Like many such cases, this case too would have remained under wraps had the Survivor not showed immense courage to expose the villains and the crime they had committed, says Shobha Warrier.
Illustration: Dominic Xavier/Rediff.com
February 17, 2017.
Friday, late at night.
A well-known actress from the Malayalam film industry is on her way back to Kochi after a day's shoot near Thrissur.
She does not know that she is being followed.
At an isolated spot, her car is intercepted and some goons get into into her car.
They drive in and around Kochi, allegedly sexually assaulting the actress, taking videos of the unpardonable crime.
After a couple of hours, they drop the actress outside a director's house and disappear.
The director and a producer friend, who is visiting him, are shocked to see the actress in such a state.
They inform the local MLA who insists that the actress immediately file an FIR at the nearest police station.
Trumatised at what has happened to her, the actress courageously decides not to let those behind the crime go free.
Malayalees wake up to the shocking news the next morning.
'If such a horrible thing can happen to a high-profile person, how safe are women in Kerala?' they ask.
There is another question as well: 'No criminal would dare attack a popular actress. So who is the powerful mastermind behind the crime?'
A beautiful girl with large eyes and long hair, a classical dancer par excellence, becomes the toast of Kerala after she wins the Kalathilakam title twice at the Kerala state school youth festival.
The Malayalam film industry welcomes the beautiful Manju Warrier and she becomes an actress when she is just 16.
Working in the film industry at the same time is an average looking, short young man, someone who wouldn't attract a second glance from the opposite sex.
But he has an uncanny ability to make women laugh with his mimicry.
Gopalakrishnan -- later renamed Dileep -- is an assistant director when Manju storms the Malayalam film industry.
When the 17 year old is paired with him in Sallapam, she laughs a lot at his jokes and falls in love with him.
They marry in 1998 and she disappears from Malayalam cinema at a time when she is one of its brightest stars.
In her three years in show business, Manju acts in around 20 films and wins a National Award (Special Mention) for her performance as Bhadra in Kannezhuthi Pottum Thottu.
The movie-going public in Kerala is vexed with Dileep for snatching away such a brilliant actress from them. He has to struggle to get over their anger and wins them over with his comic talent.
Over time, his fortunes change. From a nondescript small-timer, Dileep transforms himself into a successful star who makes people laugh.
One after another, his films hit the bull's eye and, in no time, Dileep becomes the Janapriya Nayakan (the people's favourite actor).
A new love interest
At this time, another Kalathilakam winner at the sub-district level enters the picture.
She has already made her movie debut as a seven year old. In 1999, this 15 year old acts as an adult for the first time, opposite Dileep.
Her name is Kavya Madhavan.
Like the Prem Nazir-Sheela jodi in the Malayalam cinema of the 1960s and early 1970s, the Dileep-Kavya Madhavan jodi is so successful that they act together in 18 films. Each one is a huge hit.
Along the way, love blossoms.
This is where the actress, who is molested on February 17, enters the frame. We will call her the Survivor from hereon.
She too works with Dileep in many of his films, travels with him for stage shows, and is witness to his growing proximity to Kavya.
She is also a good friend of Manju Warrier's, Dileep's wife.
Dileep and Kavya's 'affair' is an open secret, but the stars deny it vehemently.
Then, Kavya gets married -- to a businessman based in Kuwait. She return to Kerala a few months after the nuptials, alleging harassment for dowry from her husband and his family.
Her husband alleges she is cheating on him by having an affair with a top actor.
As Kavya returns to the movie business, the rumour mills resume with even more vigour.
The Survivor feels she can't stay silent anymore and tells Manju Warrier about what is going on.
Dileep and Manju Warrier part ways in 2013.
Dileep and Kavya Madhavan marry three years later.
Dileep strangily says he decided to marry 'the person whose name got tarnished' because of him, and that he is saving a 'poor girl who was made a scapegoat by a bad society.'
A deviation from the script, which always happens in the movies
By this time Dileep has become the most powerful man in the Malayalam film industry.
He controls film production and distribution, owns several theatres.
All the film associations in Kerala are under his control; even the superstars are at his mercy.
They know that if he wants, he can stop the screening of their films.
So powerful are the artist associations -- the Association of Malayalam Movie Artists and the Film Employees Federation of Kerala -- that they ban Thilakan, one of the greatest actors Indian cinema has seen.
Director Vinayan, who takes on Dileep, is also banned by the organisations.
Vinayan is reported to have said, 'From my personal experience, I know that Dileep is a master manipulator and Mammootty and Mohanlal (the reigning superstars of Malayalam cinema) have just been puppets in his hands.'
'He rose to so much power that behind the scenes, it was he who was controlling Malayalam cinema's progress,' Vinayan alleges.
In 2013, after Dileep and Manju separate, he has a huge showdown with the Survivor at an AMMA programme rehearsal. He accuses her of wrecking his marriage.
Enter Pulsar Suni aka Sunil Kumar, someone who operates in the shadows of the Malayalam film industry.
Dileep and Pulsar, the police allege, hatch a plan to take revenge on the Survivor.
The seeds of the plot, the police allege, are sown inside Dileep's BMW in the parking lot of a Kochi hotel in 2013.
Two of Pulsar's earlier attempts to waylay the actress fail, but on February 17, 2017, he attacks the Survivor in his car.
Twist in the tale
Like many such cases, this case too would have remained under wraps had the Survivor not shown immense courage to expose the villains and the crime they had committed.
This is something the villains did not expect.
Though Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan, who is also Kerala's home minister, initially declares that there is no conspiracy in the case, he changes his stance when public sentiment turns against Dileep.
Then Dileep makes a series of blunders.
After he distances himself from Pulsar, repeatedly declaring he has never met the man, photographs of the duo surface in the media and elsewhere.
Dileep then approaches the police with a blackmail letter from a man named Vishnu, who was in the same jail with Pulsar, asking the star for money.
Dileep receives this letter in March, but he goes to the police only in June.
The police get suspicious and question Dileep and his close friend, director Nadirshah, for 13 hours.
When he emerges from the questioning, Dileep claims the police wanted to ask him about the blackmail complaint that he had filed.
The police contradict the star, saying Dileep was questioned in connection with the Survivor's abduction.
On July 10, the unexpected occurs.
Dileep, the most powerful figure in Malayalam cinema, is arrested on charges of being the main conspirator behind the Survivor's abduction and assault.
Unsurprisingly, his 'friends' from the film industry, who had till then declared him innocent, warble a different tune.
Dileep is expelled from the film associations he had controlled, in minutes.
As the curtain goes down for the interval, Dileep's public relations machine has gotten into action.
Stories of his compassion, his caring nature, his good deeds have begun to make the rounds.
Like many Malayalam -- and indeed many Indian films -- the climax of this sordid saga will take place in court.
Who will emerge victorious in this court room drama?
The powerful superstar? Or the Survivor who dared to take on his might?
As they say in Bollywood, 'Picture abhi bakhi hain dost!'