A social movement has the power to expose people and their ideas on morality, ethics and justice. The recent #MeToo movement in India has ripped the masks off predators and drained the colours of their supporters, and more importantly it has got people talking and taking stands. The dialogue so far has laid bare the common prejudices in people’s minds and the movement continues to march forward.
Singer Chinmayi has accused lyricist and writer Vairamuthu of sexual harassment. Several others have also anonymously alleged that Vairamuthu had sexually harassed them. While the Tamil film industry has largely been silent about the accusations, singer and music composer AR Raihanah, who is also AR Rahman's sister, has admitted that Vairamuthu does have a "reputation" in the industry.
Speaking to TNM, AR Raihanah said that while she has heard of several accounts about Vairamuthu's behaviour, she herself has not faced any such harassment.
“Several women have told me about Vairamuthu. It is an open secret and a lot of people have faced it. I never come across such things because I behave in a dignified manner. Most of them are scared to talk to me in such a case," she said.
Reiterating that Vairamuthu has behaved with dignity to her and that she has no right to blame him, Raihanah said, “If there is a crime and I say something about the accused, it will become a court case. I have heard and I told (that he has harassed women). I have not faced it personally. He has behaved with great dignity to me in the few meetings that we have had. How can I blame him? What right do I have? Whoever has experienced harassment must report it. I once met him in a function and said his lyrics were very good and he smiled in a respectful manner.”
In a recent interview with News 7 Tamil, Raihanah said that it was quite important to make workplaces safer for women. She added that harassment at the workplace is more of a social taboo.
Speaking about Chinmayi who came forward and named Vairamuthu as a predator, Raihanah said that while she believes Chinmayi, her only problem is with the time she took to speak up. “I believe in what she says but the only problem I have is in bringing it up 15 years later. She should have solved it that day itself.”
"I don't think she’s doing it to defame him. I only question her on why she had to put up with it for 15 years? I don't know how to tell, but I’ve heard many stories,” she said.
She further added that Vairamuthu’s behaviour was an “open secret in the industry”.
“I have heard about his reputation from others as well. We should have curbed him in the beginning and not have let it grow so much. Chinmayi inviting him for her wedding, getting his blessings, all this acting is unnecessary… We want to avoid such instances from happening again,” she said.
In the News 7 interview, Raihanah added that this should not just stop with Vairamuthu. “Why target him alone? A lot of singers have also been named. Deal with that also in a big way!” she said.
The singer-composer also maintained that AR Rahman, her brother, had no idea about Vairamuthu’s behaviour in the industry in spite of working closely with both Vairamuthu and Chinmayi because he stays away from "gossip".