Furore over decision taken by Kerala Film Exhibitors Federation not to screen director B. Unnikrishnan’s movie is latest in the series of a growing schism within the industry

Images of squabbling children pop up when one looks at the tactics employed by warring factions in Mollywood to settle scores. The ‘games’ they play evoke laughter akin to that generated by many comic scenes from Malayalam films. The furore over the decision taken by the Kerala Film Exhibitors Federation not to screen director B. Unnikrishnan’s movie Mr. Fraud is the latest in the series of a growing schism within the industry. Battle lines have been drawn exposing the coterie culture in the industry.

It’s a divided house again as a section of producers and the Association of Malayalam Movie Artistes (AMMA) has rallied behind Mr. Unnikrishnan. The other group seems supporting P.V. Basheer Ahamed (popular as Liberty Basheer), who alleged that Mr. Unnikrishnan had asked the members of AMMA and Film Employees Federation of Kerala (FEFKA) to stay away from the inauguration of the new office building of the exhibitors’ association.

FEFKA has called for a shutdown from May 2 if the exhibitors refuse to withdraw the ban. AMMA and the leadership of Kerala Film Producers Association have extended support to the strike. But the coteries have lost their moral high ground and respect as they remain intolerant to criticism and often ban people as per their whims and fancies.

Mr. Unnikrishnan was general secretary of FEFKA when the organisation decided to ban the late renowned actor Thilakan a few years ago. The actor had accused the leadership of the federation of denying him a role in the movie Christian Brothers. He was also expelled from AMMA on grounds of indiscipline and making statements against its leadership.

Even though many in the industry vouch that they are against imposing a ban, the real story is something different. Noted filmmaker Sibi Malayil had a tough time when he was banned by the producers’ association in 2007 following allegations that held him responsible for the poor technical quality of the movie Amrutham.

Despite realising the pain of being kept out of work forcibly, Mr. Malayil was heading the FEFKA when the organisation decided to ban actor Thilakan.

Actor Nithya Menon was another victim of the ban culture in Mollywood when she faced the wrath of a few producers while shooting for director T.K. Rajeev Kumar’s Thalsamayam Oru Penkutty. She was ousted from movies for refusing to meet the producers, who had visited her on the movie set without prior appointment. Mala Aravindan, one of the best comedians in Mollywood, has also been facing an ‘unofficial ban’ for long after he acted in director Vinayan’s movies.

Interestingly, the Film Exhibitors Federation continues to face rumblings over the decision not to screen Mr. Fraud, as a section of the members feel that it’s an outcome of the growing rift between Mr. Basheer and Mr. Unnikrishnan over petty issues. The grapevine has it that the controversy might also help the movie at the box office.

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