Almost exactly a year ago, actor-politician-social commentator, Kamal Haasan, spoke up in support of the #MeToo movement at a music launch event. “As a society, we need to provide a safe atmosphere for women,” Kamal had said, adding, “And that lies in the hands of men.” Cut to November 8, 2019, and Kamal Haasan invited the who’s-who of the film industry for the launch of his new office in Chennai. And among the chief guests on the dais: Superstar Rajinikanth, Acclaimed Director Mani Ratnam, and Sexual Harassment Accused Vairamuthu.
Kamal Haasan had invited the important people (read: men) in the industry for the inauguration of the new office of his production house, Raaj Kamal Films International, a day after his birthday. As the boys’ club indulged in some mutual appreciation and celebration, not one of the important people addressed the elephant in the room: allegations of sexual harassment against lyricist Vairamuthu by several women in the singing field, including singer Chinmayi.
The #MeToo movement in October last year saw multiple women, including singer Chinmayi Sripaada, accusing the lyricist of sexual misconduct at the workplace. While Chinmayi has since reported the drying up of work offers and ostracisation by a large section of the Tamil film industry, Vairamuthu not only continues to bag big films but also enjoys the same social acceptance as before. Proving of course not only the hollowness, but the deliberate malice in the ‘sexual-harassment-
Vairamuthu took to the stage at the event, giving a speech in which he expressed gratitude to directors Bharathiraja and Balachander for his four-decade-long career. Kamal and Rajinikanth’s speeches also touched upon their relationship with Balachander and with each other.
Actors Shruti Haasan and Akshara Haasan flanked their father Kamal along, with actor Pooja Kumar. Also present at the event were actors Nasser, Santhana Bharathi, Ramesh Aravind, producer Ishari Ganesh, producer Pyramid V Natarajan, director KS Ravikumar, actor and orator Gnanasambandam, and cinematographer PC Sriram among others.
In October 2018, Chinmayi named Vairamuthu as a sexual harasser and alleged that she had been asked by the organiser of a programme in Switzerland to "cooperate" with Vairamuthu – as a euphemism for providing sexual favours. She was reportedly asked to visit him in a hotel in Lucerne. When she refused and demanded that they (Chinmayi and her mother) return to India, she was supposedly told that her career was over. Chinmayi says that the incident took place in 2005 or 2006. Before that, when she was still a teenager, he allegedly groped her at his office. Following her decision to publicly reveal his name, however, the singer has been facing massive backlash from the Tamil film industry and was even ousted from the dubbing union. Following her revelations, several others in the industry too, both anonymously and openly, admitted to having similar experiences with the lyricist.
Molesters in the public space always know how to work their image. Display of strength, support, especially in public platforms. Some would have prominent politicians. Laughing and in back-slapping terms.— Chinmayi Sripaada (@Chinmayi) November 8, 2019
This imagery is what makes perceive fear. It had me fearful for years.
That’s right. Here’s everyone who mingles with Vairamuthu — for all of us to note. https://t.co/QAnr2SbwXf— Ranjani (@_tharkuri) November 8, 2019
What kinda clout does #Vairamuthu have, to sit up on this stage with these top people, after all the #metoo allegations against him? This is beyond baffling at this point.— shae (@shae_living) November 8, 2019
I’m so sorry @Chinmayi, keep the good fight going. https://t.co/QQJ8Ghu6XW
Literally the who's who of Tamil film industry - Kamal Hassan, Rajinikanth, Mani Ratnam etc. This is irresponsible, incredibly demeaning and demotivating, sends a horrendously poor signal about normalizing :( https://t.co/mA00taEvHa— Karthik (@beastoftraal) November 8, 2019
The trackers will never call this out because the industry feeds them. In an incestuous, badly organized, unprofessional industry, it is close to impossible for the rest. It is left to the outsiders with nothing to lose. But I wonder what will ever come of it. https://t.co/UTxnDvFrXd— Aditya Shrikrishna (@gradwolf) November 8, 2019