Political leaders in Kerala on Wednesday criticised the online harassment faced by actor Mammootty for his role in a 2022 film and described him as the “pride of Malayalis”.

Puzhu, directed by Ratheena PT, became the subject of a controversy after the director’s husband, Sharshad Baniyandi, told an online channel that the film had “insulted the upper caste community”, The Indian Express reported.

Baniyandi questioned Mammootty’s decision to take up the project and asked if the actor had read the script before doing so. He also claimed that one of the scriptwriters of the film, Harsha, was an “extreme Islamist”.

As a result, the actor faced online harassment from Hindutva supporters, The Hindu reported.

Congress leader KC Venugopal alleged on Facebook that vested interests with a clear political agenda were behind the attacks.

“Mammootty is being Mohammed Kutty [Mammootty’s birth name] only in the contemptuous minds of those hate campaigners,” Venugopal said, adding that the secular people living in Kerala would not back their agenda. Venugopal said that the actor cannot be confined to a religion or caste.

Communist Party of India (Marxist) leader and state General Education Minister V Sivankutty called the actor the “pride of Malayalis”, as did state Revenue Minister K Rajan.

“The Sanghi politics of calling Mammootty as Mohammed Kutty, [director] Kamal as Kamaluddin and [actor] Vijay as Joseph Vijay is worthless here,” Rajan said. “This is Kerala.”