Even as the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) issued notices to the Telangana government and the I&B Ministry over actor Sri Reddy’s allegations of sexual exploitation in Tollywood, another actor has now announced support for Sri Reddy.
Actor Maadhavi Latha announced a ‘satyagraha’ against the ‘casting couch’ – a euphemism for sexual harassment – in the Telugu film industry.
Taking to Facebook, she asked other women in Tollywood to inbox her with their problems and said that a meeting would be held soon with all victims of sexual harassment.
Speaking in a TV9 debate on Thursday, Maadhavi said, “My fight against the issue will be a long and slow battle, instead of shouting on television channels. Some people have already been named in this whole issue. Many women are waiting to see what action will be taken. If the authorities are willing to act, many more of us will come forward and reveal names.”
In the same debate, she also said that she feared to divulge the names because some of them might ruin her chances in the industry.
“I don’t have enemies in the industry and I have always been polite. Still some persons have snatched chances away from me. I love to act and being an actor was my dream from when I was a child. I want to last in the industry and I still love Tollywood. I’m not saying everyone, but some people, if they are named, will ruin my chances,” Maadhavi said.
“It is about our passion and existence. We want to be here. We don’t want to get scared and run away. I like being here and I still managed to get some success with one or two films. What about the new women who are coming now? We have the talent, but they should give women the chance to prove it. I fear naming the people, as my chances in the industry will go,” she added.
Speaking in the debate, human rights activist Babu Gogineni asked Maadhavi to reconsider her decision not to name the men in Tollywood who ask for sexual favours.
“The longer you hide names, you are allowing this to happen. You are not causing it, but you are allowing it to happen. Kindly revisit that. Sexual favours being expected and demanded is unlawful and people who make sexual advances are criminals,” he said.
Last week, actor Sri Reddy created a sensation by doing a semi-nude protest outside the office of the Telugu Film Chamber of Commerce. The protest set off a domino effect with several debates on Telugu channels.
The Movie Artists' Association (MAA) had not only dismissed her allegations but also declared that she would not be given membership under any circumstances. It also said that action would be taken against any artiste who shares screen space with her.
On Thursday evening, the NHRC issued notices to the Telangana government and the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting, seeking a report with details of what mechanism exists in place to deal with sexual harassment of women actors. The notice sought a response within four weeks.
Hours after the notices, MAA lifted the ban it had placed on Sri Reddy and said that all 900 members of MAA were free to work with the actor. It also announced setting up of a Committee Against Sexual Harassment which would meet once in three months.
MAA President Shivaji Raja said the committee, comprising senior actors and filmmakers of Telugu film industry, would look into any complaints of sexual harassment.