Nearly a week after the MeToo movement hit the Tamil film industry, President of the Nadigar Sangam and the Tamil Film Producers Council, Vishal has announced to set up a three-member probe committee to look into these allegations.
Speaking at the press meet of his upcoming film on Saturday, he said, “We are forming a three-member committee for all bodies i.e. Nadigar Sangam, FEFSI, TFPC, and Film Chamber. It is a platform to make sure women are safe and to ensure unity in the industry. At the same time, it will also be a platform to show that we are there for the women actors, from junior artistes to senior artistes.”
On October 8, journalist Sandhya Menon shared screenshots of an anonymous allegation about how Vairamuthu had assaulted a woman, who was 18 years of age when she had gone to the poet’s residence-cum-office to work on a project.
A day later, singer Chinmayi came forward with her own experience. She detailed how she had allegedly been asked by the organiser of a programme in Switzerland to "cooperate" with Vairamuthu. She was reportedly asked to visit him in a hotel in Lucerne. When she refused and demanded that they (Chinmayi and her mother) return to India, she was supposedly told that her career was over. Chinmayi says that the incident took place in 2005 or 2006.
Over the last week, Vishal has been slammed on Twitter for not speaking up on about the allegations. Defending this, the actor said Twitter was just a place to say things one wants to say and asked not to be judged it for not speaking up earlier.
Responding to why a press release was not issued soon after Chinmayi's allegation against the lyricist, Vishal said that the delay should not become an accusation against the Nadigar Sangam.
Refusing to take a stand on not working with Vairamuthu, Vishal said that law needs to take its course and the matter needs to go to court to be proven.
“After everything is analysed and proved, of course, we will not be sitting and watching even then,” he said unsarcastically.
Vishal pointed to his co-stars on stage and told media persons, “Everyone is safe. Keerthy Suresh is safe. Varalaxmi is safe. Very safe. Talking about our film, nothing would have happened in the unit. Nothing will happen because it is a moral responsibility. It is not out of fear.”
One reporter asked the actor about his stance that women should speak up immediately. When reminded that in Chinmayi's case, she, a newbie in the industry was up against a powerful veteran of the industry, Vishal said, "When a girl is brave, it will automatically be infectious for men. I am saying this because I have witnessed the bravery of women.”
Ignoring the fact that many women in the film industry are unable to speak up owing to their financial situation, the skewed power dynamics and in some cases a fearful combination of the two, Vishal said women actors should not think of safeguarding their careers despite seeing their perpetrators in powerful company.
Incriminating women who don't speak up when they are violated, Vishal quoted Section 201 of the Indian Penal Code that deals with causing the disappearance of evidence of an offence or giving false information to screen offender.
He said, “MeToo is to bring about awareness to be united against sexual harassment. Section 201 is there. Being silent when a crime happens and covering up evidence is a crime. I'm not saying it is a crime. Just like how Amala Paul immediately got justice, they will also get justice.”
Vishal seems to have been referring to film actor Amala Paul who had alleged harassment at a rehearsal for a show in January this year. The popular actor approached the police soon after the incident to report a stranger who had walked into the dance studio to ‘solicit’ her.