A.R. Reshmi

Sexual harassment at workplace is a serious issue, the hole in the wall people try to cover. Unfortunately, the film industry which has a major women workforce seems to be taking it a tad flippantly, if you will. How else would you explain the absence of either women's grievance cell or a sexual harassment committee in the Telugu film industry? If there is one, we haven't heard of it. In fact, it's the crying need of the hour given the rising cases of women's exploitation in the industry.

The latest firestorm which has been raging for some days now and which has shaken the industry, is the claim of a small time actress Sri Reddy who alleges the prevalence of the casting couch in the industry.

Sri Leaks: The Story So Far

It all started with Sri Reddy throwing an open question to Power Star Pawan Kalyan asking him why he prefers to import talent from elsewhere instead of using local talent abundantly available in the Telugu land/region. Then, she dropped the names of actresses who had made it big in the industry saying they reached the top only after being exploited by the filmmakers. She alleged that sexual exploitation was rampant in the industry saying it was impossible to establish a place for yourself in the industry without being exploited. However, several actresses that she targeted came out in the open to rubbish Sri Reddy's claims saying such a thing was non-existent in Tollywood.

That's when Sri Reddy decided to reach out to Telangana Chief Minister K Chandrashekar Rao. She threatened to strip if he didn't intervene. The threat did little to help Sri Reddy. In between the Movie Artistes Association (MAA) issued a statement saying they had banned Sri Reddy, a statement they revoked at a press meet today. This further provoked the actress who staged a topless protest at Film Chambers’ office.

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Her bare-all act drew the attention of both the media and women activists' groups. She then alleged that a top producer's son had used her and that she was forced to sleep with him to land a role in a film which never happened. She even passed on pictures of their intimate moments to a few media channels which went viral.

Now, Sri Reddy has threatened more leaks saying she would expose all the top people in the industry and nail them with evidence. The latest we hear is that she has targeted a top Telugu writer who has refuted her claims and threatened legal action against her.

This has been the story so far. We are not sure if there's an iota of truth in Sri Reddy's claims. But when an allegation of such gravity is being made, shouldn't people sit up and take notice?

Sexual Harassment Is A Serious Issue

Remember how the #MeToo campaign gained momentum after it garnered the support of almost every celebrity in Hollywood who came forward to admit that they too had faced sexual harassment in some form in the industry? What's beyond my comprehension is the kind of reaction pouring from the industry. Sri Reddy's allegations, be it true or false, is certainly serious and merits attention. Is this something unheard of in the industry? Why is the industry shocked by her revelation or is ignorance bliss for them?

Sri Reddy's expose is the unseen dirty picture in Tollywood which definitely calls for attention. It's time we stopped brushing such issues under the carpet and instead conducted a thorough investigation to let the truth prevail. MAA has announced a grievance redressal committee. One hopes it will take this issue forward in all earnestness.