3 years

Moral Policing

Real vs Reel

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The fuss over Mohanlal’s new film in Kerala
It seems that Malayalam cinema has become a target of the Kerala Police. Following state transport commissioner Rishiraj Singh’s recent instruction that all two-wheeler riders in films should wear helmets, the recent Mohanlal movie Drishyam has been slammed by TP Senkumar, DGP of jail administration, for promoting ‘wrong ideas’. The film, in which Mohanlal plays the protagonist, a school-dropout farmer who succeeds in concealing a crime, has garnered an enthusiastic response from viewers. The movie, which is being deemed the super hit of 2013 in Malayalam cinema, depicts tensions in a family when four members—two young girls, their mother and father (Mohanlal)—are involved in a murder. The hero, Mohanlal, cooks up a well-knitted yarn to cover up the crime, and misleads the police successfully. The family commits the murder because the elder daughter was being blackmailed by a teenager (who is murdered). He had captured a nude video of the girl while she was having a shower while she was on a school trip.

DGP Senkumar has come down heavily on movies that might justify criminal activities. He has criticised Mohanlal for acting in such a film: “Mohanlal should have thought twice before committing to such a role,” says the DGP. “If such [blackmail] happens, people are supposed to inform the police, not kill the culprit and hide the crime,” says Senkumar.

Jithu Joseph, the director of the film, agrees with Senkumar to the extent that if there is blackmail, the first thing one must do is inform the police. “But cinema is cinema, and it cannot follow all the rules and regulations set by the state. In most of the films, the villain is killed by the hero. Isn’t that a violation of the law of the land?” asks Joseph. “Besides, the villain in this film is the son of the director general of police. Hence, any prudent man would be sceptical about whether he would get justice if he goes to the police with a complaint in a legitimate manner.”

There are dissenting voices within the police itself to Senkumar’s critique of Drishyam. Additional Director General of Police R Sreelekha opines that cinema must be viewed only as it is. “It is a form of art, the question is whether we enjoy it or not,” Sreelekha said in an interview to a television channel, and added that she had enjoyed Drishyam very much.

Such policing of cinema does not go down well with social media users, it seems. There has been widespread criticism of police intervention in cinema on Facebook and other social media platforms. Transport commissioner Rishiraj Singh’s recent attempt to make helmets compulsory for two-wheeler riders in movies met with heavy criticism. Facebook was full of questions such as whether scriptwriters have to get a clearance certificate from the police. ‘Either the hero has to wear a helmet or he has to die in a road accident if he rides a bike without helmet’, one Facebook post slams the police.

Drishyam also depicts a policeman being extremely cruel, inflicting third degree torture upon a child to squeeze out a confession. It is a valid question to ask whether the police in Kerala could be misled by such a depiction or not. Senkumar says this is an irrelevant question, for it has nothing to do with the point he has made.

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