The Me Too-style protest led by actor Sri Reddy demanding safety and an exclusive film body to deal with the grievances of female members of the Telugu film fraternity is gaining a lot of momentum. On Sunday, women’s rights activists and many junior artistes gathered in Hyderabad to discuss the various issues they face in the film industry.
Following the meeting, the artistes addressed the media and shared their personal experiences of sexual harassment that they suffered at the hands of powerful men in the industry. An unidentified actor, partially covering her face with her dupatta, recounted the unfair treatment the small-time artistes get subjected to on the film sets. “During the outdoor shootings, the filmmakers don’t even arrange toilet facilities,” she rued, saying the junior artistes are forced to change dresses and relieve themselves out in open.
She also alleged that she had been denied roles in films even after giving in to their demands. “In Telugu industry, Telugu actors don’t get opportunities. They promise roles in films and sleep with us. And next day, they avoid us saying there are far away somewhere for some shoot,” said the actor.
The actor said she was disheartened by allegations made against the women who are speaking out in the industry. “We are accused of doing all this for money and to blackmail producers. When we are so openly saying all the things happened to us, why don’t they understand?” she asked.
Transgender actor Sana Rathod also recounted the incidents of sexual harassment in her life. “I went for an audition for a part in Telugu serial Madhurani Saniveshalu. The director asked me to take off my clothes because he wanted to see the body of a transgender. If transgenders are not spared, why will these men leave women artistes alone?”, she said before breaking down.
In response to Tollywood star Pawan Kalyan’s remarks, Sana said going to police stations has not helped them in the past.
Pawan had asked Sir Reddy to try legal routes to get justice, instead of sensationalizing her problems.
The actors who took part in Sunday’s discussion mainly demanded a proper mechanism in place to protect members of film fraternity from sexual harassments and at least 10 days of work in a month for Telugu artistes.
Telugu actor Apoorva said she quit the Movie Artistes Association (MAA) in protest against the way the film body reacted to Sri Reddy. “Why are the big heroes of the industries not speaking in support of so many women who are crying? Will they only fight for women in reel-life?” she rued. The silence of industry bigwigs over the casting couch issue was also slammed by other actors during the press meet.
Sri Reddy alleged that the sexual exploitation in Tollywood has been happening on an industrial scale. All the participants of the round-table discussion vowed to continue their fight until their demands were met.
MAA has already agreed to set up a Committee Against Sexual Harassment and even revoked its ban on Sri Reddy.