Director Susi Ganeshan, who was accused of sexual harassment by writer and filmmaker Leena Manimekalai in October last year, has filed a complaint of defamation. The complaint has been filed under section 200 of the Code of Criminal Procedure for charges under section 500 of the IPC (punishment for defamation) at the Metropolitan Magistrate Court in Saidapet.
In the complaint copy, which TNM has accessed, Susi Ganeshan has alleged that the accusations made by Leena are false. The director has further resorted to maligning Leena by making aspersions on her character. Claiming that Leena had "begged" him for an opportunity in his "artistic productions", Susi Ganeshan has said that he rejected her because "her contents and sexual ideology did not suit my choice for public consumption".
Susi Ganeshan has further alleged that Leena's 'Me Too' account was written to "grab popularity". Asking why Leena had taken 13 years to speak about the alleged incident, Susi Ganeshan claims that he had also complained to the Commissioner of Police but that no action has been taken till date. The complaint asks for "adequate compensation" under section 357 and costs of litigation under section 359.
The complaint also has 15 attachments of Leena's social media posts in a bid to "prove" that she's of questionable character. Most of these attachments have nothing to do with her posts about the director but are instead on her activities as a writer and her political opinions.
Speaking to TNM, Sudha Ramalingam, Leena Manimekalai's lawyer, said, "The case is posted to 12th July. It's a private complaint for defamation. This is lis pendens (a formal notice of pending legal action) posted before the IX Metropolitan Magistrate Court."
Leena says that she is prepared to fight the legal battle ahead. "I will duly defend myself in court," she told TNM.
Leena first recounted an alleged experience with the Thiruttu Payale director in a Facebook post in February 2017 although she did not name him at the time. She wrote of an incident from 2005, when the director offered to drop her home after an interview at a TV studio in Chennai. She said that shortly after she got into the car, the director turned on the central lock and forced her to go to his house.
“He took the mobile phone that was on my lap, switched it off and threw it. He threatened me, asking me to come to his apartment. I was immobilised with shock for a while. First, I spoke softly and asked him to drop me immediately. I threatened to break the car door. What should have been a 20-minute ride to Vadapalani, witnessed a 45-minute roaming of the streets of Chennai,” she wrote.
Leena, who was also a freelance television producer anchor at the time, was used to taking autos and taxis late at night and carried a pocket knife with her.
“Even then, I only threatened to harm myself. Because I had a knife, I got home that night,” she says. While the Facebook post from February 2017 did not name Susi Ganesan, in October that year, she decided to break her silence.
At the time she told TNM, "I was triggered when I saw the incident with the Malayalam actor happening last year because it involved a car. I saw Saturday’s WCC (Women in Cinema Collective) press meet. It’s a different issue. They are staunchly backing their colleague. That’s what inspired me. Since last week, I have not been able to concentrate on anything. Why wouldn’t I write? I thought I should break the silence in Tamil Nadu. I have been surrounded by a lot of offenders. I was angered by all that I was reading and I wanted to write for my own self, to seek closure, to heal. To enable more voices if possible.”
Following Leena's allegation about Susi Ganeshan, actor Amala Paul also lent her voice of support, stating that the director had misbehaved with her on the sets of Thiruttu Payale 2. Amala had put out her statement on Twitter.
Calling Susi Ganesan "a man who has a twisted set of moral values and utterly low respect for women", Amala had said that she could very well imagine the director misbehaving with Leena. Amala went on to detail her experience of working with Susi Ganesan in Thiruttu Payale 2. Calling it a "mentally fatiguing experience", Amala said that despite being the leading actor for the film, she was subjected to "double meaning talks, misrepresented offers, and unchivalrous bodily contacts."
The actor had gone on to applaud Leena for taking on Susi Ganesan on a public platform and added that with the increase in the number of women in the workforce, such incidents were becoming more and more common in all industries. She also said that men like Susi Ganesan had different standards for the women in their family and those who worked with them.