‘Me Too’: How women in south cinema are considered commodities on screen and off it
Actors Aishwarya Rajesh, Shraddha Srinath, Aishwarya Lekshmi and filmmaker Leena Manimekalai speak to TNM about how the public views the bodies of women in cinema.
The Me Too movement has come to the southern film industry, with several women actors speaking up against sexual harassment in their workplace. However, it has been far from easy for them to do so. Many on social media and even journalists have questioned them on why they were speaking up now, after all these years.
The disbelief is compounded by the fact that as actors these women may have worn certain clothes on screen or performed in certain scenes or roles that are considered “vulgar” or “bold” by the audience. This, several people believe, erases their right to complain when they are subjected to harassment. There seems to be a lack of understanding that what they do on screen is their work, performed with consent, while harassment is a crime.
Don’t kiss and complain
When actor Sruthi Hariharan alleged that her co-star Arjun Sarja had sexually harassed her on the sets of the Tamil film Nibunan (Vismaya in Kannada), several people pointed out that she’d been willing to do “intimate” scenes with the actor on screen and therefore she should not be complaining.
Her friend and actor from the Kannada film industry, Shraddha Srinath, was among the many women who spoke up for Sruthi. Speaking to TNM, Shraddha says, “Women are slut-shamed on social media, no matter what. The minute they voice an opinion that is not popular, the minute they say something that goes against popular opinion, they will be called names and slut-shamed. I’ve experienced it and I’ve seen my friends also experiencing it. I remember someone saying ‘Oh you kiss on screen for money but then you say all this suddenly to grab attention’. This is something we hear very often.”
A year ago, actor Parvathy from the Malayalam film industry was heavily abused on social media for expressing an opinion about the Mammootty film Kasaba. Among the many responses that she received for stating that she’d been disappointed by the misogynistic scenes in Kasaba were those who shared pictures and scenes from her films in which she had kissed on screen. The point being made was that Parvathy couldn’t complain of misogyny in cinema when she had done such “vulgar” scenes (which, in fact, showed characters kissing with consent) herself.
PostedOn: 09 Nov 2018
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