Monday Malayalam: Kilukkam, a Happy Malayalam Movie!!!! How is This Possible?????

I can’t believe it!!!!  An actual happy Malayalam film!  Or maybe I have just been worn down in my definition of “happy”, so that it now expands to accept illegitimate children, forced commitments to insane asylums, kidnapping, sibling murder, and so on.  But hey, it doesn’t end with the heroine being raped and/or the hero being arrested, or a sad song in the rain, so HAPPY. (you understand I kid because I love, right?  Malayalam movies are beautiful and brilliant but MAN can they be depressing sometimes!)

This is not a Mohanlal movie, just getting that out of the way, this is a Revathy movie start to finish.  She is amazing in this.  There has been so much talk lately of how wonderful Sridevi was, and she was, I don’t want to take anything away from her.  But watching this film reminded me how much more scope and interest there was for heroines back then, it wasn’t just Sridevi who had films built around her, who stole the screen from the hero, the actresses of the 80s and 90s in Tamil/Malayalam films were something special.

Revathy was 25 in this movie, and had been a heroine in 3 industries (Tamil, Malayalam, Telugu) since she was 17.  Before that, she had formally completed her Bharatnatyam dance training at age 13.  Mohanlal was only 6 years older than her, and had a filmography not much longer.  And to match her Bharatnatyam training, he had his all state wrestling championships prior to film.  They were an evenly matched pair, both with a lifetime of training in a difficult skill related to performing (dance and wrestling), both with a decade of acting behind them in a whole variety of industries, and both young and enthusiastic to balance their experience.

That is what it feels like has been lost.  Too often the film is weighted so heavily towards the hero partly because the actress cast opposite him is not competent to do more.  Or to put it the other way, heroine parts have been so discounted that talented actresses don’t have enough to do any more, they tend to fade away from the industry and all that is left are interchangeable pretty faces who cannot carry a complex performance.

But the late 80s/early 90s were a magical time!  Revathy, Shobhana, Sridevi, and I am sure other actresses I don’t even know, were all capable of matching with Mammootty, Mohanlal, Kamal, and Rajinikanth.  And directors and writers wrote to that, built complex characters with complicated relationships into their scripts, sure that their actors could carry it off.

In this case, it is even more obvious, the film was planned and written for Amala.  When she married and retired, Revathy was easily able to step into her shoes and make the role her own.  That is how many talented actresses were working at the time, you could lose one and find another without even taking a breath.

Revathy is the center of the film, but it wouldn’t work without the rest of the cast.  Mohanlal as the charming slightly amoral but kind young man, Thilakan as the conflicted older respected man, straight through Jagathy Sreekumar playing the comic foil to Mohanlal.  Top to bottom, this film is perfection.  Just the right amount of humor and heart, just the right amount of romance, just the right amount of Mohanlal, and lots and lots of Revathy.

Oh, and also the plot is so twisty that I was literally sitting there saying “what’s going to happen next????”

 

 

SPOILERS SPOILERS SPOILERS SPOILERS SPOILERS SPOILERS SPOILERS SPOILERS SPOILERS

 

 

 

 

The key to this plot is making the audience want something they think they can’t have, and then giving it to them anyway.  I’ll start with the biggest example.  Revathy is introduced as a simple childlike girl, escaped from an asylum.  Mohanlal is at first frustrated with her and the way she keeps following him around, then later excited when she learns there is a reward for her return and decides to hide away with her while they wait for the reward to go up. Revathy is constantly teasing and irritating him, doing crazy things.  He ties her to the railing of his house when he leaves for the day so she can’t get into trouble, which leads to her being hurt when a runaway bull comes through the village.  Mohanlal now feels guilty and comes to love her, caring for her as she gets better and doing everything he can to make her happy.  We, the audience, really want them to get together at this point.  They have great comic chemistry, and also great romantic chemistry with the way Mohanlal is caring for her.  But of course it can’t happen, because she is not mentally his equal and it would be wrong.  Very disappointing.

