“You all are aware of the problems in my life. However, Kavya was not the reason for any of them. Hence I wanted to marry the girl who had been made a scapegoat by linking her to me,” Malayalam actor Dileep reportedly said to the media after his wedding to actor Kavya Madhavan on November 25.
Dileep and his visibly happy, newly wedded wife, with folded hands, asked for everyone’s blessings and support as they talked to the media. While the wedding came as a surprise to many, rumour mills had linked both the actors to each other for over a decade. But more than the wedding in itself, what caught me off-guard was this particular comment by the 48-year-old actor as he spoke to the media. The misplaced sense of patriarchy in his words directed towards ‘protecting the honour’ of a woman who has been affected by rumours that surrounded them, was too obvious to go unnoticed.
After separating from his wife Manju Warrier, I remember reading an interview of the actor in Vanitha — the staple fortnightly magazine in every Malayali household — that he did not want Warrier to work. He had further said that he was earning enough for his family, and he wanted his wife to be at home looking after their daughter.
The actor got married to Warrier in 1998, while she was at the prime of her career and had given stellar performances in cult Malayalam movies like Aaramthamburan (1997), Kanmadam (1998), to name a few. Her absence after marriage created a void in Malayalam cinema.
Warrier returned to the screens with a powerful performance in ‘How Old Are You?’ (2015) which many say had an eerie resemblance to her personal life too.
Which is why, the actor’s comment did not surprise me. From what he said, this is what I deduced: He did not marry Kavya Madhavan because he wanted to. It was the benevolence of the ‘alpha male’ in him that made him do so.
For the uninitiated, Madhavan had given brilliant performances in Naalu Pennungal (2007), Gaddama (2011), Perumazhakkalam (2004) — a clearly successful career, and never comes across as a woman who required the kindness of the man she was linked to, as a part of being in the industry. Dileep and Madhavan, are evidently, one of the most loved on-screen couples, and have been paired together in 16 out of the 21 films they had acted in. I wonder where was this sense of ‘protection’ when he was acting along with Madhavan in films, even after the media speculated their link-ups and made her a “scapegoat”.
But it is not just Dileep. Kerala, which is still seen as a predominantly matriarchal society, is ridden with misogyny. When Ranjini Haridas waltzed cheerfully into the Malayali households as the anchor of a popular singing based-reality show, people were confused. They were used to the demure, soft spoken women on TV. So the loudmouthed, UK returned, heavily accented Malayalam speaking Haridas, was too spicy for their palate. A quick glance through her Facebook page will show comments that explicitly abusing her, asking her to go die, calling her a slut, a eunuch, ugly, etc., — all by men.
A lot of women in the same comments section, however, write how much they like her. They love the confident charisma she brings to the screen. Somewhere they all know she did what they always wanted to — give it right back to patriarchy and live life without apprehensions about the society’s ‘tch tch’.
Veteran actor Mammooty’s film Kasaba came under much scrutiny after his character, that of a police officer, mouthed an utterly obscene dialogue to a fellow policewoman that contained references to how he could easily make her miss her menstrual cycle. The film was a hit.
I can easily picture Zachariah grabbing the woman IPS officer by her belt, and saying this to her, while the crowds in the theatres hoot and break into an applause —not just the men, but the women as well, perpetrating the patriarchal superiority.