A prominent woman television serial actor from Kerala has accused the director of her show of misbehaving with her on the sets and also alleged that he sent her inappropriate messages.
Actor Nisha Sarangh, who plays one of the central characters in the serial Uppum Mulagum that airs on Flowers TV, alleged that she was removed from the show without any explanation.
She said that director R Unnikrishnan was taking revenge against her for ignoring his advances and for complaining against him to the channel's head Sreekantan Nair.
The actor made the startling revelation in an exclusive interview to Reporter TV on Saturday.
"Earlier, he has behaved inappropriately with me. You know, the kind of behaviour that certain bad men show towards women. I resisted it, but he was the kind who would come back again. So I clearly told him I don't like the way he is treating me. And he got angry when I reacted, so he started calling me names. This is when I complained to the channel head," Nisha alleged.
In the 30-minute interview, Nisha alleged that director Unnikrishnan has been constantly harassing her mentally and mistreating her on the sets.
"He used to send me inappropriate text messages on my mobile phone. I never replied to it, why should I reply to such inappropriate messages from a man like that? I have many times told him not to do so. But it continued. He also resorted to addressing me disrespectfully and started calling me names. When I complained to the channel head, he warned the director, the latter started holding a grudge towards me," Nisha said.
Indiscriminate removal from the show
The latest issue cropped up after Nisha took leave from the show to attend an award ceremony in the United States.
Nisha said that she had received permission from Unnikrishnan to attend the show in the US from July 1 to 5. However, when she returned, she was told that she was not allowed back into the sets of the programme, Nisha alleged.
"Ever since I am back from the US, they have not allowed me on the sets. Director Unnikrishnan has told people on the location, that I did not seek his permission to attend the show in US. I have definite information that he said so in the location recently. It's a lie, I went after getting permission from him. I have not been allowed to work in the show ever since I got back. But still, I haven't got any official word from either the director or the channel, that I have been removed from the show," Nisha told Reporter TV.
Nisha said that it was after the team of Uppum Mulagum attended a show in Qatar, that the director began to hold a grudge against her. The team performed a skit, in which the director too was supposed to play a role.
"But just before the show, director got drunk and he refused to perform. At the last minute, we were forced to make someone else cover up for him. We didn't have any other choice then. After that, the director didn't speak to us. Someone asked us why this director had come along with us, but I didn't answer. However, the director was under the impression that I spoke against him," Nisha said.
She said that this episode, coupled with the fact that she resisted when the director misbehaved with her in the past, were the reasons for the director harassing her.
Most often, she would cry on the sets and was forced to work after putting up with the director's harassment, Nisha alleged.
"I tried ignoring it for long, because I wanted to get my daughter married off. For that, I needed my work. The director has constantly harassed me. When he realised that I was getting popular because of the show, he made certain media outlets publish stories saying that I was in a live-in relationship. He used to ridicule me on the sets saying this. People who know me are aware of the fact that I was legally married and now legally divorced," Nisha said.
After she left for the show in US, the character played by Nisha in the serial was shown in a bad light and eased out, she pointed out.
"For the last three years since the programme began, Neelima has been shown as a respectful woman. In my absence, in the last two episodes, there were dialogues that portrayed Neelima as a bad mother. The husband's character was made to say dialogues on the lines that Neelima had shunned her infant and gone off somewhere. What's all this?" Nisha asked.
Nisha said that she has reported the incident to Association Of Television Media Artistes (ATMA) and that she hopes the organisation will intervene.
Meanwhile, director Unnikrishnan told TNM that he does not want to comment on Nisha's allegations.
"Please don't ask me anything on this matter, I do not want to make a comment," Unnikrishnan said.
Though TNM reached out to Sreekandan Nair several times, he did not reply to our queries.
Reacting to the issues raised by actor Nisha, actor, theatre personality and activist Maala Parvathy said:
"At a time when people across the world are discussing about problems women go through, is this the way an artist should be treated? At a time when someone loses their job, no one speaks for them. What's the point of supporting them at a much later stage?"
Parvathy also narrated her experiences of leaving a serial due to non payment and another one of quitting a channel due to unwanted advances by the channel's owner.
The Women in Cinema Collective has also asked for action to be taken against the director and pledged their solidarity
See the full interview here.