An old Arriflex camera is what strikes one’s eyes first on reaching the office of the Association of Malayalam Movie Artists (AMMA) at Kaloor, Kochi. The wall next to it is adorned with black-and-white pictures of the stars who have left the world after lighting up the silver screen. Monisha’s wide eyes, Shobha’s rare full smile and much more can be seen here. Beyond this wall which takes one through the scintillating memories of the stars of yesteryear is the room of Idavela Babu, general secretary of AMMA.
Artist Babu Chandran, popularly known by his stage name ‘Idavela Babu’ has no ‘intervals’ though on this chair (Idavela - interval).
AMMA has close to 500 members. Babu is engaged throughout the day with their phone calls – on doubts regarding tax and other needs of hospital, insurance and so on. Amid all these, Babu landed in an unexpected controversy for his remark on the film ‘Mukundanunni Associates’. Police have arrested the person who abused Babu on social media platforms.
Idavela Babu talks to Manorama about the controversies and about AMMA.
“While speaking at the International Book Festival organised by the Legislature at Thiruvananthapuram, I was talking about censorship. In Malayalam, in any scene where an artist drinks alcohol or smokes, warning messages on the health effects of smoking and drinking are to be displayed on the screen. There is nothing like that in Hindi. It only needs to be shown once before the film starts, in the beginning. I said – In a country, the law should be uniform for everyone.
The movie ‘Churuli’ is certified ‘A’. Only those who wish to watch it need to go for it. Likewise, if ‘Mukundanunni Associates’ was also given an A certification, the viewer can decide whether to watch it or not. This is what I said.
Sex and violence can be given A certification. When I came out after watching Mukundanunni Associates, a bank manager came up to me and asked me, “Aren’t you all from films? How can such a subject be shown to children?”. He said, he brought his children along as Vineeth Sreenivasan was acting in the movie.
I never said Mukundanunni is a bad movie or that no one should watch it. I have talked to the film’s director and to Vineeth Sreenivasan. These incidents might have helped in more people trying to watch the movie when it was released on the OTT platform.
On the situation which led you to file a complaint…
I filed a complaint with the Kochi City Police Commissioner when certain men started verbally abusing even my deceased parents continuously. I had then requested the Commissioner not to move forward with the case, but to warn the person and make him delete those abusive posts.
However, the person who deleted a post on the first day, posted again the very next day. Even female members at AMMA have faced many such cyber abuses and bullying. Considering all these, I decided to stick to the complaint.
As many as 115 members have left us (died) from 1995 when AMMA was constituted until today. 19 of the members died after COVID times. The list that begins from Krishnankutty Nair to Kottayam Pradeep is a record of Malayalam film history.
The fact is that AMMA is old now. Many people think that film stars are all living in a posh and comfortable manner. 124 artists receive AMMA’s Kaineettam – a monthly stipend from the association. Some artists haven’t done even one movie in the past ten years among AMMA members. A few members have not got films from the time filmmaking changed from shooting using films to digital filmmaking. Just ten members are the most wanted stars. About 50 artists are getting films without any break. Another hundred artists get one or two films occasionally. The situation of another few is weak and pathetic. This is the real picture.
In old days, if an artist died in Madras, his or her body could be taken home only after actor Prem Nazeer reached and paid for the expenses. We have come a long way from that situation.
We have stopped allowing fresh memberships for the time being after the Court order that GST would be applicable for those who become members of associations like AMMA.
When people call you ‘Interval Babu’
The movie Idavela, written by Padmarajan and directed by Mohan was released in 1982. I was a pre-degree student then. Babu Chandran is my real name. In the title of the first movie, it was written – ‘We present in this film – Babu’, introducing me as a debut actor. Producer T E Vasudevan called me ‘Idavela Babu’ when he met me at a wedding. ‘Of all who acted in this movie, only you are called that way by everyone. So let this name be for you,’ he had said then.
For a very long time now, Mammukka (Actor Mammootty) has been calling me ‘Interval Babu’ affectionately. I enjoy being called that way. I have a clear idea about how far I can move forward in the journey of acting. Over the period of 30 years, I have acted in 250 films. I have no tensions.