scared when Mammootty speaks against such an action? We are not randomly banning anyone. There is a reason for that. I haven't spoken to Mammootty about this yet.''
Can the problem be solved through AMMA?
"Many actors of the new generation haven’t taken membership in AMMA. If we complain to AMMA against such people, their answer will be that he is not an AMMA member. Usually, if there is a complaint against any actor, the producers' association writes a letter to Amma. They will summon him; we will have a discussion and solve the problem. I think some of these young actors might have foreseen such issues and therefore decided against taking an AMMA membership. Currently, there is no such mechanism to counter the grievances of producers against such actors. In such a scenario, action has to be taken.
Earlier such a disciplinary action was taken against actor Shane Nigam and later the problem was resolved. He is now acting in films. There are complaints against many young actors including Srinath Bhasi regarding their unprofessionalism and how they are always late for shoots. This is causing a delay in shooting. If the shooting days are extended, the producer will incur much financial losses. We are no longer ready to beg and cajole them to come for shooting. Srinath Bhasi's ban is a loud message which says we will ban those who trouble us. Such incidents will not be tolerated in cinema anymore.
Aren’t producers no longer valued today?
This was a land that had senior actors who treated producers with utmost reverence. They would openly acknowledge the worth of a producer in their life. Prem Nazir sir used to always say this. I have even heard Sukumari, Jayabharathi, and others echo this sentiment.
In the past, the theater was the only source of income for films. There were no other sources of income. Don't forget producers who came forward to invest money at a time when there were no satellite rights and OTT. It should be remembered that the industry is sustained thanks to the might of such producers, including the ones who went bankrupt after making films. Mammootty and Mohanlal should try to help such people. If they give dates for 5 such producers, they will make a film together. In Tamil Nadu, people like Rajinikanth are known to help the producers this way.
In the past, if one of his films failed, Naseer sir used to act in that producer's next film without even bothering about the remuneration. We are expecting such a mindset from the stars. Now most actors in Malayalam are also in production. Now they know that if they make a film, profit is guaranteed. The satellite rights and OTT rights are enough to bring in the money. They are the ones who think a producer is a non-entity now.
What’s your take on drug usage in cinema?
Many people are using drugs in the film industry. We have decided to take a strong stand against this with the support of the government. Those who use drugs will be banned. Even on the sets, you can see how many of these stars are under the influence of drugs. It’s easy to figure it out when you talk to them. We are thinking of taking strict measures against drug abuse on the sets. We will check all the caravans, including the ones hired by the producers.
Like in the olden days, it was easier to find out if they used syringes or weed. It is difficult to catch people who use stamps and pills. They usually hide such things. If in doubt, we seek the help of the police. After all, they have scientific methods to prove it.
It is of course not fair to criticize all young actors when it comes to drug abuse. We are also not of the opinion that all young people are drug addicts. There are many well-behaved actors in our cinema who do not even drink alcohol. So you can see how such troublemakers are tarnishing the image of other decent actors.
There are now internal committees to prevent violence against women in all the sets. Now we will have to see if it is possible to bring drug abuse also under the purview of this committee. Many problems arise when drugs are used. It fans aggressive behaviour.
So you think the cinema industry needs a cleaning up?
Even production managers are scared to complain about problematic actors. If they complain, the stars will turn against them. They will label him as a troublemaker and discourage others from calling him in their films. In order to avoid such a situation, they overlook such incidents.
Our decision is to call a meeting of production managers and give the necessary suggestions. Those who take a strong stand will be assured of protection. A clean slate is necessary in the field of cinema. It will be done by Film Chamber and Kerala Film Producers Association. There should be cooperation of others. A meeting of the producers will be convened under the leadership of the Film Chamber and the future programs will be discussed and decided.