HYDERABAD: After Hollywood, it’s city-based Tollywood that is witnessing a #MeToo campaign of sorts. After anchor-turned-actor Sri Reddy triggered off a protest against sexual harassment in the Telugu film industry, 15 character artistes came together on Sunday to share harrowing experiences. This is the first time that so many artistes have come forward to expose the rot in the system.
Casting couch is just the tip of an iceberg, they said, adding that the larger issue is sustained sexual harassment at workplace. They made it clear that the abuse was not targeted at women alone, transgenders and men are also at the receiving end. The artistes did not hesitate to take names or share details of their personal encounters.
Earlier, Sri Reddy had accused people in the industry of casting couch and exploitation of aspirants. She also staged a semi-nude protest outside the Movie Artists’ Association office after which the National Commission for Human Rights sought an explanation from the State government and I&B Ministry about creating a committee to address issues of sexual harassment.
“We are forced to make a ‘commitment’ (read sexual favours) with no guarantee of even a few seconds of screen space,” they alleged. They collectively targeted actor Pawan Kalyan for saying that they should reach out to the police and not the media if there is trouble. “We saw how the police acted when a child was raped in Kashmir. You think we have any hope here?” asked a junior artiste.
“If we decide to reach out to the police to report every case of harassment, the number of police stations in the State will not be enough,” said another artiste. They called upon Pawan Kalyan to be a “hero in real life” and help them solve their problems. “Else none of us will vote for you in polls,” they said. The artistes, along with several women’s associations, will now be starting a campaign to address the issue.
“We are not going to stay quiet anymore. These men are all hypocrites who ensure that the women in their homes are safeguarded while they look at every other woman with a sense of lust and as a sex object. We will not tolerate this anymore. They also need to start casting Telugu women. If they don’t we will ensure that no film will even reach the theatres,” warned Sri Reddy.
Back in Hollywood, the #MeToo campaign took down big-ticket producers like Harvey Weinstein, who has now been banned from the industry. Can victims of sexual harassment in Tollywood expect similar action?