Mani Ratnam Snaps Decades-Old Ties With Vairamuthu: #MeToo Taint Lyricist Dropped From Classic Project ‘Ponniyin Selvan’

M R Subramani

Dec 19, 2019, 05:51 PM | Updated 05:43 PM IST

A R Rehman, Vairamuthu and Mani Rathnam.
A R Rehman, Vairamuthu and Mani Rathnam.

Tamil poet, novelist and film lyricist Vairamuthu has been dropped from noted filmmaker Mani Ratnam’s upcoming film based on the classic Tamil novel Ponniyin Selvan written by Kalki Krishnamurthy.

Indian Express, quoting reliable sources, reported that Vairamuthu is not part of the project that was launched on 10 December this year in Bangkok.

This follows criticism against Mani Ratnam and music composer A R Rahman for roping in the lyricist.

Vairamuthu told a meeting in September that Ponniyin Selvan would have a dozen songs and he will pen all of them. Reports said Vairamuthu has been replaced by his son Kabilan.

It will be for the first time since 1991, when Mani Ratnam launched his iconic movie Roja, that Vairamuthu will not be a part of his crew.

It was a unique journey of Mani Ratnam, A R Rahman and Vairamuthu that has been stopped by angry reactions over the lyricist allegedly sexually harassing popular South Indian playback singer and dubbing artiste, Chinmayi Sripada, and a few other budding talents in the film industry.

Sripada, in a tweet, thanked all those who supported and stood by her and said at least a dozen girls have had issues with Vairamuthu.

The singer’s travails came to the fore during the #MeToo movement when journalist Sandhya Menon began tweeting about victims of sexual harassment.

Allegations against Vairamuthu began with an anonymous woman’s tweet complaining about how the lyricist attempted to abuse her.

At least three more complained about Vairamuthu, including one who said she considered him to be her grandfather but his behaviour was in contrast to his stature.

The woman said she was invited by the lyricist when she was 18 or 19 years old on the pretext of “appreciating her work” but he attempted to misbehave with her.

Sripada alleged that Vairamuthu sought sexual favours from her, for himself as well as for a film producer. A third victim said the lyricist attempted to kiss her at his Besant Nagar residence in the guise of wiping buttermilk from her lips.

The #MeToo campaign against Vairamuthu resulted in Sripada being sidelined.

Vairamuthu, in response, didn’t deny the allegations directly but said, “ruining and disgracing the reputation of well-known people had become a fashion now.”

The lyricist had warned that he would resort to legal recourse against the allegations but nothing has progressed beyond that.

Mani Ratnam was under pressure to drop Vairamuthu after he signed a petition against mob lynching in the country.

Mani Ratnam is yet to make any official statement on Ponniyin Selvan, though media reports say he has roped in some big names such as Vikram, Aishwarya Rai and Radhakrishnan Parthiban for his latest project.

One person said on social media that the latest development was a small victory in the long path to justice, while another said sometimes truth could triumph a bit late.

Vairamuthu was also caught in another controversy in January last year over objectionable speech he made against Andal Naachiyar, the only female among the 12 Alwar saints of South India.

Vairamuthu expressed regret but did not tendering an apology in the Andal Naachiyar controversy. He said he had only quoted a sentence from research done by Indiana University in the US. He also said that it was not his views.

M.R. Subramani is Executive Editor, Swarajya. He tweets @mrsubramani

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