On September 28, Kerala will see the release of Ramaleela – a movie that has become hugely controversial because of its lead actor.

Ramaleela stars Malayalam star Dileep, who was arrested on July 10 over his alleged involvement in the conspiracy to kidnap and sexually assault a Malayalam actor in February. Even as Dileep’s repeated bail pleas have been turned down, a call to boycott Ramaleela has been doing the rounds.

One of the first to issue the boycott call is prominent Kerala writer Saradakutty. “Dileep is doing time because he is likely to have done something criminal and illegal,” she said. “Most of the influential actors and politicians are supporting him. Not many have come out to help the actress and that is why I called for the film to be boycotted.”

Saradakutty said she refused to “put a single penny of mine in Dileep’s pocket”. Her stand is also “against male domination in the Malayalam film industry”, she added.

“The industry has been ruled by three or four male superstars over the last 20 years or more,” Saradakutty said. “These people decide who will thrive in the industry and who will not. I will not watch Malayalam films in protest against the patriarchy of the industry.”

Ramaleela was originally supposed to have been released in July. Directed by Arun Gopy, the movie traces the mercurial rise of Ramaunni (Dileep), a party worker.

Ramaleela (2017).

Ramaleela is Gopy’s debut feature. The call to boycott the film is an “act of fascism”, according to the director. “It’s like telling people not to eat beef,” he said. “I have been trying to make this film for the last four years. This is my first film and I want the world to see my work.”

Gopy has been visiting Dileep in prison. “He seems calm and is looking forward to the film coming out,” Gopy said. “This has had a psychological impact on me. Cinema is my life, my passion. I never thought it would become controversial for these reasons.”

Dileep’s ex-wife Manju Warrier has also condemned the boycott. Her Facebook post said, “Time will not forgive us if we deny the team their right to screen it. Let the audience watch Ramaleela and decide.” Warrier’s latest movie Udaharanam Sujatha is being released on the same day as Ramaleela.

Ramaleela is a big budget film with crores at stake, Gopy said. “This is the collective effort of so many people and it’s unfair to deny them a chance to show their work.”

There have been other calls to boycott the film too. GP Ramachandran, a reputed film critic and executive member of the state government-supported Kerala Chalachitra Academy, said in a Facebook post that theatres screening “this obscene film” should be “destroyed”. Ramachandran has been criticised for his incendiary remarks.

Journalist Shahina KK defended the boycott, saying that it was a part of a “political and democratic process”. She said, “I don’t think it has been a deliberate and concerted effort as has been implied.”