Oh wait, yes it can!!!!!  Just as Mohanlal is considering whether he should bring her back to her family, Revathy reveals she has been faking this whole time!  Not only is she a full mature woman, she is a mature woman who remembers everything that she has shared with Mohanlal up to now, whose personality and sense of humor and all the rest of it is still the same.  As an audience member, all I was hoping for was something like a blow to the head which would magically cure her, not this elaborate system which makes everything that happened before still matter, while also making her a viable romantic possibility in the present.

And the same stuff keeps happening!  This movie is the definition of having your cake and eating it too.  Revathy reveals that she has come to this remote town to search for her estranged father.  He paid for her schooling and gave her gifts and wrote her letter but never visited.  She came to meet him as an adult, and his evil legitimate children had her committed to an insane asylum because she was illegitimate and they were ashamed.  She pretended to be crazy and clung to Mohanlal in order to stay safe and hidden from the evil children while she tried to figure out how to meet her father.  So the second half of the movie is Mohanlal sneaking her as a maid into her father’s house (her father being a retired supreme court judge and wealthy landowner), and her slowly winning him over until she, Mohanlal, and Thilakan (of course it is Thilakan!) form a close bond.

But the fly in all of this is that the audience has to reconcile Thilakan as this noble moral older man, and as the loving estranged father who sent presents and letters but never visited, with the warm loving man we see now.  If only we didn’t have to forgive his past sins!  If only there was a way to understand!

Yep, there is!  Final twist!  Thilakan is NOT her father!  Although he is the man who paid for her schooling, sent her presents, and regular encouraging letters.  He was indeed moral and perfect, it was the son of his old friend who made the mistake and got a woman pregnant.  Thilakan kept the secret for the sake of his old friend and took responsibility for the child.  All of the goodness and care that Revathy felt in her life and labeled as “father” did indeed come from him, but the original sin and shame of her birth came from another man.  So Revathy can unite with her father after all, with no guilt on either side.  As she explains, Thilakan is her true real father and the only parent she desires, the other man is meaningless.

But let’s go back to the romance for a moment, the real “have your cake and eat it too” plot point.  Mohanlal and Revathy meet and are initially battling enemies.  Revathy following him around and teasing him, him trying to one up her.  It’s fun and funny and wonderful, seeing them challenge each other.  In most films, that would be the whole romance, just that bit and then an accidental kiss at some point and suddenly they are in love.

But this film gives us more!  First the short happy idyll part when Mohanlal is caring for her and she is trying to please him.  But then following her reveal that she is not actually insane, there is a dramatic shift into them as partners with Mohanlal directing and her following orders.  Mohanlal is friends with Thilakan.  He is merely a coolie and guide while Thilakan is an important man, but they understand each other and respect each other, more than they do other people of their own standing.  And so Mohanlal knows just how to get Revathy into Thilakan’s life and carefully build and understanding.  And Revathy is a worthy ally, having already proven her trickster abilities.  So Mohanlal has her pretend to be a poor uneducated girl desperate for a job.  Has her trick the other servant into thinking he won the lottery and quitting.  Has her play trick after trick on Thilakan, all with the goal of slowly softening her up.  It is delightful watching Mohanlal and Revathy work together, we can see the trust Revathy places in Mohanlal by exactly following his directions, and the care he has for her in building up this plan to get her exactly what she wants, a true connection with her father.  Again, in another movie, this would be the whole, Mohanlal and Revathy working together to scam a man with love and slowly realizing they are in love themselves.

But now, there’s more!  Once the truth comes out, Revathy is in grave danger from Thilakan’s other children.  At which point Mohanlal goes there to drunkenly declare himself her bodyguard, no one can touch her without going through him and if Thilakan does not want to acknowledge her as his daughter, then Mohanlal will be honored to take care of her the rest of his life.

The romance went from friendly enemies playing together, to partners in crime, and now to a humble servant coolie and a princess.  That is what he thought she was at the start, when she first arrived in town her clothes and suitcases proclaimed her to be wealthy and he described her as a “princess”.  And after all this time had passed, when he had seen her as a dirty little girl playing in the mud, learned she was illegitimate and shameful, sent her to work as a maid and scrub and clean, he has come back around to honoring her more than ever, seeing her as that “princess” who he will protect and take care of forever and ever and never ask for anything in return.

And that’s where we are at the end.  Thilakan and Revathy have reunited, she is a “princess” again with wealth and status behind her.  But, it is clear to the audience if not to Mohanlal, she is also in love with Mohanlal.  She sadly plans to leave town and return to the convent where she was raised, and Mohanlal humbly does not object, merely carrying her bags for her to the station and wishing her good-bye.  She sadly gives him a rose and, in like 99% of Malayalam films (at least, that’s how it feels sometimes) this would be the end of it.  He would have helped her so much that she is now out of his reach, and she would have gotten everything she wanted in life and lost the one thing she needed.  Oh the irony!  Oh the tragedy!  Oh the tinkly-tinkly music and soft rain intercut with close ups of gently sad faces!!!!

(This was my previous benchmark for “happy” Mohanlal classics)

But, thank goodness, this movie once again takes the audience pleasing path.  Mohanlal puts Revathy on the train and then sadly drops the flower she gave him on the platform.  Which in a different movie would be the ending, the crushed flower representing his crushed hopes/Revathy’s beautiful innocence and on and on.  But, ha-ha, not here!  Mohanlal drops the flower, the train pulls away, and in a lovely shot you see the dropped flower and the fallen Revathy behind it.  She jumped off the train at the last minute to come back to Mohanlal.  And, finally, they embrace.

HAPPY ENDING.  No, really!

 

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42 thoughts on “Monday Malayalam: Kilukkam, a Happy Malayalam Movie!!!! How is This Possible?????

  1. Lol..I was laughing even as I read your title. Happy endings in Malayalam where all the ends are neatly tied up is indeed rare. Glad that you enjoyed the most famous feel-good movie. The film is also known for the bromance between Mohanlal & Jagathy. (do you see how brilliant he is!)The dialogues from first half, when Innocent is tricked by Revathi using the lottery ticket, his ignominious return are all so much part of the pop culture.I was thinking of suggesting two other fun movies of Mohanlal-Priyadarshan combo & realised they both don’t have happy endings(Vandanam & Chitram)I think Priyadarshan those days followed a template where it would start off all funny(some good natured fighting between hero & heroine with a funny sidekick), then some serious drama(flashback) & end with some tears.The sad endings look forced at times. Even in Kilukkam he may have just send Revathi away for the heck of it but had the good sense not to making it a truly happy film. Btw Nishcal in the second half of the movie was under the heavy influence of Mercury Retrograde.

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      • I looked it up already and was already scared away just from the poster! Looked so bad.

        On Mon, Mar 26, 2018 at 11:46 PM, dontcallitbollywood wrote:

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        • The only USP of the sequel is you could actually appreciate Revathy’s performance even more.

          The sequel had Kavya Madhavan (an accomplished actress herself) playing essentially the same character as Revathy and unbearable!

          I’m sure you know, but there’s a shot for shot Hindi remake called “Muskurahat” starring Revathy herself. Worth a watch, I would say!

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    • Already seen Chitram, I believe the headline of the review was “What was up with that last half hour?????” Why can’t Priyadarshan just let us be happy?

      And you are right, while in every other movie industry IN THE WORLD, it’s the happy endings that are forced, in the Malayalam industry they always have to put in the crowd pleasing sad twist right at the end.

      On Mon, Mar 26, 2018 at 11:42 PM, dontcallitbollywood wrote:

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      • What about Yodha? That has a very very happy ending & another one of Jagathy-Mohanlal bromance. Another super fun movie with A R Rahman’s music..there’s a lot to say about that movie, but if you have already watched it, you would know it all.

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        • I haven’t! I think I’ve had a hard time finding it. But I will try again if it gets me a happy ending for once.

          On Tue, Mar 27, 2018 at 7:52 AM, dontcallitbollywood wrote:

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          • Oh you will get more than a happy ending. Again it’s the stuff of legends among Malayalam movies-so much part of our every day conversations. But I will wait till you see it.

