A look at the dramatic twists and turns in the Kerala actress abduction case
The 2017 actor abduction and sexual assault case involving Kerala actor Dileep took a dramatic turn earlier this month when the state’s High Court granted him anticipatory bail. Dileep – who spent nearly three months in jail in the sexual assault case of a co-actress in 2017 – was on the verge of being jailed this month. However, the anticipatory bail saved the actor, but his popularity among the masses has diminished considerably.
The bail was granted in a case related to threatening the Crime Branch investigating officer Baiju Paulose, who is investigating the sexual assault case. Dileep’s brother, brother-in-law and two others were also accused in the case.
Meanwhile on Tuesday, February 15, 2022, Dileep suffered a jolt when his petition to quash the FIR in the fresh case came up for hearing at the Kerala High Court: the victim in the case expressed her desire to take part in the investigation proceedings. Consequent to this, the court postponed the case hearing to February 21.
The new case against Dileep was registered in January 2022, following revelations by director Balachandra Kumar who claimed that Dileep had possession of tapes of the sexual assault. Kumar also submitted several audiotapes that he recorded while visiting Dileep’s house in Aluva to substantiate his claims. However, the court observed that there was no material to suggest that offences of criminal conspiracy were committed.
Meanwhile, on February 14, 2022, Dileep moved the Kerala High Court seeking quashing of the FIR, which accuses him and others of conspiring to threaten and kill officials probing the 2017 actress assault case.
The fresh twist came early in January this year after Malayalam film director Balachandra Kumar made a new revelation that the star had conspired to do away with the investigating officers in the case.
Kumar revealed that Dileep while watching a YouTube video of the then Superintendent of Police, A.V.A George, had reportedly said that he would engage ‘rowdy elements’ and do away with the officer. His accomplices allegedly said they would have to spend Rs15 million for this. Kumar had given his deposition before the court along with a few audio recordings he had made at the residence of Dileep regarding this.
The police officers who Dileep allegedly had mentioned are DGP B. Sandhya, Additional DGP S. Sreejith, SPs A.V.George, S. Sudarshan and Deputy SP Byju Paulose. Balachandra Kumar also revealed that Dileep had also allegedly told that he would cut and remove the right hand of Superintendent Sudarshan who had assaulted him during police custody. Kumar also gave the memorandum to Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan, saying that he wanted police protection since he was living in fear of being killed.
The survivor in the case, a south Indian actress, revealed her identity through her social media post on January 10, 2022, to open up about her trauma. Several top actors in the Malayalam film industry supported the actress by sharing her post. The 2017 incident was a catalyst in forming the Women in Cinema Collective (WCC), a non-profit organisation to protect female actors in the Malayalam film industry.
In January 2022, the Women in Cinema Collective (WCC) called on Kerala Women’s Commission chairperson advocate P Sathidevi and urged her to ensure justice for the survivor in this sexual assault case. They also sought her intervention to make public the Hema committee report on the problems faced by women in Kerala film industry. This committee was formed in 2017 to study various issues faced by women in the film industry. The panel had recently submitted its report to the government after recording the statements of around 60 actors. The report hasn’t been released yet.
The WCC members have been on the warpath since the actors’ body, AMMA, had decided to reinstate Dileep back in the association, who was arrested on conspiracy charges in the actress assault case in February 2017 and later released on bail.
Meanwhile, Dileep and his wife Kavya Madhavan are also under fire for appearing on the popular Malayalam women’s magazine ‘Vanitha’ this January. The latest issue, published by the Malayala Manorama group, has sparked outrage, with several social media users calling out their choice of subject on the cover. Many people on social media have slammed the magazine for the blatant show of support to the accused, even as fresh evidence of Dileep’s alleged involvement is being investigated.
Over the years, many actresses, including Rima Kallingal, Manju Warrier and Parvathy Thiruvothu openly supported the survivor. The aftermath is that most of them lost work because of the clout that Dileep possesses. While Rima took to production, Parvathy acted with a young crop of actors and in other language films.
Women in Cinema Collective (WCC) has supported the survivor in the case ever since its inception. In 2020, Bhama, actors Siddique, Edavela Babu and Bindu Panniker (witnesses in the case) turned hostile. The survivor also sought Kerala High Court’s help requesting a change in judge. She alleged that judge Honey M Varghese was biased. After her petition was rejected, Special Public Prosecutor A. Suresan also stepped down for the same reason.
On February 17, 2017, the victim was abducted while she was on her way to Kochi from her house in Thrissur.
Her driver allegedly joined hands with a group of criminals led by ‘Pulsar’ Suni, who is the prime accused in the case, drove her through the busy streets of the state’s commercial capital and reportedly abused her.
After two hours, the victim was dropped off close to the home of director-actor Lal. After she told Lal about what had happened to her, he called the police. The driver was first taken into custody and in a few days the rest of the gang, including ‘Pulsar’ Suni, was arrested. Following the main accused Suni’s arrest and questioning, Dileep was drawn into the case and accused of being the main conspirator in the case.
