The MeToo Movement seems to have had little to no effect on alleged perpetrators in Tamil Nadu. While Vairamuthu continues to work with biggies in the industry, actor Arjun, singer Karthik, director Susi Ganesan, who all face charges of sexual misconduct, have not had to face any serious repercussions for their alleged moral turpitude
It is going to be a year since the MeToo movement unfolded in India. Though not much seems to have changed for women, it is also a fact that some awareness on how to behave with women and the importance of consent in exchanges with them has come about.
Also, because of the MeToo movement, some high-profile names across industries have paid a price for their misdemeanours and acts of depravity. None of the alleged perpetrators have got their legal comeuppance, but a person like MJ Akbar had to quit his ministerial post, media personality Suhail Seth no longer seems to be in the circle, and a few journalists have also been shown the door by their respective organisations.
These were small victories for the women who bravely came forward with their stories of suffering, despite the reality that the bulk of the society still attaches a strange stigma on sex victims.
One state which, unfortunately, has seen no real effect of the MeToo movement is Tamil Nadu, where some high-profile names have totally gone scot free with nary a dent to their reputation or career.
Take for example, the national award-winning lyricist Vairamuthu.
Well known playback singer Chinmayi was the one who first came out boldy alleging that Vairamuthu had tried to molest her many years ago and also made indecent solicitations to her later.
After her, six other women also came on record alleging that the suffered similar experiences at the hands of the lecherous lyricist, who, it should be said here, always had a reputation in Kollywood circles for philandering.
Anyway, despite so many women openly naming Vairamuthu, the man refused to budge, and his strong clout in politics and film industry ensured that those who levelled charges against him were targeted with vicious calumny and mudslinging.
Worse, there was also a conspiracy of silence from the industry biggies like Rajinikanth and Kamal Haasan, who are known to be close to Vairamuthu.
And last week, it emerged that Vairamuthu was set to pen 12 songs in Mani Ratnam's next film Ponniyin Selvan which has music by AR Rahman. This news has come as a dampener for many because there was some hope that Rahman may choose to blacklist Vairamuthu. After all, Rahman had spoken empathetically in support for women in the aftermath of Vairamuthu's name emerging in the 'MeToo' list. Rahman and his sister Reihana seemed to give off the impression that what Vairamuthu did was unpardonable.
Mani Ratnam, on the other hand, is supposed to be a voice of sanity and responsibility (he was one among the many signatories in that famous letter to the Prime Minister recently). But him reportedly opting to work with Vairamuthu, not caring for the various charges against the latter, has come as a shock to many.
If powerful people in the industry like Rahman and Mani Ratnam can't or don't take a stand against a sexual pervert, it reflects very badly on Kollywood, which in any case was never known to treat its women with any amount of sensitivity.
It is not just Vairamuthu alone who seems to have escaped. Actor Arjun, singer Karthik, director Susi Ganesan, who all face charges of sexual misconduct, have not had to face any serious repercussions for their alleged moral turpitude.
Also, not just Kollywood, the staid and closed world of Carnatic music in Tamil Nadu also has not made much headway against those artists whose names were thrown up by the MeToo movement.
Elsewhere, a former media personality and now the brain behind a management institution, who had serious charges of paedophilia thrown at him, has not even had to confront uncomfortable questions. He has just slipped off the radar.
But many of the women who levelled charges against these personalities have gone through hell with the media strangely putting them through a wringer. For instance, Chinmayi has been constantly at the receiving end of trolling, casteist and misogynistic remarks in both social and mainstream media.
"The reality of these women exposes the duplicity in the claim that Tamil Nadu is a rational state that treats its women with dignity," says R Bhavani, a women's activist. "It is as misogynist and sexist as any other state in this country."
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Last Updated 14, Sep 2019, 6:21 PM