Telugu film critic Mahesh Kathi has threatened to file a defamation case against junior artiste Sunitha for making allegations that he had sexually assaulted her.
During a live debate on TV9, Sunitha accused Kathi of sexually exploiting her and assaulting her. She also added that she had proof to back up her claims.
Following this, Kathi has threatened to file a Rs 50 lakh law suit against the actor for allegedly maligning his character and reputation. He alleges that it is a witch hunt by actor Chiranjeevi’s family to sabotage his career and ruin his image.
According to Kathi, Vakada Apparao, who is reportedly a close aide of Chiranjeevi, and who is also associated with his home production, Konidela Productions, is responsible for this ‘slander’ campaign against him. The motive, Kathi claims, is his act of supporting actor Sri Reddy, who has been protesting against the alleged sexual exploitation and harassment of women in the Telugu film industry.
“Vakada Apparao is accused by many artistes of sexually exploiting them. I lent support to their campaign against sexual exploitation. I supported Sri Reddy’s campaign. This is a campaign by Chiranjeevi’s family to bring down me. They are instigating this woman against me,” Kathi told over phone to TNM.
“I know the woman through Facebook, I have gave her money in the past, whenever she messaged me claiming helplessness. That’s all. But these accusations are appalling and are definitely false. Why didn’t she approach the police, if she has evidence? She is being used to defame me," Kathi claimed.
He added, “I am filing the case on April 20. I am yet to gather her details to file the suit. I won't back down since she has made baseless allegations.”
Sunitha, during the debate, stated that she has evidence of the conversations between her and Kathi on Facebook, in which Kathi allegedly invited her to his residence and gave Rs 500 after sexually assaulting her.
The debate around sexual exploitation in the Telugu industry started with actor Sri Reddy making allegations about several influential people.
After making a series of allegations on TV which did not evoke any serious response from the film industry, Sri Reddy stripped before the Telugu Film Chamber of Commerce as a final resort. She was also protesting against the Movie Artists’ Association (MAA) which denied her membership.
The National Human Rights Commission took a suo moto case on April 12, based on media reports and asked the Centre and State to give a detailed report on what mechanism they have set in place to prevent sexual harassment in the film industry.
It also asked the Telangana government to initiate a police investigation into the allegations made by Sri Reddy. Besides, it also slammed the MAA for denying membership and issuing a boycott against her.
Almost immediately, on the same day, MAA lifted the ban against Sri Reddy and gave her the membership.
Sri Reddy’s campaign against sexual exploitation in Tollywood continues. On Sunday, several junior artistes including Sri Reddy, formed Sthree Shakthi—a group to fight against sexual harassment.