In the first week of this month (May), the famed AVM Studios unveiled its heritage museum.
Tamil Nadu Chief Minister M K Stalin inaugurated the same, and flanking him closely in most pictures and clips was Vairamuthu, the film lyricist and poet laureate of the Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK).
The pictures told a tale of brazen impunity. For, the man is facing serious charges of rape and molestation, and the allegations have come from at least 15 women, including popular playback singer Chinmayi.
Yet, the Chief Minister of the state has no qualms about rubbing shoulders with him in public space.
For the last five years or so, Vairamuthu has been cocking a snook at everyone, casually complacent in the realisation that his closeness to the DMK and its first family will keep the state police away from his doors. And it has.
But how long is the question now, as voices of protest are getting louder with not even an FIR being registered against him despite mounting charges from multiple women.
The whole sordid case is now being contrasted with the wrestlers' protest in the national capital. The wrestlers are demanding the arrest of Wrestling Federation of India (WFI) chief and a sitting MP of the BJP, Brij Bhushan Sharan Singh, who they have accused of sexually exploiting women grapplers.
While a FIR has already been filed in the wrestlers’ case, not even a formal enquiry has been ordered into allegations against Vairamuthu. And that is why when Stalin tweeted in support of the protesting wrestlers, singer Chinmayi couldn't resist pointing out his glaring double-standards.
In a long tweet, the singer said, "It is amazing you show support to the cause of justice to sexual harassment survivors every time a case comes to notice across India. When political leaders speak there is hope for change."
But, she added, "17+ women have named your friend/supporter Mr Vairamuthu who continues to enjoy your proximity which he uses to silence women who speak up even more. Your party continues to platform him, as have other politicians in Tamilnadu."
Stating that the rules cannot be different for Vairamuthu and Brij Bhushan, Chinmayi pointedly told Stalin: "17+ women have named Vairamuthu who has used the proximity to your party and You, to silence me, others and ruin the careers of women who are talented and had dreams. His talent is not greater than all of us."
This is not the first time that the feisty Chinmayi has called the bluff of the M Karunanidhi family members. In May 2021, when sexual misconduct allegations came up against a teacher of PSBB School in Chennai, Kanimozhi — Stalin's step-sister and DMK MP — typically jumped into the fray.
But Kanimozhi went into an undignified silence when Chinmayi tweeted to her, saying, "I truly hope, maam, you will do the needful regarding my and 16 other women’s harassment allegations on Mr Vairamuthu."
Kamal Haasan's Duplicity Exposed, Too
It is not just his proximity to the DMK power centres that Vairamuthu is falling back on. He has used his links with the biggest stars of Kollywood, Rajnikanth and Kamal Haasan, as a handy buffer against any attack.
Of course, the association with the biggies like Mani Ratnam and A R Rahman has also sought to be used by Vairamuthu.
Mani and ARR have not spoken out against the shamed lyricist, but they at least had the grace and gumption to drop him from their prestigious venture Ponniyin Selvan.
Till then the trio had forged a successful partnership in the Tamil film world since the days of Roja in 1992. This was the biggest repercussion to what has been damning allegations against Vairamuthu.
But then again, Chinmayi kind of exposed Kamal Haasan's duplicity when the actor tweeted his solidarity for the ongoing wrestlers' protest.
In her spunky style, she quote-tweeted him: "5 years of a singer in Tamilnadu being banned for naming a molester right in front of their eyes and not a pip about it since the poettu (sic) has their respect. How does one trust politicians who speak for women’s safety while they ignore harassment right under their noses? Just. Asking. Now while my timeline will blow up with abuse, shouting and yelling imma gonna exit."
Kamal Haasan, needless to say, has not responded to her pointed tweet.
But the thing to be said is that the case is still being talked about only because Chinmayi is relentless. She has been hounded and trolled viciously by the DMK IT wing lackeys for the allegations against Vairamuthu.
The attacks against her have been bigoted and toxic, and is always the case in Tamil Nadu, they have also been casteist. Chinmayi is believed to be a Brahmin, and in this state everyone sees that as a valid ground to pour all kinds of vitriol.
Chinmayi has been bearing the brunt of the motivated calumny against her, but has persevered in her battle and also exposed the chicanery of the ruling party politicos and actors like Kamal Haasan in this issue.
As it happens, the Vairamuthu issue has now been mainstreamed by the Tamil Nadu BJP chief K Annamalai. He has spoken about how Vairamuthu has gone scot free so far. But usually strident sections of the media, which like to flaunt its woke cred, have also been less than serious in pinning down Vairamuthu. Again contrast the vehemence with which they waded into the Kalakshetra issue a month back.
In the case of Vairamuthu, apart from some perfunctory noises, they have been looking elsewhere. Rape and murder threats are thrown at her almost on a daily basis.
Expletives-filled posts or crass comments in the garb of sarcasm are casually thrown at her. The mainstream media also heartlessly grilled her at a press conference, while it has still not gone anywhere near her alleged harasser Vairamuthu.
"It is one of the tragedies of Tamil Nadu that the media in the State is mostly kind to the likes of Vairamuthu," says R Jeyaraman, a retired librarian of Alagappa University.
"Especially the Tamil press is always loath to call out such people. That is because the Tamil media itself is peopled mostly by sexist, casteist and hidebound individuals."
Okay, the media and the Tamil society has let down Chinmayi, but what of the liberal sections of the country that always rush to the aid of people like T M Krishna.
The name of Krishna is being brought up here not for effect or facile comparison. But because there is a genuine ground to believe that the liberals seem to follow two standards, and their choices seem more political and less moral.
"Why is Chinmayi's problems getting no real amplification among the liberals who went out of their way to play up Krishna's case when his concert was cancelled?" asks K Revathy, Carnatic music teacher in Chennai's Anna Nagar.
Now that such questions are being asked, hopefully Vairamuthu will also face some — from the police and the court.
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