CHENNAI: The cine stars’ silence on the raging #MeToo movement in the media industry arouses suspicions about their past, said Leena Manimekalai, a film-maker and poet, speaking to reporters on Tuesday.
Earlier in the week, she put up a Facebook post alleging that film director Susi Ganesan had sexually harassed her.
Ganesan, however, denied her accusations, saying she was misusing the movement to take revenge.
Speaking to reporters about the silence among the popular persons in the cinema industry, Leena said that she did not want to appeal to the big “boys club” to speak for the movement. “They are no different from any common man. But, the longer they stay silent, the more suspicious I get about their past,” she said, adding that she decided to come out and speak about her incident, as she wanted to give voice to all women who are scared of opening up.
Leena recounted the incident from 2005 when Ganesan allegedly offered to drop her home after an interview at a TV studio in Chennai. She said the director turned on the central lock system in his car after she got into the vehicle and forced her to come to his house.
“Our conversation was normal at first, but his tone changed suddenly after he put the central lock on. He took the phone from my lap and threw it somewhere in the car. I was immobilised first and asked him to drop me immediately. Then I threatened to break the car door,” she said, adding that he drove her around Chennai streets for 45 minutes.
#SusiGanesan spoke to my aged father on the phone and threatened us with dire consequences if I continue to stand by Leena. So I just want everyone to know that now more than ever... I Stand With #LeenaManimekalai. Stay strong and fight the good fight sister! #MeToo #TimesUp https://t.co/aMNfxXm46M— Siddharth (@Actor_Siddharth) October 17, 2018
Leena said that she always carried a pocket knife with her for safety and threatened to harm herself if he didn’t drop her safely. She said that the recent bout of sexual harassment allegations through the #MeToo movement triggered her to speak about the incident.
While she posted the incident a year ago on Facebook, she named Susi Ganesan on Sunday.
Susi Ganesan responded to Leena Manimekalai’s allegations on his Facebook page by alleging that it was her character that was flawed. He said she was a “modern woman” who gets inside a car irrespective of who is inside. He accused her of abusing men for benefits in return and of naming him for revenge.
“She wanted to work as an assistant director or poet in my film and I didn’t give her the chance. She’s taking revenge now,” he said, adding that before he made public the evidence against her, she must apologise on her Facebook page for the lies or he would go to court to clean up his name.
Responding to his comment, Leena called his retaliation a slander and an attempt at character assassination.
“Slander is not new to me. I know it is a weapon patriarchy uses to shut women up. I am no longer afraid of that,” she said.