HYDERABAD: The message from junior artistes in Tollywood was loud and clear. “We do all that it takes for a director in the Telugu Film Industry to give us a chance. From offering sexual favours, undergoing surgeries to look better and even changing our skin tone. But, we are just pawns in their hands, and we are not going to remain the same anymore.” This was what around 15 junior artistes echoed while sharing with the media what they have had to endure.
The gathering was led by anchor-turned-actress Sri Reddy, who recently hit the headlines for her semi-nude protest outside Movie Artists Association for casting couch in the industry. What followed, according to her, was nothing but threats. She was also labelled as a ‘slut’ by fellow female artists. However, one popular character artiste, K Apoorva, took her side and that was when more women started approaching them sharing their experiences.
They sought help, and stated that until Sri Reddy’s ‘dramatic confrontation’, they had nowhere to go to talk about their issues.
One after the other, every woman artiste who came to speak, aged 18 to 40, stated that they are sexually exploited in exchange for a few seconds on the screen. Most often, they end up without a role. “Most of the characters I get are that of a mother or an aunty. They call me ‘amma’ at the shooting spot in the morning and ask me to come and sleep with them at night,” says Sandhya Naidu, who has been in the industry for 10 years now. The deal is always, what’s in it for me if I help you get a role, she added. Once they are back home and since WhatsApp has become popular, they are forced to chat with them. “One of them asked me what I was wearing and if it is transparent,” added Sandhya.
Even those as young as 17, who work as assistants & technicians act this way. Besides this, conditions, while they are on location, are pathetic.
“We have to change clothes outdoors and relieve ourselves outdoors. While the managers ask us to use the caravans of the stars, we are not allowed and are treated like worms. They used crude language and ask not to lurk around,” said Sunitha Reddy, another artiste.
When Sri Reddy openly talked about these aspects on a television channel, the one question that came about the most was, if the industry is so ugly, why do you want to be there in the first place. Actor Sri Reddy will also lead the Stree Shakti movement against the prevalence of casting couch in Tollywood.
‘Will ensure industry is safe for women’
The anchor-turned-actress has stated that with the help of women’s organisations, she will begin work to ensure that the industry is safe for women. “We are not going to stay silent anymore. We are being trolled, threatened by so many people, but I think we will not give up. This will go on till our demands are met,” she said.
Set up committee against sexual harassment through elections
Provide roles to local artistes, at least in 70:30 ratio
Stop making remarks about dark skin
10 days of work in a month with minimum wages