TV presenter-turned-actress Sri Reddy, who has been making sensational allegations against the casting couch menace in the Telugu film industry, decided to take her protest to the next levelon Saturday. Demanding justice, she staged a dharna outside the Movie Artistes’ Association (MAA) headquarters ‘Telugu Film Chamber of Commerce’ in Film Nagar, vowing not to budge until she got a solution. And when no one paid heed, she did the unthinkable — she stripped right there, in the middle of the road, and sat down in protest bare-chested.
‘Nude protest was my only option’
The controversial actress, has been raising her voice against MAA for over a fortnight. “This is the only way I can get them to listen to me. I have had to strip myself nude in front of several people in the film industry who promised work. Yet, I got no roles. I have been shouting from the rooftops about the injustice that has been meted out to me and to several other women in the film industry and yet, I have not got any response from MAA. So I decided to strip publicly,” Sri Reddy said.
Intriguingly, even as this drama ensued on Saturday, MAA President Sivaji Raja feigned complete ignorance. “I am not aware of the issue,” he said, when asked why MAA was silent about this. But Sri Reddy had just stripped naked in front of the MAA office, we pointed out. “I’m shooting right now and I’m not aware of what is going on (at the office). I wouldn’t like to comment on this,” said Sivaji, distancing himself from the controversy.
On Sunday morning though, Sivaji took a complete U-Turn. The Movie Artistes’ Association came forward in full force and dismissed Sri Reddy’s protest as a “cheap publicity stunt”.
“We are always here to help people from the industry. In fact, we have helped a lot of women who have faced problems and have punished people they had complained against. I spoke to Sri Reddy and had told her that we are there for her if she faced any issue. However, instead of coming to us, she went on to social media and tried to gain cheap publicity,” MAA president Sivaji Raja said in a press conference.
MAA insists that Sri Reddy’s “nude protest” will have no bearing on them. “We will not give her a membership card just because she has stripped in front of this office. We can’t give cards away to whoever takes off their clothes. We have our rules and we shall follow them,” Raja added, referring to the complaint that she has been denied membership of the Movie Artistes’ Association despite having acted in three films.
But even as Sri Reddy is being labelled and judged and her protest is being dismissed as a publicity-seeking ‘stunt’, this fact cannot be ignored: For the first time ever, a voice being raised against the sexual predators in Tollywood; a solution is being demanded; a woman is stripping naked to protest the fact that women like her are being made to do just that every time they go out seeking work. Sri Reddy’s protest raises some uncomfortable questions which remain unanswered.
Why is there no ‘CASH’ in Tollywood?
A committee against sexual harassment (CASH) is mandatory in any workplace, which has more than 10 employees. And yet, the film industry seems to be exempt from this rule. Given the sheer number of people who are employed in the film industry, the fact that there is no CASH is a cause for concern. filmmaker Nandini Reddy, agrees. “We definitely need a CASH to be set up in the film industry. there are so many associations today, but the real issues get sidelined. Actors do face issues of harassment and these associations will have to set up a CASH committee. Hopefully it will take shape soon.”
Where are the ‘MARD’s of film industry?
Interestingly, the big stars of Tollywood have maintained a stunned silence on the issue, despite it reaching the national media. Superstar Mahesh Babusupported Bollywood’s star Farhan Akhtar’s MARD (Men Against Rape and Discrimination) initiative to spread awareness about gender inequality and rape through social media. It was also shared by several other film stars in Tollywood on social media. And yet, when allegations of sexual harassment and abuse are being made against people from their own fraternity, Tollywood’s big stars are curiously silent. Will the big boys speak up?
Why are the women silent?
Despite her sensational protest, Sri Reddy finds herself alienated and is fighting a lone battle. None of the leading actresses have spoken in support of her. Not long ago, leading actresses like Lakshmi Manchu, Rakul Preet and Lavanya Tripathi slammed a TV journalist for speaking against women in derogatory language – and yet, they don’t have anything to say about Sri Reddy’s allegations. Even the victims that Sri Reddy claims to be fighting for, have refused to support her claims. The actress, who was counselled by police officers at her residence following her public protest, vows to keep fighting. “I will not stop until CM KCR himself takes notice of this and puts an end to this menace once and for all and make the Telugu industry a safe place for women,” she says.
Why do we think it’s ok to say, ‘This will happen to women like Sri Reddy ’cos they ask for it’?
The sheer number of comments online that imply that ‘women like Sri Reddy ask for it’, is appaling. Judging a woman for the clothes she wears, the language she uses or her mode of protest and then saying ‘she is like that, she deserves it’ is akin to justifying violence against women. The focus should be on the issues that she has raised and not the manner in which she did. “There is nothing shameful about her mode of protest. It was a strong statement she made; she’s saying, ‘See! This is the same body that you make use of and have no respect for. so take it as a sign of protest now.’ The society, MAA and we have all pushed her to take this extreme step,” says Devi, a women’s rights activist. “A lot of people are taking the liberty to comment on her character and saying that a girl of ‘this sort’, ‘this type’ deserves it. I want to ask them clearly, what sort of men does the film industry have? Starting right from the make-up boy to the actor to the financer, everyone treats women like they’re mere bodies,” she added.
Source : TIO