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Tamil Media Has Failed To Grill Lyricist Vairamuthu The Way It has Scrutinised His #Metoo Victims, Says Chinmayi

M R Subramani

Jul 16, 2020, 04:57 PM | Updated 04:56 PM IST

Playback Singer Chinmayi Sripada. (Picture credits: Facebook)
Playback Singer Chinmayi Sripada. (Picture credits: Facebook)
  • While Tamil media is never tired of quizzing Vairamuthu’s #Metoo victims, it has never questioned the lyricist, says singer.
  • Popular playback singer and dubbing artiste Chinmayi Sripada, who complained about sexual harassment by Tami poet and lyric writer Vairamuthu, has regretted that Tamil mainstream media (MSM) has not subjected the #metoo accused poet to the same sort of scrutiny that she has been subjected to.

    In a Facebook post, Sripada, a leading playback singer in Tamil and Telugu movies, said that though she and 12 other women had complained about Vairamuthu two years ago, not a single question has been raised by MSM on the controversy.

    “At the same time, the media has never refrained from asking me what has happened to my complaint, and harassing me,” she said.

    Pointing out the insults she had to undergo after exposing the poet’s act, Sripada said despite knowing the truth about the complaints from the affected women, many people had chosen to defend Vairamuthu.

    She said she had been trying to create awareness on the issue, thinking her critics will change one day and added that people will understand the seriousness of the issue when they experience it.

    “A crow does not know the pain of the buffalo. Our forefathers have said that people will realise about headache and fever only when they get it,” the singer said and made it clear that it does not mean that they should undergo the same painful experience she and the other 12 had undergone.

    “I have been called a hand-maiden of the Bharatiya Janata Party,” she said, praying that Kannagi, the legendary woman who burnt Madurai after her husband was wrongly beheaded, should descend now too.

    Sripada made it clear that she never got to sing any song or dub on the lyricist’s recommendation. “He used his position to make me sing for free at functions arranged to release his poems or books,” she said.

    In an article penned on Vairamuthu’s birthday recently, popular Tamil and Malayalam writer Jeyamohan said the sexual harassment complaints against the poet was “shocking”.

    “There are complaints that Vairamuthu threatened and harassed women. These are serious and condemnable… I would request the poet to issue a statement that he is innocent,” Jeyamohan wrote.

    On 5 June this year, entertainment website Silverscreen India came out with an interview of a couple of the women affected by Vairamuthu’s alleged sexual harassment.

    The first person said that Vairamuthu has used his political connection to silence his victims.

    Another victim said that once Vairamuthu had told her that he was “writing a song imagining the body part of the heroine of the movie he was working on” and the body part “he was referring to that day was some well-known actress’ breasts”.

    In January this year, Sripada told the writer of the article that when she turned down a call from Vairamuthu to sing an invocation for a function, the lyricist threatened her saying he would tell “Kalaignar (Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam founder M Karunanidhi) that you spoke ill of him”.

    The issue got settled after the singer told Vairamuthu’s manager that she would go along with her mother to meet Karunanidhi and tell him the truth.

    Sripada said the lyricist tried to strike a compromise through noted filmmaker Mani Ratnam’s office. After she asked them to check what the issue was, Ratnam’s office called back to tell her that “we are with you”.

    According to singer Bhuvana Seshan, who was also allegedly harassed by the lyricist, she lost opportunities after she rejected the advances of Vairamuthu, who threatened her that she will “cease to exist in this industry”.

    She said that sexual harassment is something common in Tamil cinema world but the problem with Vairamuthu was that he "used threats".

    The sexual harassment allegations against Vairamuthu came to light during the #MeToo movement when journalist Sandhya Menon tweeted 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.

    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.

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

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