More than 100 activists and members of the Malayalam film industry have written to Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan protesting the state government’s decision to invite actor Mohanlal to be the chief guest at this year’s Kerala State Film Awards Ceremony.

Actors Prakash Raj, Rima Kallingal, Geetu Mohandas, Sruthi Hariharan, writer NS Madhavan and director-cinematographer Rajeev Ravi are among the signatories of a statement sent to Vijayan, according to The News Minute.

“The Kerala state film award is the highest recognition given by a state and hence this award should be given to them in an atmosphere suited to the artists,” the statement read. “The stage should host a simple function where the chief minister himself presents the awards in the presence of cultural minister. Inviting a chief guest is not the right thing and undervalue the achievement of the award winners.”

The statement does not mention Mohanlal by name, said Manorama Online.

On July 18, filmmaker Biju Damodaran, who was on the jury for this year’s awards, said that he would boycott the ceremony if Mohanlal was made chief guest. He said the Malayalam superstar had been invited by Kerala Culture Minister AK Balan.

“By this move, it is understood that the minister is living in another world which is not aware of the contemporary developments in the Malayalam film world,” Biju said in a Facebook post, referring to the controversy surrounding the Association of Malayalam Movie Artists, of which Mohanlal is president. The AMMA has been under fire over its attempt to reinstate actor Dileep, who was ousted from the actors’ guild last year after he was arrested in a sexual assault case. Dileep has been accused planning the alleged abduction and sexual assault of an actress, which took place on February 27 last year. The decision to bring him back was taken at a meeting on June 24, the day Mohanlal took charge as president.

Biju said in his Facebook post that AMMA has “repeatedly made it clear that they are with the accused; not with the victim. The organisation decided to bring back the accused actor immediately after a superstar assumed charge as president of it.” He indicated that the government was belittling the award winners by inviting someone who is not connected with this year’s awards as a chief guest. “The chief guests at the venue are the award winners, and also the chief minister who will present the awards,” he said. “Why should another star be invited to the function?”

The Kerala State Film Awards are organised by the Kerala State Chalachitra Academy. The awards for this year were announced in March and the date for the ceremony is yet to be announced. Rahul Riji Nair’s Ottamuri Velicham won Best Film and Lijo Jose Pellissery won Best Director for Ee.Ma.Yau. Indrans and Parvathy won Best Actor and Actress respectively.