Kerala actor and Member of Parliament Innocent Vareed Thekkethala has triggered a massive row for saying that “casting couch” does not exist in the Malayalam cinema industry anymore but “if the woman is bad, maybe they will go to bed”.
Responding to a query on casting couch, the President of Association of Malayalam Movie Artistes (AMMA) said, “Those days are long gone. The moment you make an imprudent request to a woman in this day and age, it will be shared with people like you. They will speak about it openly. But if the women are bad, they may share the bed,” India Today reported.
The 72-year-old Independent candidate’s controversial statement has raised the hackles of women activists. The Women In Cinema Collective (WCC), an organisation of women in the Malayalam film industry, lambasted the MP in a Facebook post, saying, “New artistes face several forms of sexual abuse while entering the film industry. Even our colleagues, like Parvathy and Lakshmi Rai, have spoken about casting couch openly… We cannot accept the statement that the film industry is free from all kinds of sexual exploitation and there should be cautiousness in making statements in public.”
Innocent also took to Facebook to defend himself. “I saw that some of my remarks made during an interview I did with mediapersons have been reported out of context. I meant to say that compared to earlier years, there has been a healthy and women-friendly change in the environment in the film industry. I never said that there is no anti-woman factor in the film industry. It is a reality that certain social evils are present in the film industry like our society. AMMA will continue to work towards eliminating any kind of anti-woman practice in the industry. Media should refrain from focusing on words that are separated out of context,” reads a loose translation of Innocent’s Facebook post originally posted in Malayalam.
Innocent was elected to Parliament in 2014 from Chalakudy in Thrissur district of Kerala. He was supported by the Left.