Dampening his ever-rising popularity, the major twist came when the superstar was arrested on July 10, 2017, after two rounds of questioning. Dileep was also accused of having vengefully targeted the survivor for siding with Manju Warrier (his first wife), during their divorce case. After spending 85 days in jail, he was granted conditional bail.
After her marriage to Dileep, Manju gave the term keeping a low profile a new meaning. From one of the most sought-after actresses, she was relegated to playing the role of a dutiful trophy wife. She drastically scaled down her public appearances and stepped out only to attend weddings or an occasional joint appearance with her husband.
After 16 years of marriage, the couple had filed a petition that the case details be kept confidential — for a good reason. In January 2015, the couple was granted divorce by a family court in Kochi.
Warrier continues to maintain a dignified silence. After 15 years of artistic exile, Warrier returned to the silver screen with How Old Are You, a tale about Nirupama, a 36-year-old wife and mother, who dares to dream and take charge of her life. Since her return, Manju has acted in several films with Chathur Mukham, Priest, Rani Padmini, Vettah, Udaharanam Sujatha, Aami, C/o. Saira Banu and Odiyan. She also won awards for Lucifer and Prathi Poovankozhi in 2020.
In April 2014, Dileep appeared on leading Kerala women’s magazine with his daughter Meenakshi, claiming that the break-up shattered him. The interview, which seemed to be artfully orchestrated to gain sympathy votes, saw him bare his soul.
“My heart breaks when I see my daughter get up at 5.30am, braiding her hair alone and getting ready for school,” said Dileep, admitting that he and his wife have been living separately for over a year. Currently, his daughter lives with him. In what could be deemed as a clever PR move, Warrier was pictured as an irresponsible woman who abandoned her child to pursue her ambitions.
“After 14 years of blissful marriage, I am now shattered and coming to terms with this reality,” said Dileep. Asked if his colleague and good friend Kavya Madhavan was responsible for their break-up (the actress’ name often cropped up as the third wheel in their marriage), he maintained that they were just good friends.
“Had Kavya been the problem, Manju could have easily spoken to me about it. When Kavya had a personal problem, I supported her as a friend. When friends have problems, their gender doesn’t matter to me,” said Dileep, alluding to his co-star Madhavan’s divorce.
Kavya Madhavan was married in 2009 to a computer engineer, which ended up in a year. Dileep remained married to Manju for another four years after this. Dileep managed the optics in the marriage ceremony as his daughter with Manju Warrier – Meenakshi – remained by his side, smiling for the cameras. Warrier, meanwhile, was targeted by the Malayali online public for “abandoning” her husband and daughter.
Gopalakrishnan Padmanabhan Pillai, Dileep’s birth name, started his career as a mimicry artist and also performed in TV channel Asianet’s comedy show Comicola. He then got a chance to be an assistant director to known film director Kamal. Gopalakrishan joined the sets of the movie ‘Vishnulokam’ as an assistant director, in 1991, where his main task was to clapperboard for actor Mohanlal.
Gopalakrishan also played a small character in Kamal’s ‘Ennodu Ishtam Koodamo’ in 1992. This was his real big break as Kamal, after seeing his performance in this movie, recommended Gopalakrishan to other mainstream directors. He adopted his screen name of ‘Dileep’ from his debut role in ‘Manathe Kottaram’ in 1994.
However, Dileep’s first break of sorts was Sallapam (1996) where he acted along with Manju Warrier and Manoj K Jayan. He established himself as a reliable lead actor, known for his comedic prowess and back-to-back blockbuster hits. Dileep expressly targeted the family audience and was hailed as ‘Janapriya nayakan’ or people’s hero. Meesha Madhavan (2002) became one of his best known and loved films earning him a Filmfare Award for his performance as the funny moustache-sporting thief, Madhavan.
In 2002 he won the Kerala State Film Special Jury Award for playing the role of Kunjan in the film Kunjikoonan.
In 2003, Dileep founded the film production company ‘Graand Production’. Its debut film was ‘C.I.D. Moosa’. The movie became one of the most successful and evergreen box-office hits of Malayalam cinema. He also produced movies Kathavasheshan (2004) and Twenty20 (2008), all of which were commercial successes. He has acted in over 130 films and is one of the top five most popular Malayalam actors today.
Dileep established his presence as a major producer in the industry by producing the movie Twenty20, in which almost all top actors, including superstars Mohanlal and Mammootty participated. Following the box office victory of the movie, Dileep went on to become a successful producer, exhibitor and businessman.
However, his alleged involvement in the assault case and subsequent arrest seemed to have affected his popularity in the industry. His last movie, ‘Kesu Ee Veedinte Nadhan’, an OTT release, directed by actor Nadirshah, didn’t make a major impact.
— With inputs from agencies
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