How Sri Reddy’s protest helped address casting couch issue in Telugu films
Telugu actor Sri Reddy came into national spotlight after she decided to strip on a street to protest against casting couch in the Telugu film industry. The actor stripped in front of the Telugu Film Chambers of Commerce and claimed the industry bigwigs hire female actors from outside the two Telugu states because they put up with the industry’s “demands”. She alleged, “The reason is simple. Heroines from other states would go to any extent to satisfy the big people in Tollywood, whereas the local artistes are not so bold.”
This protest took place on April 7. Sri Reddy went on to accuse the Movie Artistes Association (MAA) of denying her membership. She said, “I will make it a big issue at the national and international level, if my demands are not met.” Here is a timeline of everything that happened consequently.
The industry did not take the protest in the right spirit and came together to condemn Sri Reddy. They also asked why the actor did not file a formal complaint. On April 8, MAA organised a press conference where actor Meka Srikanth said, “She has appeared on several TV channels and commented a lot on Twitter and Facebook. Her act has come as a rude shock to many younger generation stars in the film industry and created a fear among them.”
Actor Sivaji Raja asked why would director Teja hire her for two films if the industry was against hiring Telugu female actor? He said, “Talented director like Teja has given her two film offers. Today, she is saying there are no offers for Telugu girls. Having starred in those movies, she has gone nude in public for cheap publicity. If we give membership to her, many other actresses will follow in her footsteps. MAA has some rules and regulations and everyone has to follow them and work hard day and night.”
On the same day, an executive meeting was held by MAA members. Actor Naresh said, “We held an executive committee meeting this morning to discuss the issue of suspending her. The association has the right to suspend her as she has insulted both the industry as well as media with her publicity gimmick.”
Sri Reddy, in an interview to News 18, claimed that producer Suresh Babu’s son sexually exploited her. Later, while talking to a local Telugu news channel, Sri Reddy released pictures of herself with Abhiram Daggubati, Suresh Babu’s younger son. “This is Suresh Babu’s son Abhiram and I haven’t revealed his name anywhere so far. Abhiram! Don’t you feel ashamed? You know how you behaved in the studio. Everyone asked for proof, so here is the proof. See this photo, which clearly shows him kissing my face. Now start a rally. Let all Dalit and women associations come forward, fight and give me justice. Because of men like this, many lives are being ruined,” she said.
Sri Reddy released screenshots of Whatsapp chat messages with directors, comedians and scriptwriters from the industry. After speculations claimed that one of the conversations was between the actor and director Kona Venkat, the filmmaker said, “I’m shocked with some allegations made by one actress against some film personalities including me.. I demand the government to conduct through police investigation in these allegations and punish whoever are guilty.. Truth must prevail. legal action follows!! It’s really pity that film industry and film personalities have become soft target to many people who are trying to gain cheap publicity... I definitely support taking Telugu artists in our films.. In Geethanjali u find only Telugu artists. But this is unacceptable. I condemn it.”
Sri Reddy alleged that she would also reveal names of powerful NRIs if action was not taken in the case. The National Human Rights Commission on April 12 took suo motu cognisance of the case and served notices to the Telangana government and the Union ministry of information and broadcasting. This notice was served based on the media reports that noted that there was no redressal panel or committee to address sexual harassment at work place for the film industry.
After the notice, the Telugu Film Chamber of Commerce decided to form CASH - Committee against Sexual Harassment -- in accordance with the Vishaka Guidelines (in which the Supreme Court gave the first formal mandate against sexual harassment at the workplace; the law -- The Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition and Redressal) Act -- came into effect in 2013) in production houses that are registered with the said film chamber. It also decided to set up a sexual harassment redressal panel.
The organisation also lifted the ban on Sri Reddy, imposed by the MAA, resulting in victory for Sri Reddy.
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