South Indian actor Nayanthara is known in the Tamil film industry as the ‘lady superstar’. Recent comments made by senior actor and politician Radha Ravi, however, have revealed, yet again, that a woman’s status and success offer no protection from open misogyny. Speaking at an event promoting a film of Nayanthara, the actor made derogatory comments about her character ostensibly as a joke. His remarks received applause from the audience. However, a video of his speech went viral and drew condemnation on social media. On Monday, Radha Ravi, a member of the DMK, was suspended by the party. The powerful South Indian Artistes’ Association (Nadigar Sangam), of which he is a past president, issued a statement condemning his remarks.
While this is a welcome change from an industry that has long turned a blind eye to his misogynistic remarks, it must be noted that the condemnation is still only confined to pockets. Just as few backed the struggle of singer Chinmayi Sripaada and others when, as part of the #MeToo movement, they levelled charges of sexual harassment against film personalities including Radha Ravi. In fact, Chinmayi was dropped from the dubbing union headed by Radha Ravi on flimsy grounds and has been unable to dub for films since then.
Even actor-politicians such as Rajinikanth and Kamal Haasan, for all their rhetoric on women’s safety, have failed to lead the charge against such violences in their own industry. If the Nadigar Sangam and the Tamil film industry wish to signal that they are finally serious about treating women professionals with respect, they should begin by ensuring that—as Nayanthara has asked in her statement—a fully-functional and sensitised Internal Complaints Committee is formed as mandated by law. Such ICCs should also be set up at every film production house. That is the bare minimum reel heroes can do in the real world.