Actress, dansuese and activist Rima Kallingal, in her TEDx Talk, not only took on Malayalam film industry’s mistreatment of women, but also spoke about how women need to ask the right questions.
For a while now, there has been a debate about the cinema’s responsibility towards society and Rima discussed its current drawbacks without mincing words. In a powerful address, Rima, who is a part of Women in Cinema Collective formed in May 2017, said:
“It is not possible to turn a blind eye to unabashed sexism, ageism and casteism that exists in our society and is reflected in our cinema content, and in the very fiber of our industry. You cannot not be disturbed by the fact that an artist community is not trying to change that narrative. You cannot not be disturbed by fact that an audience community in an open-minded and progressive state [Kerela] in the country today is not vehemently asking for that change in the narrative.”
In the talk that was organised by TEDx last year, Rima spoke about a range of issues concerning women in the industry. She spoke about how actresses are abused on social media, how women are still not considered at par with men, as well as thr portrayal of women in Malayalam cinema:
“Social media abuse on women is alarming right now but if any of you want to feel any better, please listen to the comments section of an actress’s Facebook profile. They kind of have our whole life figured out because they tell us what to wear, what to do, how to act, how to behave as a woman, a daughter in law, a wife…It is 2017 and female actors get paid one third of their male counterparts…the highest grossing Malayalam movie in history had four women in it: a nagging wife, a sick siren who came on screen just to swoon at the hero, a mother-in-law who was spewing expletives and another wife who was pushing out a baby after a baby.”
The latest example of social media abuse faced by women in the industry is Parvathy Menon, who after calling out sexism in Mammootty’s film Kasaba, was sexually harassed by trolls online.
Also on the table was gender pay disparity, which is an issue the world over, be it in any industry. Only recently, there was a huge debate about how All the Money in the World star Michelle Williams was paid $1000 for film re-shoots, while her male counterpart, Mark Wahlberg, was paid a whooping $1.5 million. The actor had now donated the amount in Williams’ name for the Time’s Up initiative.
Closer home, while Bollywood’s highest paid actor, Salman Khan earns around Rs 40-60 crores for a movie, while figure for the actress till last year, Deepika Padukone was only about Rs 10-11 crores.
While discussing the ongoing dialogue about sexual harassment, Rima cited the Vishakha guidelines laid down by the Supreme Court, pointing out Malayalam industry’s blatant violations of the law:
“We have had production controllers barging into the rooms of actresses and physically assaulting them and being left scot-free with a customary suspension of two months.”
Asking cinema to take responsibility for its content and asking questions, Rima said:
“Is life imitating art or is the art imitating life? And either way we have a problem… Let us all come together and promise to ask all the questions that our past generations could not ask so that our future generations will not have to ask them.”
Watch the entire TED Talk here: