Renji Panicker expresses regret for misogyny and caste insensitive remarks in his movies
Renji Panicker is one of the most popular screenwriters that Malayalam cinema has ever seen. He was most active as a firebrand writer during the 90s when he teamed up with the likes of Mammootty and Suresh Gopi to churn out a string of successful films. Renji Panicker is well known for his alpha male heroes who mouth lengthy English dialogues and have a strong political viewpoint. Almost all his films have had a political backdrop and discussed about issues relevant during that time period.
However, the one thing that Renji Panicker was widely criticized was for the representation of women in his movies. Some of his iconic characters Bharathchandran and Thevalliparambil Joseph Alex were infamous for their misogynistic dialogues. Unlike today, where films are keenly observed and dissected by a large group of audience who stand for political correctness, the scenario was not the same in the 90s. Those insensitive dialogues were seen as the extension of the hero’s machismo and, strangely, were widely celebrated.
But Renji Panicker has realized his mistakes and expressed his regret in using such dialogues in his films. In a recent interview to TOI, he opened up about how realisation dawned up only later. He is quoted saying, “Earlier, films were never judged from such a perspective or rather, no one used to judge an actor’s standpoint through the characters he or she essayed. I strongly feel that the dialogues, situations or scripts weren’t written consciously out of a strong gender prejudice. It was because I see the characters I have created as just characters. I will not ever accept it if someone says or tries to prove that I have gender prejudices. I am very clear that I am not.”
When asked about the particular scene in Mammootty’s King when he shouts at his female subordinate and ends the dialogue with a ‘you are just a woman remark’, Renji Panicker admitted that he should not have written it.
“When I wrote it, I never thought of belittling women or even degrading the gender, it was just contextual for the film. Those who clapped for those lines have later found it disturbing. If I knew that what I was writing based on a situation will have a different interpretation in the future, I wouldn’t have written that. Definitely, I regret it. If a woman who sits in a crowd finds that my dialogues in the film is degrading her gender or has offended her, I agree that it was a mistake from my side. If any viewer is or was hurt by a remark from the films that I have written – be it based on gender, caste, colour or creed – I shouldn’t have written them. I know it has happened. I have used words like ‘andan, adakodan, chemman, cheruppukuthi…’ but back then, I wasn’t aware how offensive these terms are. Only when criticism arose did I realise that I shouldn’t have written them.”
Renji Panicker is currently scripting the sequel of his blockbuster film Lelam, which had Suresh Gopi in the lead. His son Nithin Renji Panicker of ‘Kasaba’ fame will be directing the sequel.