Almost every woman in the movies has faced the question of compromise: Justice K Hema

The Hema Justice Commission that was appointed by the Kerala government to study the problems women face in the Malayalam film industry presented its report to Prime Minister Pinarayi Vijayan on December 31, 2019. The commission was established in July 2017 , after the Women in Cinema Collective (CMI) presented a memo to the CM about the problems women face in Mollywood. The three-member committee was headed by retired judge K Hema. The other members were the main actor Sharada and the former bureaucrat K B Valsala Kumari.

Speaking to Kochi Times, Judge Hema reveals that if she had more time, the findings would have been multiple. “It only took me two years to do such an elaborate study. Somehow I finished it, ”he explains.

During the investigation, Judge Hema explains that he not only spoke with the actors but also recorded his statements. To keep it anonymous, I did not take their names or any details, kept everything confidential, collected evidence of them and documented them, he explains, while revealing the key findings in his own words.

On the casting couch

The foundry sofa exists in the Malayalam cinema. To have a chance at the movies, girls/women are asked to compromise, adjust. Everyone in the film industry knows the meaning of these words. Sexual favors are requested, including sharing the bed to choose them or to obtain any other work in the cinema.

Making a distinction between throwing the couch and sexual harassment in the cinema is very important because there is a difference. Everyone says that sexual harassment in the workplace is present everywhere, but you must understand that the casting couch only exists in the film industry. Making a claim in exchange for a role or job and denying the person the opportunity if he resists exists only in the cinema. This applies not only to actors, but also to stylists, minor artists and others. A teacher or an employee is not asked for sexual favors to get a job. They only need to demonstrate their ability by undergoing a test and interview.

On the culture of imposing prohibitions

If you are not willing, you will not have the opportunity. If they somehow manage to get a movie and then express resentment against the commitments, torture begins. This includes making them stand in the sun in a particular scene and the use of umbrellas is not allowed, which causes them to be taken several times.

There is a recognized actress who has not received a call for a film in four years, despite demonstrating her talent because she resisted the atrocities. I've reported everything, but since it's on camera, it will be confidential. There are many experiences of this kind that are heartbreaking. Almost all women in the film industry have faced the issue of compromise. Men have also faced such problems. Even A-listers have unofficial bans in the industry and the reasons can often be trivial. There are many prejudices.

Problems become serious when it happens to very young girls. They have no one to share their concerns with. There is no one in the industry to address the repair of the complaint. They enter movies after facing many family objections. So, when they suffer, they can't go back and tell their parents. A witness cried as he gave a statement, sharing his helplessness.

About other human rights and constitutional violations

Beyond throwing the couch and the ban, there are several violations of human and constitutional rights in the cinema. There are no bathrooms or changing rooms in several places. There are no laundry rooms in places. Some do not even get adequate food and water on stage, especially junior artists.

A common question that society asks artists, including well-educated people, is why they are so interested in this work despite all these difficulties. Even people in the movies ask, if they have any difficulty adapting, why get into the movies? Women in the cinema say that, like any other woman, they have the right to choose any career.

On the next steps of the government

According to the report, there is only one solution: enact a statute and establish a tribunal. The court will have the power to impose fines and compensation on the wrong makers. It can also prohibit anyone who works in the industry, as punishment. Those who prohibit a woman's cinema can be banned from working in the cinema now.

The government has decided to enact laws based on the findings. The Minister of Cinema and Culture, A K Balan, has already said that he will seriously consider the findings of the report and will frame a comprehensive law for the film industry.

Both men and women from the world of cinema came to me and cooperated. But what I understood was that some could not talk about everything they wanted. They were afraid of missing opportunities. Even some members of Women in Cinema Collective (WCC) were afraid to speak.

It was my daughter Niharika who urged me to accept the assignment. Now, I know that this is an opportunity to do substantial justice and make a contribution to the film industry. Cinema is not a world we imagine. When we say to throw the sofa, we can think about sharing a bed, but it is not that, it is beyond imagination. In the report, I only wrote about some episodes that I found convincing. There were several other serious cases. What is happening is a serious sin.