A civil court in Chennai on Wednesday extended the interim stay that was granted to singer Chinmayi on her ban from the dubbing union – but at what cost?
The award winning singer shares with TNM that she had to undergo a very unpleasant experience during the court hearing with Radha Ravi’s counsel resorting to hurling denigrating remarks at her.
“They called me a liar, a fraud, and an attention seeker. They even argued that there is no benefit of granting me an injunction. I do not understand how a lawyer can make such a statement in the court of law,” says an exasperated Chinmayi.
In an ordeal that lasted for two hours, Radha Ravi’s counsel had also argued that Chinmayi must be a liar for knowing so many languages such as Urdu and Punjabi.
“I won a gold medal for ghazals from All India Radio when I was 17 or 18, probably the first person to do so from Chennai. Radha Ravi’s lawyer, who is a retired colonel, argued that even though he was posted in Kashmir for three years, he didn’t know Urdu. His point was that I must be a liar for knowing so many languages. I have performed in Jammu. I learnt the basics of the language to read and write, although I may not be in touch with it today, to be able to perform better. How is this even related to the case?” she asks.
She further adds that her lawyer’s requests to the opposing counsel to not indulge in character assassination were not heeded. “I felt like crying. My lawyer kept asking him to stick to the case and not indulge in character assassination. That did not stop him,” she tells us.
In November last year, singer Chinmayi was axed from the dubbing union without prior notice, a direct consequence of having levelled allegations of sexual harassment against poet Vairamuthu and actor Radha Ravi. Chinmayi is one of the forerunners of the #MeToo movement in South Indian industry, adding her voice to the movement in addition to supporting many women who shared instances of sexual harassment at the workplace.
The playback singer and dubbing artiste had filed a civil suit in February this year against the union for firing her without giving her prior notice. On March 16 this year, when the case came up for hearing, Chinmayi was granted interim stay on the ban, giving her a brief respite. Ideally, Chinmayi should be able to work but the singer tells us that opportunities have dwindled in the recent past.
“I am at the peak of my career. When MeToo was happening I’d record three songs a day and I was dubbing for quite a few films. I dubbed for 96, probably the first time someone has dubbed for a heroine throughout the film. Now, work has become very rare. During the past few months, I got a few voice tests but they never translated into assignments. Members of the dubbing union have been orally telling everyone that if they hire me, the others from the union will not cooperate,” she shares.
On her singing career too, Chinmayi is braving a tough time. “Work has become super rare. In the recent past, it has become mildly better mainly because young composers like Govind Vasantha and Gibran remain very supportive. All of this makes me wonder, how will anyone come forward to share their bitter experiences of workplace sexual harassment if this is how I’m being treated?” she asks.
The next hearing in the case has been scheduled for June 6, when the court reopens after summer vacations.