On Tuesday, people gathered outside Aluva sub-jail, about 25 km from Kochi city, shouting slogans of 'Welcome to Central Jail'. The mocking shout signified the fall from grace of actor Dileep, who enjoys superstar status in the Malayalam film industry, second only to Mammootty and Mohanlal.
That is because 'Welcome to Central Jail' was Dileep's release in September last year, a movie that critics panned but did well commercially.
That was not all. A mob smashed the glass facade of Dileep's 'De Putt' restaurant in Kozhikode. Activists of the Congress and the BJP declared they would not let the 'De Putt' restaurant in Kochi's Edappally area to function.
His D-cinema multiplex in Chalakudy was another business enterprise that came under siege. Dileep's demonised status was complete when his effigy was burnt in Pathanapuram as were those of fellow actors who stood by him, like Mukesh and Ganesh Kumar.
Dileep was arrested after a five-hour long interrogation session on Monday evening. It was a given that the arrest was imminent after he was questioned for 13 hours last month and the police refused to give him a clean chit.
The actor is accused of conspiring to abduct and molest a Malayalam actress on February 17, with a view to intimidate her and hiring 'quotation' gangs to carry out the task.
Dileep allegedly had a personal score to settle against the actress as she had sided with his former wife Manju Warrier, during their marital dispute. Warrier is also an accomplished actor in the Malayalam film industry.
Dileep and the actor also had some business dealings in the past, and there were some financial matters reportedly involved as well. To get goons to molest her inside a moving vehicle and record the act to shame her into silence, seemed the perfect way to teach the actor a lesson. An idea so filmy that it could have been part of any Dileep movie.
Except that this twist in the tale proved a flop. The plotters had not factored the actor's steely resolve to seek justice. Backed by a hyperactive Malayalam media and a few conscientious members of the film fraternity, she kept the pressure on the police and the political leadership to crack the crime.
Those who hatched the conspiracy were so cocksure about their ability to manipulate the system that they left traces just about everywhere. It was hardly the perfect crime. Pulsar Suni, the man who along with his three accomplices abducted and molested the actor was found talking to Dileep and his manager over the phone.
A story was made up that suggested that Suni was trying to blackmail Dileep into coughing up an amount if he did not want Suni to name him as the conspirator.
Suni also reportedly went to Dileep's wife Kavya Madhavan's shop Laksyah in Kochi after the crime. What made him go there, is something Dileep could not explain properly. The final nail in the coffin was his statement that he did not know Suni.
Subsequent photographs that showed Suni at a Dileep shooting location. His arrest shows the police have not fallen for any of his stories.
Dileep's name and body of work of 130-odd films over 23 years have been sullied by this case. But equally blackened in the face are the thespians of the Malayalam film industry who either chose to cleverly stay quiet (Mammootty, Mohanlal) or spoke utter nonsense (Mukesh, Ganesh Kumar).
At the press conference called by the Association of Malayalee Movie Artistes (AMMA) last month, actors Mukesh and Ganesh Kumar, both also LDF MLAs in Kerala, backed Dileep strongly, declaring him innocent.
Some of the members, including Dileep, made statements that bordered on casting aspersions on the victim. For not a moment, the male-dominated Mollywood thought that the female actor who was molested is also a member of the same fraternity.
The attempt all along was to pin the blame on Pulsar Suni and his accomplices, while giving a clean chit to Dileep. That Suni had worked as a driver with Mukesh and the victim earlier and had been sacked, was taken as good enough reason to hang him alone.
Now as a kneejerk reaction, AMMA has thrown out Dileep. The larger question is whether actors who do not have the sense or the sensitivity to handle such a case should be leading such an organisation.
AMMA in its present form should be disbanded unless it elects as representatives who are not morally corrupt and do not feel the need to kowtow to a star with financial clout.
If the allegations against Dileep are proved in court, it will show him as a reel-life hero who has feet of clay. As someone who did not think much of hiring ruffians to rob a colleague of her dignity.
Dileep's next film is ironically titled 'Ramleela', in which publicity material says he has been presented in a never-before-seen role. A question mark hangs over whether irate Malayalees will allow the film to be released this month.
Having been banished into vanvaas in judicial custody, Dileep's fans will hope the real-life turmoil is borrowed from the script of 'Welcome to Central Jail'. The lead character in that movie fills in as a substitute for punishment for crimes committed by others.