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Malayalam director arrested from shooting location in sexual assault case

The Women in Cinema Collective says the incident has brought to focus the urgency for implementing the Protection of Women from Sexual Harassment Act, 2013, in the film industry and for publicizing the report of the Justice Hema Committee

Malayalam film director Liju Krishna who has been arrested for allegedly sexually abusing a woman he had befriended on social media (Instagram, Liju Krishna)

A Malayalam film director has been arrested from a shooting location for allegedly sexually abusing a woman he had befriended on social media.

After police arrested Liju Krishna, the directors’ union under the Film Employees Federation of Kerala (FEFKA) revoked the 30-year-old’s membership while the Women in Cinema Collective sought his suspension from all film bodies till the case is over.

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Krishna was arrested on Sunday from the location of his film Padavettu in Kannur, where the shooting of the Nivin Pauly starrer was in its last leg. The film is produced by actor Sunny Wayne. Krishna was taken to Kochi, where a magistrate court remanded him in judicial custody.

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The collective said the incident had brought to focus the urgency for implementing the Protection of Women from Sexual Harassment Act, 2013, in the Malayalam film industry and for publicizing the report of the Justice Hema Committee, which was set up to look into issues faced by female professionals in the industry.

The survivor wrote on the collective’s Facebook page that she had contributed to the film’s script, but the director never gave recognition for the work she had done. “This film production did not have an internal complaint cell to take up the sexual exploitation complaint. When I tried to take up the issue with those associated with the film, Liju tried to depict the exploitation as a consensual affair. The repeated assault and torture had shattered my pride and desire for life,’’ she said.

Recalling the ordeal, she said the director had allegedly been sexually exploiting her since June 2020. “He told me that he requires my presence to get a relief from the stress related to film production and forcibly took me to the house rented for film-related work,” she wrote.

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About the first alleged assault, she said, “I was on my periods, but he sexually assaulted me without my consent. I had requested him to take me to hospital but he refused. I could not withstand that trauma. I tried to inform him about my deteriorating health, but there was no response from his side.’’

According to the woman, the director approached her again in October 2020. “As per his request, I arranged another house for film production. I had actively participated in the pre-production work and suggested changes in the story. During this period, he repeatedly exploited me. In June 2021, he invited me to a shooting location in Kannur and forced me to stay at his house, where he tried to sexually assault me. I resisted the move and returned home next day.’’

The woman said she had to undergo a psychiatrist’s counselling to overcome the trauma. “But Liju Krishna had already conquered me in such a manner that I could not come out of this toxic relationship. My body weight plunged to 32 kg from 60 kg. I have lost my health and cannot even sit or walk. At present, I am under the protection of my friends,’’ she said.

First published on: 09-03-2022 at 21:48 IST
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