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  2. Kilulkkam is a part of malayalee psyche. Anywhere anytime I meet fellow malayalees, to break the ice someone would quote a dialogue by- jagathy/ Mohanlal/ Revathi/ Thilakan/ innocent and someone else would continue and everybody is laughing and sharing precious memories and are friends. Why even the hilarious confrontation between Jagathy and Sharath Saxena.. is epic. “Tu mera dushman Hai?” LMAO.
    I could quote this whole movie from memory and was an instant classic that stood the test of time.
    Also, it was my pet peeve as a child growing up on Malayalam movies, why can’t we have happy endings too? (points at Bollywood and neighboring Tamil movies). Besides the issues you quotes it used to bother me a lot that either hero or heroine died at the end of many movies. Some even by suicide. It just was too much for my young heart. So I am always thrilled to see a happy movie where everything comes together.
    The brilliant brilliant Revathi and the fabulous Mohanlal, inimitable Jagathy, Hilarious in his ways Thilakan and poor dear innocent, what a cast!

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    • My favorite dialogue is when Mohanlal & Jagathy are sharing the food(6 porotta enikku,2 ninakku,kashnam ninakku,chaaru enikku)-which me & brother would use everytime in different variations whenever we had a sought-after-food at home.But I think the most famous one is when Innocent says to Thilakan-njaan poyi kazhinju thaan ivide kidannu ija,imba,ippa,inna,ikka varakkkkum…something I use to hubby every now and then.;)

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    • The really amazing part, Thilakan is not-horrible!!!! He’s actually happy and friendly and laughing and kind!

      On Tue, Mar 27, 2018 at 12:18 AM, dontcallitbollywood wrote:

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      • I guess his character was meant to be someone who grew tired of the world-professionally & otherwise-and put on this mask of a difficult man for the world. He enjoys quarelling with Innocent & later with Revathi-those are the only real relationships in his otherwise empty life. Oh also the friendly banter with Mohanlal. In the song Neelavenalil, the three of them take turns teaming up in twos to tease the third one. I thought that was an adorable depiction of their new-found fun, equals relationship.

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        • Yes, I loved that song! Especially because it also seemed to imply to me what their household might look like in future if/when Mohanlal married Revathy. He could be a live-in son-in-law, but it would be happy and egalitarian, not embarrassing.

          On Tue, Mar 27, 2018 at 8:06 AM, dontcallitbollywood wrote:

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  3. You are coming to know Malayalam movies very well.We thrive on ‘real’ films with real being equated with tragic.Now you know why we turn towards Hindi movies for our happiness fix.Revathy is really a phenomenon.Now as you say we have this never ending parade of new heroines who fade away after doing a couple of movies.No wonder they can’t match up to Nivin or Dulquer who are carefully building up a repertoire of interesting characters over the years.Kilukkam was remade in Hindi with Revathy in lead and Amrish Puri playing Thilakan’s role.It was Priyadarshan’s first foray into Bollywood.The film didn’t do well.But Amrish Puri introduced him to all the right people.

    P.S. Revathy revealed in an interview that even after all these years she still get accosted by Malayalis quoting her dialogue “I smell roasted chicken.”

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    • The only actress in the present day that even compares is Parvathy. Which is really sad, compared to the huge number of talented actresses working back then. But when I think of my favorite Malayalam films from modern times, it is all these actresses who were in one or two films and then faded away.

      On Tue, Mar 27, 2018 at 9:30 AM, dontcallitbollywood wrote:

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    • I place a great part of the blame on Prithvi, Nivin and Dulquer for this accelerated trend in new gen films. As their remunerations increase, the budget can only afford a newcomer female lead so we get a revolving door of models trying to get a first film before they move to Tamil. And Tovino is now following this awful trend but I’m not sure how much clout he has yet.

      Dulquer’s pairings with Nithya and Parvathy were so successful but as the industry can’t stand women with opinions, he wasn’t going to stick out his neck for them. Nivin’s been doing a little better lately pairing with Trisha, Priya Anand and Nayanthara but they aren’t Kerala-bred stars. Prithviraj mostly does movies without female leads but has been pretty loyal to Parvathy for the past few years. Their out sized influence compared to similarly or even more experienced costars is pretty gross and they’re the only ones who can stop the revolving door.

