A day after Telugu actor Sri Reddy held a semi-nude protest outside the Telugu Film Chamber of Commerce, alleging sexual exploitation by some unnamed filmmakers in Tollywood, the Movies Artist Association has now hit back.
On Sunday, the association said that a collective decision had been taken after Sri Reddy’s protest, to deny her a membership, as well as boycott her films.
Sri Reddy, who has been speaking about the ‘casting couch’ – a euphemism for sexual harassment – in Tollywood, took off her top and put her arms across her chest on Saturday after asking the media to gather.
While she made several allegations, one of her claims was that she was intentionally denied a membership by MAA. She was, however, soon escorted away from the area by police personnel after she refused to call off the protest.
Addressing reporters on Sunday morning, MAA President Sivaji Raja said that he was 'hurt' by all the allegations levelled against the association.
"Not one thing that Sri Reddy said yesterday was true. I remember her, as she met me earlier. I always assured her of help. We always take complaints seriously and we are approachable. Instead, if you go on social media and say whatever you like for cheap publicity, this is not done," an irked Sivaji said.
He also said that MAA had officially denied her membership after her latest 'stunt'.
Further punishing the actor who made allegations of sexual harassment in the industry, Sivaji said, "Not only that, no artist who is member of the MAA will act with her. If they do, they will be suspended.”
Stating that he had personally spoken to director Teja and other producers in the past and ensured that Sri Reddy got a few roles, he said, "We are bound by the association's rules. Getting the card is a long process. We work day and night for the film industry and address so many complaints frequently."
"We were forced to call the press meet today after the girl stripped on the road like that and claimed that we were not giving her the card. This is not true. Do not blackmail us. She must follow the rules. We have great respect for women and you can ask any of our female committee members to vouch for that," he added.
Clarifying that it is not mandatory to be a member of the association to act in a film, actor Banerjee held up an application form in front of the media.
"When the incident first broke out and Sri Reddy claimed that she was denied membership, we came forward and gave her an application form. We have a set of rules, and she didn't sign in two places and she didn't attach papers about the films she acted in. She paid for the application form but not the membership fee. When we confronted her, she said that she would give it later," he narrated.
"I spoke to the president (of the association) and we told her that now that she has applied to be a MAA member, she needn't go to TV channels and level allegations against the entire industry. We assured her that she will get the card," he added.
Banerjee claimed that Sri Reddy apologised and told them that she won't do it again.
"However, even as she climbed down the stairs of the office, she began cursing the association on social media," he said.
Speaking about her latest protest, Banerjee said, "The way she behaved yesterday, stripping in public, is ultimate.”
“I believe she has some problem and it’s not just about the card,” Banerjee insinuated. “I don't know what her intention is. If we don't speak now, it would be wrong. People should know the truth, which is why this press meet was held,” he said.
Narrating a recent incident when MAA summoned a big director based on a woman's complaint, actor Hema told reporters, "The approach of that woman is not at all correct. We take such complaints very seriously."
Questioning why ‘outsiders’ are chosen over local talent, Sri Reddy had said, “For the past 10, 15 years, why are women coming from outside, from North India? Even side actors don’t come (from here). Even mother actors are not allowed to come. All of them are brought from outside. Do you only want sexual commitments? Do you not want talent?”
"There are so many of us. How can she say that? Stooping so low because opportunities were not given to you, is not right. We gave her an application, but she didn't fill them properly. How can she expect an MAA card overnight?" Hema questioned.
"If we have given her an application, it means we have welcomed her," she added, stating that Sri Reddy’s 'arrogant behaviour' will not be tolerated.
On Saturday, actor Sri Reddy stripped down outside the Telugu Film Chamber of Commerce to protest against sexual exploitation in the Telugu film industry.
Speaking to the media, Sri Reddy said, "So, if we come out (with the allegations), they call us prostitutes. I don't know about others. I don't speak about others. I have faced injustice. I have proof. They don't come out because they are afraid of the proof I have. I still say the Telugu film industry is my family. I can reject them if they deny me justice."
She went on to say, "All my parents' shame has gone. I have taken off all my clothes. No family will be happy with this. But I have removed all my clothes and I am standing on the road in front of so many men. But I am not thinking about my family. I am thinking about girls. From the beginning I have been saying this: you have to sleep, you have to sleep, you have to sleep. You have to prostitute, you have to prostitute, you have to prostitute. How many days? How long? We have to do naked video calls. We have to take photos of our breasts and private parts and send. Don't you elders feel ashamed to send messages like that? Heroes. Big stars. You fight on screen like big stars and you send messages like this. Don't we know how you are in person?"
Sri Reddy has also claimed she has proof that big filmmakers have asked for nudes and sexual favours, although she hasn’t released them so far.