Fans of public speaker and reality TV contestant Rajith Kumar flouted the Kerala government’s coronavirus advisory to show him support after he got kicked out of Bigg Boss Malayalam 2 for attacking a fellow contestant with chilli paste during a task.
The supporters also posted hundreds of abusive comments on social media in defence of the man, who has a history of misogynistic comments and actions.
On Sunday, Rajith, who applied chilli paste on co-contestant Reshma’s eyes, was received by a big crowd of supporters outside Kochi airport when he arrived from Chennai. This was mere hours after the police caught up at the airport with a UK national who had boarded a flight after testing positive for COVID-19. Twenty Dubai-bound passengers were detained because he had boarded the same flight as them.
While the state government has asked people to avoid crowded places, photos of Rajith’s fans overrunning the airport went viral. Police registered a case against 79 people and Ernakulam Collector S. Suhas slammed their behaviour in a post on Facebook.
“When the whole world is on alert because of the covid-19 outbreak, the behaviour of this TV show contestant and his fans at the Kochi airport should shame every Malayali,” he said.
In a video, Rajith said he had been advised to leave the airport from a side entrance but he had himself insisted on meeting the crowd outside.
What did Rajith do?
In last week’s episode of Bigg Boss Malayalam season 2, a reality TV show hosted by superstar Mohanlal, Rajith was filmed applying chilli paste on co-contestant Reshma’s eyes during a task.
Reshma, who was recovering from an eye surgery, was immediately rushed to the hospital, while Rajith initially defended himself saying he had tried to do the task well.
In an episode handling the fallout of the incident, Rajith said, “I made a mistake. I can never justify it. I don’t just regret it, I came back to apologise to Reshma.”
Instead of condemning the action or calling the police, TV channel Asianet and host Mohanlal not only aired the show, they also put the onus of Rajith’s continued participation on the victim, who accepted his apology on the show but said she would be uncomfortable with his presence.
“I don’t think there is a justifiable excuse or explanation for it. Sir and I have spoke in detail about the problem with my eye. Knowing that, I don’t know how he intended to make this a joke,” Reshma told Mohanlal separately.
Rajith, while apologising on the show, said he had wanted to play the character of a naughty child—assigned to him as part of the task—very well to win more points.
“I have been stewing in regret for the past several days. I should never have done something like this. I want to say (to Reshma) nothing bad will happen. And if it does, I will donate my eyes to you. I did not do this knowingly,” he said.
His so-contestants also claimed he had not attacked Reshma intentionally.
However, in a later video, Rajith is heard saying, “I have made no mistake. It was an act. I was provoked. If you rewind the episode and watch again, you will know why I did this.”
His supporters are upset that he was kicked out of the show despite his multiple apologies and say they will boycott the channel and the show.
Asianet TV actor Manoj Kumar put out a statement on video saying he would stop watching the channel in protest. His wife, actor Beena Antony, can be heard criticising Reshma in the same video.
The Facebook pages of Asianet and Mohanlal have been flooded with abuse and with comments in support of Rajith.
What has Bigg Boss done?
In its latest episode, Mohanlal justified their actions, saying the show had handled the incident with utmost transparency and privacy.
Bigg Boss kicked out Rajith soon after the attack took place and also refuted allegations that the scene was scripted.
However, the show has since aired a clip of the incident at least twice. There is no indication that the channel called the police after the incident took place.
IB Times reported that Rajith can be arrested under multiple charges, including that of voluntarily causing harm, and that the police can even take suo moto action against him.
While Mohanlal said safety of participants was a priority on the show, they do not mention what measures have been taken to this end. HuffPost India has emailed detailed queries to Asianet and will update this story if they respond.
In 2013, Rajith Kumar hit headlines after he made derogatory comments about women during a speech at the Government Women’s College in Thiruvananthapuram. At the time, a student had publicly booed him and boycotted the event. He has also made many homophobic and transphobic comments.
After one of these controversies, Health Minister KK Shailaja had released a press note barring his participation in state government programmes.