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      • I somehow feel like Nivin is a little more interested in having a stronger costar than Dulquer. Not just his love interest, but the whole cast of the film, I feel like Nivin is more interested in ensemble films with interesting roles, like the way he stepped back to let Renji Penicker shine in Jacobinte Swargarajyam.

        On Sat, Apr 7, 2018 at 11:20 PM, dontcallitbollywood wrote:

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  4. The song kilukil pambaram is such a beautiful lullaby..it can put anyone to sleep. and its visuals are very sweet.. one of my favourite song.

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  5. Thanks for the Kilukkam review! For happy movies.. check out “In Harihar Nagar”, “Sandesham” “Nadodikattu” and “Ramji Rao Speaking” (this last one was remade in hindi with Akshay and Sunil Shetty. These above movies also belong to the family of movies from which the quotes are repeated everyday by the mallu diaspora.

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    • Already watched In Harihar Nagar. And it’s SAD! No one remembers this, but the end of the film is the reveal of all the sad backstory for Mohanlal’s girlfriend, and a sort of bittersweet hope that things might get better someday.

      On Tue, Mar 27, 2018 at 12:13 PM, dontcallitbollywood wrote:

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  6. One of my fav movies ever! And like Malayalees all over the world, have used dialogues in the movie so many times in life. Revathy was something, like you said she was so evenly matched with Mohanlal. Loved them in “Maya Mayooram” as well – which has my fav actress Shobana as well! I don’t understand why we get new heroines in every second movie? Is it done to reduce the budget – that doesn’t make any sense!! I can recount so many movies which would’ve had a better impact with more experienced actresses.
    In the 25th year interview of the movie, they revealed that they had Revathy dub the first half and dubbing artist Bhagyalakshmi dub the second half- to reflect the character change. I’d have never realized that – that’s how seamless it was. But really, so much thought and detailing behind the character – and Priyadarshan was in his best.

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    • The Malayalam industry seems to be unique in its obsession with new heroines, doesn’t it? Even Hindi isn’t that bad, they crank through them, but at least you get a good 5-10 year career first, and any major movie would need an established actress in the lead And I think (although I could be wrong) that Tamil and Telugu are similar, it feels like I am seeing the same heroine over and over again, and watching her get better with every role.

      Heck, Sai Pallavi was a Malayalam discovery, and the industry promptly let her go and went back to using the same rotating cast of new faces.

      On Tue, Mar 27, 2018 at 1:26 PM, dontcallitbollywood wrote:

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  7. My theory is that the industry is so male-dominated that actresses come in at the very end. By that time, they’re probably over budget so they feel that if the role is reduced further we can just get a new girl. Oru Vadakkan Selfie and CIA would’ve been better movies if they had actresses with more experience. Oh and another reason could be that actors feel they look younger if the girls opposite them are younger..

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    • And then the flipside of this, once an actress gets big and expensive, fewer roles are offered her and her career dies. I just looked up Rima Kallingal, and she did a ton of movies and got loads of awards between 2011 and 2013, and then it looks like she started hosting a TV show and was banned by the film associations for some reason because of that? She’s back now, but she is only getting a couple of roles a year. But I can’t imagine a leading male actor being banned like that without being able to fight back, or only getting a couple of roles when they are not even a decade into their career and have such an impressive history behind them.

      On Tue, Mar 27, 2018 at 1:47 PM, dontcallitbollywood wrote:

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        • It feels like there are different issues in every industry, but they are all bad. Not like one is better than the other, or worse than the other, they are just different. Just looking at the issue of aging heroes versus young actresses, in the Malayalam industry it seems like the solution is to cycle through a never ending group of new heroines. While in the Hindi industry it is to use the same handful of heroines opposite the big heroes, not bothering to give them characters or personalities, just trusting the audience to fill in the blanks based on the other films they have already seen the same heroine in.

          It’s fascinating with Malayalam, because Rima’s speech was talking about making things better for the future, but things WERE better! The industry has regressed in some ways, the male stars have gotten more and more and more powerful as time has gone on, and actresses became more disposable. It’s the same discussion I have had with other commentators about Telugu cinema, there was a dividing line (which I can’t remember because it’s not my area) after which suddenly action heroes and stalking romances became accepted, and before that it was a different industry.

