Senior actor Radha Ravi almost got away with his recent sexist jibe against Nayanthara. Thanks to popular singer Chinmayi, the industry finally woke up to his misogyny and sent him a letter of condemnation. The DMK party even suspended his membership temporarily.
Chinmayi is keeping the Tamil film industry on its toes. But, it’s clearly an unthankful job as the singer says she is repeatedly slut-shamed and trolled on social media. On top of it, she is not getting enough singing assignments in Tamil movies like before. She was removed from the dubbing union, which was headed by Radha Ravi. Her life has drastically changed. Now, she is not just a musician but also an activist who keeps raising questions concerning women’s rights and safety.
10 years ago, she never dreamed of leading such a fight from the front. “Even when #MeToo movement broke out, I remember texting Madhan Karky that ‘I don’t think I will ever have the strength to name your father (Vairamuthu) publicly’. I kept telling other people to share their stories. And at some point, I realized the hypocrisy in it. I was not sharing my story but I was asking other women who were less influential and powerful than me to share their stores. My conscience pricked me and I spoke up,” she said.
Chinmayi claims that a lot of women from the industry tell her in person that she was very brave and they could have never done what she did. But, not all of them stand by her openly. “A little moral support would have been good,” she said. “I can’t blame people who don’t speak up. But I think if you see something is wrong and say nothing about it, you have already sided with the oppressor.”
Does she have any hope that outspoken women like her would be treated fairly in the film industry? “I have hope in Hyderabad film industry. They set up an ICC (internal complaints committee) and an inquiry commission. I have hope in Bollywood, which has refused to work with men named in the #MeToo movement.”
“The first question I was asked when I came out with my story was what was my caste. Nakkheeran Gopal wrote that BJP gave me a house in Bengaluru to accuse Vairamuthu. Thirumurugan Gandhi repeated that allegation and Seeman protected Vairamuthu. And even most of the responses from the common people were the same,” she added.
There was, however, a handful of people in Kollywood that expressed solidarity with her. “Govind Vasantha, Ghibran, upcoming composer Ashwin Vinayagamoorthy, they all stood by me. Ashwin is just 28 but he spoke up for me. He put out a long tweet recalling a recording in which I did everything in my capacity to avoid being in the same place as Mr. Vairamuthu. Samantha is helping me get work in Telugu films. But the public is still asking me where’s my passport. Because they are aping Rangaraj Pandey’s question. Media in Tamil Nadu has not been kind to women coming out with their stories,” Chinmayi said.
In spite of all the hostility she faces on a daily basis, she continues to keep asking questions. “It’s in my DNA. Anger is my fuel. I think that is the only thing that actually helps for those who constantly get belittled,” she remarked.
So what’s next for her? “I am thinking of visiting schools and colleges and speak about the issues of sexual harassment and how to deal with them. I will join groups that are already dealing with cases of sexual harassment and child abuse. I will get trained by the experts on how to create awareness about the subject,” Chinmayi said.