On Tuesday, when disgraced Malayalam actor Dileep was produced in a court at Angamaly in Kerala’s Kochi district, the crowd that had turned up hooted and jeered, “Welcome to Central Jail”, which, incidentally, is the name of a 2016 movie he starred in.
The irony wasn’t lost on Dileep, one of the reigning superstars of Malayalam cinema who is now in trouble for his alleged role in the February case of abduction and sexual assault of an actress.
While the investigation is still on, there are reports of how the attack on the actress was an alleged act of vengeance because Dileep held her responsible for his marital discord that led to his divorce in 2015 from actress Manju Warrier. Last year, he married Kavya Madhavan, an actress with whom he was rumoured to be in a relationship.
In his two decades in the industry, Dileep, 48, took on many roles — as actor, producer and exhibitor. Those in the industry talk of his clout, with some of them alleging that he was known to harbour personal grudges.
Film director Vinayan, who has directed Dileep in films such as Kalyaana Saugandhikam (1996) and War and Love (2003), says, “Dileep is an actor who is determined to see that those who opposed his scheme of things do not survive in the industry. Professional bodies of film makers failed to look into complaints because of his clout in the industry.”
Rajasenan, another director, says, “Some of the bad trends in the Malayalam film industry began with Dileep. In his films, he would decide who should be the lead actress, crew and even the light boy. He introduced this culture into the industry.”
When film exhibitors went on strike in January this year, demanding a bigger share of revenue from theatre collections, Dileep took the sail out of the stir by setting up a new organisation, the Film Exhibitors United Organisation of Kerala (FEUOK), on June 29, roughly a week before he was arrested.
As treasurer of the Association of Malayam Movie Artists (AMMA), Dileep is often referred to as its “backbone”. So much so that when talk of Dileep’s involvement in the actress molestation case started doing the rounds, AMMA held a press conference backing him.
Before Dileep entered the industry, he was Gopalakrishnan. Like many other actors before him, mimicry was his launching pad and he performed stage and TV shows with his friend Nadirshah, who is also under suspicion in the actress attack case.
After his graduation from Maharaja’s College in Kochi, Gopalakrishnan, a native of Aluva near Kochi, entered the film industry as an assistant director. Nine years later, he appeared in front of the camera for a small role in the Ennodu Ishtam Koodamo (1992). In 1995, he was in the film Manathhe Kottaram, in which he played a character called Dileep. The name stuck.
But it was the 1996-hit Sallapam, in which he paired with Manju Warrier, that pitchforked the pair to stardom. In 1998, he married Warrier, then at the peak of her career. While Warrier quit acting after their marriage, Dileep acted in over 130 films, many of them blockbusters.
In 2015, the marriage fell apart and in November last year, Dileep married Kavya Madhavan, his leading lady in several hit movies. During a protest meeting in Kochi, days after the actress was assaulted, it was Warrier who first raised the conspiracy angle.