          On Tue, Mar 27, 2018 at 3:08 PM, dontcallitbollywood wrote:

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          • That is true! We’ve regressed so much since the 80s, we are now trying to catch up. I wonder why we regressed so much – across industries. Somebody needs to a study.

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          • People have! More focused on Hindi than all industries. And the pat answer is the television Mahabharata and LK Advani’s video trucks.

            But that doesn’t really work as well for the Malayalam industry, since I don’t think Advani made much of an impact down there?

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          • Nithya Menon was also banned for apparently telling a producer(Keerthi Suresh’s dad) that he could talk to her manager for her dates. She hasn’t returned to Malayalam since then & for a good reason. If you have to survive in Malayalam industry, either you got to be in favour with the power brokers or make enough mark like Parvathy & Manju Warrier to have a market of their own. The young girls who come by for a quick shot of fame & money without getting into anyone’s bad books & is not looking to stay long, migrates to other languages where Malayalam girls are preferred over the native girls there.If they make it big there, they can make a grand comeback to Malayalam, dictating terms.Nayanthara is the biggest example. It’s a smart career move. also shows how shoddily we really treat our women.

            As for the overall regression of how women are treated in films-I read somewhere that in Telugu, the advent of action/mass films by Chiranjeevi is where the power/portrayal of women changed.The heroine became just another thing to glorify the hero rather than being on equal terms. And typically the people wdnt want to see whom they consider as their daughters, sisters as objects to lust after. So import from other languages. I bet the same thought process,trends were followed in every other language including Malayalam-though a bit late. Every language now has a flavour-of-the-month kinda heroine. 2-3 films in each language & then gone. My hope is that this was a temporary phase in a societiel cycle of ups & downs and the end of the bad phase is almost near.

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          • What’s really interesting is that this trend has not really flourished in Hindi film. Which I don’t see as a way that Hindi is “better” than other languages, more yet another way that the southern industries are cut off from Hindi, their trends and practices ignored as Hindi film looks to Hollywood or elsewhere for inspiration. They have weak heroine parts in their films, but the heroines stick around longer, for whatever reason. Maybe the benefit of gender-equal nepotism? Sonakshi Sinha could have been that disposable kind of heroine, took a lot of small action parts and so on, but she is Shatrughan Sinha’s daughter, so you can’t really just use her and then come up with an excuse and dump her.

            And what you are saying actually makes me hopeful that the MCC can do some good! It sounds like in Malayalam film at least a main problem is the union attitude, an actress can be declared “banned” for any reason at all and everyone will call in line. So maybe having a union where the actresses have power will help.

            On Tue, Mar 27, 2018 at 11:28 PM, dontcallitbollywood wrote:

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          • Oh they have a union-established post the actress attack. It’s called Women in Cinema Collective. The idea is safe workplace, a forum to raise grievances specific to women in cinema-not just actresses-but women in all departments of cinema.
            Working in the Bollywood film industry-even in minuscule roles-is as high as the dream of a movie aspirant can go,including that of any upcoming stars from south. Once they have rubbed shoulders with all the stars whom you have always dreamed of, would you want to leave so easily? The PR, godfathers, networking, feelers, their own ambition to become the next Madhuri Dixit etc makes them stick longer unless they are so bad that not even decent money comes their way-which is when they will shift to south. Pooja Hegde is an example. And the star kids who had their time- Sonakshi Sinha-still can go to award shows, parties, appear on ramps, open a designer shop, judge TV shows etc. Their concern is not money,so can play the game longer at the end of which marry some rich guy & continue the party.

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  8. Loved it!
    I don’t know how this place works. Can you please get some people to read the stuff I write? I mean, only if you like it. Can you please ask your followers to check out mine also? (OMG this is so cringeworthy-asking/begging people to read the stuff you write)

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    • I know what you mean, I hate asking people to read my stuff too!

      I don’t recommend other sites, just across the board, because it feels like I would be picking and choosing between them. The only people I recommend are more like Anna Vetticad or Bardwaj Rangan.

      But good luck!

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