Radha Ravi runs south dubbing union like a mafia, allege ousted members

From pending cases to allegations of fund mismanagement and sexual harassment, the members say that the Union controlled by Radha Ravi is unprofessional.
Radha Ravi runs south dubbing union like a mafia, allege ousted members
Radha Ravi runs south dubbing union like a mafia, allege ousted members
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“We are a bunch of nobodies. Who is there to listen to our story?” begins Dasarathy, a voice artiste who first performed as a child in 1981. Dasarathy along with J Mathiazagan and Booma Subbarao allege that the South Indian Cine, Television Artistes and Dubbing Artistes Union (SICTADAU), presently headed by actor Radha Ravi, is acting against the welfare of its own members. While Booma and Dasararthy have been suspended from the Union, Mathiazhagan has been terminated.

The members also have concerns about a number of other issues, ranging from admission fee and pending cases to the absence of an Internal Complaints Committee in the union.

Union Elections

Dasarathy alleges that ever since the Union was formed in 1983, they have never had proper, fair elections. “The first to happen was in March this year,” he says.

The elections that took place on March 3 were presided by retired Judge Kavitha. 23 members from the opposing team, Rama Rajiyam headed by Rathnakumar, contested for various posts in the Union. 

L to R: Dasarathy, Mathiazhagan and Booma

Actor Rohini and artiste Nimmy were the only ones who won posts from the opposing team - Vice President and Executive Member respectively.

Voice artiste Sumathi, who also contested in the election, alleges that on the day of voting, Radha Ravi’s team employed goons at the venue to intimidate those present. “I was literally chased on my way back home. They wanted to create fear in our minds, no doubt,” she alleges.

Booma also claims that the list of members given by the Union had close to 40% fake addresses that proved challenging for them to reach out to the members for election campaigning. “How were we to do our campaigns? People who haven’t even dubbed picked up our calls. Are they members or are they fake contact numbers?” she asks.   

In spite of this, the opposition was able to gather 44% of votes, Dasarathy tells us.

Actor Radha Ravi, who emerged victorious in the elections, however, remains unfazed in the face of these allegations. He tells us that Judge Kavitha was brought on board by the opposing team to oversee the elections. “Haven’t they admitted themselves that the elections took place properly this time? I’ve won in the elections fair and square," he says.

Unlawful terminations and pending cases

Booma says that in 2016, when she had joined the Union, she raised a simple question on a Dubbing Union Facebook group. “In 2012, when I wanted to enter the dubbing field, my father had enquired on what needs to be done. That was when we heard that if I wanted to become a member, I had to meet Radha Ravi at his residence. I gave up on my dream then,” she says.

Later in 2016, Booma understood that this needn’t be the case. Upon becoming a member in 2016, she had posted a question that she wanted to ask on the Union’s Facebook group - ‘Is it required for someone to visit Radha Ravi at his residence to become a member?’

“The amount of hate I faced for this question knew no bounds. Everyone pounced on me saying how can I insinuate such a thing. And that if I thought all the women in the Union got their membership by “meeting” Radha Ravi at his residence,” shares Booma.

According to Dasarathy, Radha Ravi has always been the face of the Union.

"Radha Ravi has always wielded absolute power over the Union ever since it was formed in 1983. During his political stint also, the member who was appointed as president was only an acting president. The absolute control lay with Radha Ravi," says Dasarathy.

Booma was immediately suspended from the Union for allegedly defaming the Union and its members. Within just months after gaining her membership, Booma’s suspension came as a dampener for her. “I filed a civil suit against my unlawful termination and an injunction was granted in my favour. They, however, have appealed again,” she shares.

She also adds that the judgement copy reads, “conversing among members on social networking sites is not an offence and hence no action will lie against the petitioner.”  “In spite of this, I get no work. I'm not allowed to find an opportunity for myself. This total isolation has taken a toll on my work,” she alleges.

Paragraphs from her Judgement copy

Both Dasarathy and Mathiazhagan corroborate Booma’s story. They allege that the Union has several pending cases with its own members. “The hunt began for us when we questioned their plan to bring in 10% cuts from our television dubbing projects as well. Close to 140 of us gathered together to question the Union. Our membership has been suspended since, for unlawful gathering," he says.

“Anyone who questions the way the union functions is isolated and terminated. The bylaws of the Union, that mandate every member to go through the Union to find work, makes it difficult for those who have been suspended or terminated to find other opportunities. Their entire livelihood is affected,” says Dasarathy, adding, “How is this fair? The ones running it are like movie mafia.”

While Radhi Ravi did not want to comment on the cases that are in the court of law, he says those making the allegations do not know how the Union functions since he came into power. “All these cases have been filed by the members against the Union and not the other way around,” he adds.

Lack of transparency in financial accounts

Mathiazhagan’s membership was terminated in 2015 along with R Mahalakshmi and PR Kannan soon after they questioned the 10% cuts that go unaccounted for from their salaries.

Dasarathy explains that agents/in-charges were introduced in the Union around 2004 and this was around the same time  that 10% of their salary was taken by the Union as part of the Union Welfare Fund. “What happens to this welfare fund? We are not told,” he says, adding, “A number of members find it difficult to find jobs, they only favour a few.”

A non-member now, Mathiazhagan shares that he is unable to find any work. “I'm not allowed to use dubbing studios either. The Union has sent all the studios a circular specifically instructing them to avoid our association,” he shares.

Dasarathy further questions the accounts maintained by the Union. “First, they do not have two separate headings for Union Fund and Union Welfare Fund. Second, they only show us the financial documents on the day of the general body meeting. The interesting thing is that if we want to raise any questions on the day of the meeting, we should have had our questions approved by the Union seven days in prior. How is it possible for us to preconceive questions on the financial books?” he asks.

Radha Ravi, however, refutes these allegations and claims that the financial books are shown to the members and that the committee meetings that happen every month also discusses members’ woes. When asked about the one-week notice for questions, he brushes it off with “we follow proper rules before every general body meeting."

Another question that Booma raises is the membership fee. “If you go through our bylaws, you’ll see that membership fee has been fixed at Rs 2500 per person. But if you were to go in person and enquire, they’ll ask you to pay Rs 1 lakh towards 'general welfare funds'. Where is this money going?”

SICTADAU’s President Radha Ravi, however, challenges it with “If they know how to run the Union,  they can ask me this question. They will not be asking this if they knew how administration works.”

Dasarathy also alleges that the Union, in the name of constructing a new facility, has been looting the organisation of its funds.

No Internal Complaints Committee

While Dasarathy, Booma and Mathiazhagan allege that SICTADAU has no Internal Complaints Committee in place, Radha Ravi tells us that the Union does have a committee in place with one member exclusively nominated from the women’s wing, Sreeja Lakshmi.

However, the presence of this committee is very debatable, Dasarathy alleges.

“If we were to raise any questions, we are slut-shamed. And the disheartening part is these questions are raised by women themselves,” says Booma.

While two sexual harassment allegations have been raised against Radha Ravi in the recent past, he is confident that he’ll be able to prove them wrong. “Let them come. These are wrongful allegations. I’m not sure how many of them I’ve even met," he says.

On being asked if it was mandatory for members to visit him at his residence to gain membership, he says, “My office is at my residence. If members have to meet me, they’ll have to come there.”

Of the many questions raised, the members time and again state that while Radha Ravi did help the Union gain the recognition it has today, a totalitarian grip on the Union works against the benefit of its own members.

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