They promise us roles, sleep with us: Telugu cinema’s Me Too moment
Telugu actor Sri Reddy’s protest against the prevalence of casting couch in the Telugu film industry has emboldened small-time artistes to come out with their tales of sexual and financial exploitation.Updated: Apr 17, 2018 13:16 IST
Love her or hate her, ignore Sri Reddy you can’t. The gutsy actor, who stripped in public to protest the issue of casting couch in Telugu film industry and industry bigwigs’ preferring girls from other states over Telugu female actors, has opened up a veritable can of worms.
On Sunday, Hyderabad saw a round table that featured female actors who appear in character roles or are junior artistes. NGOs and advocates come together to discuss the problems faced by them while working in the said industry, reports Deccan Chronicle. The women, who work in the Telugu film industry, shared their experiences of sexual exploitation and bad working conditions.
Dubbed ‘Sexual and financial exploitation of women in Telugu Film Industry’, the round table saw an actor, who didn’t want to be identified and covered her face with a dupatta, about the problems faced during outdoor shoots. The Indian Express quoted her as saying, “During the outdoor shootings, the filmmakers don’t even arrange toilet facilities.” Recounting the unfair treatment meted out to small-time artistes, she explained how they are forced to change clothes in the open.
The actor went on to express how they are denied roles even after they agree to sleep with powerful men from the industry. “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,” The Indian Express quoted her as saying.
Deccan Chronicle quoted another junior artist named Shruti who explained how they are denied roles as they are dark-skinned and fat. “We are denied roles because we are dark skinned and fat, by the same men and coordinators who slept with us promising us a role in their movies.”
“Our leaders speak about Swachh Bharat, but artistes like us have to relieve ourselves in the open during shootings because there are no washroom facilities for us during the shoots.”
Another harrowing experience was that of transgender actor Sana Rathod. She explained how a director she approached for a role asked her to strip just to see how a transgender looked like. Quoting her, Indian Express wrote: “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?”
There was considerable distress at the silence from the industry over the issue. Actor Apoorva, who resigned from Movie Artistes Association (MAA) in protest against their treatment of Sri Reddy, was livid at industry’s silence over the issue. She was quoted by Indian Express as saying, “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?”
Sri Reddy, who was present at the round table, didn’t mince words either. The News Minute quoting her, said, “Behind all the glitz of the movie world and the makeup, there is a lot of distress, suffering, and sexual exploitation. Despite my attempts to address the issues since over a month, there hasn’t been any response from the elders of this industry. Instead, attempts were made to gag dissent and it backfired with so many of us coming forward to speak about our sufferings.”
Meanwhile, actor Pawan Kalyan’s advised Sri Reddy to go to police, instead of sensationalizing the issue by speaking to TV channels was slammed from all quarters.
Meera Sanghamitra, national convener of National Alliance of People’s Movements, said that every that person who has remained silent, ought to be held equally responsible as well. “Our heroes are a very obvious display of problematic hypermasculinity and heroism on screen. Let’s talk about the utter lack of humanity. Every person who hasn’t spoken about this is either committing the crime or abetting the crime. Every person who has the privilege and is not speaking out is responsible,” the News Minute reported.
As part of the discussion, those gathered demanded that there should be a proper mechanism in place to protect members of film fraternity from sexual harassment and at least 10 days of work in a month for Telugu artistes, the Indian express added.
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