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Dr Jekyll or Mr Hyde: Who is the real Dileep?
With the arrest of actor Dileep, the police claims to have unravelled the conspiracy behind the abduction of and sexual assault on a well known Malayalam movie actress which shocked the entire country a few months ago.

Even as Dileep asserts his innocence, the public mood has turned against him.  Boos and catcalls accompanied him wherever he went and, but for the police presence around him, there is no saying what might have happened, considering this is the season of lynch mobs. 

The needle of suspicion had fallen on Dileep right from the beginning.  But just as the dust had begun to settle, Dileep went to the cops complaining that the main accused, Pulsar Suni, was attempting to blackmail him from prison. After several hours of interrogation, police arrested the actor, announcing that he had been the mastermind behind the abduction. It is said that Suni had been offered 1.5 crore rupees for the task and that the fall out happened when Dileep reneged on the payment once the deed was done.  The motive for the assault was allegedly the actor's grudge towards the actress. He believed that she spilled the beans on his affair with actress Kavya, to his then wife, Manju Warrier, leading to their divorce.

The film organisation, AMMA, came under fire for supporting Dileep and shaming the actress by blaming her for not choosing her friends wisely.  Actors and office-bearers of AMMA like innocent, Mukesh and Ganesh Kumar had to eat humble pie for attacking the media at an AMMA press conference. Ironically, the last two  – who are also MLAs - are divorcees with a history of spousal abuse. Most of the Malayalam film bodies have disowned Dileep after the arrest.

Though public opinion has turned against Dileep now, there are some people who believe that he has been framed.  Late actor Cochin Haneefa's widow spoke of the help he offered after the death of Haneefa and admitted that it was hard to associate Dileep with a crime of this nature.  He has also been associated with many philanthropic activities. Die-hard fans reject the notion that he could plot such a heinous act.  The latest news is that some PR agencies have been hired to drum up sympathy and support for the beleaguered actor. 

So what is the truth? Is Dileep Dr. Jekyll or Mr. Hyde?  Directors Vinayan and Thulasidas describe him as vindictive and an upstart. He is known to portray male characters with a decidedly sexist and male chauvinist streak who are not beyond playing mean pranks on women. Despite this he has a significant fan base among the lower and middle class female audience which seems to have fallen for his film persona - a man who upholds family values - even though the humour in his films is often crass and demeaning of women who are educated, independent and defy patriarchal codes. He once described his current wife, Kavya, as a 'mandhabuddhi' (retard), albeit jokingly. He is said to have scuttled movie chances for his ex-wife as well as the assaulted actress. Still, he was the blue-eyed boy for the ageing crop of AMMA office-bearers who wield huge power within the industry.

Whether he emerges from this scandal unscathed or not, two good things have come out of it.  One is the emergence of Women in Cinema Collective, a body that represents the interests of women in the Malayalam film industry. Another is the storming of the bastion of AMMA where until now only the voices of an influential few were heard.  Hopefully, the old guard of geriatric and ossified members will give way to new blood which will ring in much-needed changes. AMMA claims to be a representative body but who exactly it represents is a matter for speculation.  It has been known to boycott actors and technicians who refused to play ball.  The great actor Thilakan was a victim of such witch-hunts. In a Rediff interview he even spoke of a powerful 'Nair lobby' within the Malayalam film industry which tried to spoil his image and career.

In a bizarre case of life imitating art, Dileep's stint in jail comes soon after his recent outing in the movie, 'Welcome to Central Jail' where he plays the role of a man who was born in prison and who comes to consider it his home. Of course, without clinching evidence – the assault video, for example – the charges against Dileep may not stick. He may still return a hero if that happens, but will the public be willing to disbelieve that the mask of the hero might conceal a villain?

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