WCC disappointed after talks with Kerala govt, other film bodies on Hema panel report

(From left) WCC members Padmapriya, Asha Joseph and Beena Paul speak to media after a meeting on the Hema commission report.

Thiruvananthapuram: A meeting called by the Kerala government to discuss the Justice Hema Commission report on Wednesday left the Women in Cinema Collective (WCC) disappointed while other film organisations were satisfied with the move.

The Justice Hema Commission submitted its report on the issues faced by women in the Malayalam film industry to the government two years ago. The government called the meeting of the stakeholders amid a call for publishing the report.

At Wednesday's meet, Cultural Affairs Minister Saji Cheriyan reiterated the government's stand that the report could not published as it comprises sensitive data on personal accounts of several women working in the industry. The minister stood on firm on the argument even though the representatives of the WCC strongly demanded that the report be made a public document at the earliest.

The Association of Malayalam Movie Artistes (AMMA), which also attended the meet, said it had no objection in releasing the report. The WCC has been at loggerheads with AMMA over several matters.

The office-bearers of WCC later told reporters outside the meeting hall that not just the suggestions but the observations and findings of the Commission, based on the series of interviews carried out by it among the women working in the industry, should also be made public.

They said without knowing the actual data, collected and compiled by the Justice Hema panel, the recommendations conveyed in the meetings seem obscure in many areas, they said.

"How can we understand the recommendations without knowing the actual data and the findings based on it? As far as the WCC is concerned, we should know what fresh data is compiled in terms of the Malayalam film industry and how serious the government is regarding the findings," WCC member and filmmaker Asha Achy Joseph said.

There was also no clarity in Wednesday's meeting about the roadmap regarding the implementation of the panel's suggestions, she said.

Actor Padmapriya, another WCC member, said it is a bit disappointing to see the recommendations by the panel which are "defined in a very loose manner".

"Several questions will crop up if one reads it. So, I don't know if the state has taken enough time and consideration to put this together. In a way, it is very disappointing. Though we all spent our time (for the meeting), again it is as inconclusive or more inconclusive than before," she said.

Like the report compiled by a panel headed by director Adoor Gopalakrishnan that studied some other aspects of the film industry was published, the Hema Committee report should also be made a public document, the actress demanded.

Film editor Bina Paul Venugopal also pointed out the lack of clarity in the suggestions and recommendations by the panel.

The panel recommended equal pay in the film industry but there was no clarification as to who complained about the underpayment and in which areas the equal payment could be implemented and so on, she pointed out as an example.

Meanwhile, actor Siddique, who represented the Association of Malayalam Movie Artists (AMMA), responded that the meeting was constructive and said 90 percent of the suggestions put forward by the government during the meeting were welcomed by his association.

The practical difficulty in implementing some of the recommendations was conveyed to the authorities, he said.

"It was a very good and healthy discussion. The findings of the Hema panel also seemed to be very good. In some areas, we requested for more clarity," the actor said.

When asked, Siddique also said the outfit has no objection in releasing the Hema Committee report as demanded by the WCC and it was up to the government to take a final decision.

However, producer Suresh Kumar, who represented the producers' association, said the suggestion to set up a regulatory authority in the industry could not be implemented. But there was no issue in implementing the majority of suggestions and recommendations raised in the meeting, he said, adding that they were not particular about releasing the contents of the Hema panel report as demanded by the WCC.

Though the WCC has been requesting to publish the report for some time, the government had said Justice K Hema, who had headed the three-member committee, herself demanded that the report be kept confidential. The Hema panel does not fall within the purview of the Commission of Inquiries, it said.

The government made its stand clear on the issue in the wake of several activists and pro-women outfits, including WCC, raising concerns against not releasing the report though it was submitted in 2019. 

(With inputs from agencies)

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