Sri Reddy: I’m not afraid; will continue my fight against sexual harassment

The controversy surrounding TV presenter-turned actress Sri Reddy and her fight against Tollywood’s casting couch menace only seems to be
getting bigger. What started out as an actress speaking out on social media about the exploitation of women in the Telugu film industry, has now turned into a full-blown war between Sri Reddy and the Movie Artistes’ Association (MAA). Sri Reddy’s nude protest on the streets — outside the Telugu Film Chamber of Commerce in the plush locality of Film Nagar — has gotten the country to sit up and take notice and prompted MAA to finally break its silence over the controversy, which has been raging for nearly a month now.
MAA dismissed Sri Reddy’s allegations as a “cheap publicity stunt” and declared that she will not be given MAA membership under any circumstance. “Not only this, action will be taken against any artiste who decides to share screen space with her,” MAA President Sivaji Raja threatened.

Not one to back down, Sri Reddy questions the legality of the ‘ban’ against her. “On what basis will they ban me? They have no right to do so. As a woman, I have the right to protest and to speak my mind. How dare they ban me and threaten other artistes?” she fumes.

We have every right to stop artistes from working with Sri Reddy: MAA President

Slamming Sri Reddy for her “publicity seeking stunt”, MAA President reiterated that she will not be given membership and that the association is well within its rights to prevent their artistes from working with her. “First of all, she isn’t even our member so there’s no question of us banning her. As per our by-laws, we have the right to tell our artistes not to work with Sri Reddy. We will now take the legal route to deal with her. We have already filed a police complaint against her and will be taking legal action,” Sivaji states, adding condescendingly, “Anyway, who would want to make a film with her? Have you seen her? The way she is behaving is embarrassing.

When asked why she’s been denied membership, Sivaji says, “Why is she now speaking about membership after five years of being in the industry? We had considered her application but she has shown an utter disregard for our rules and we’re well within our rights to deny her membership.”

Let them bring their lawyers, I will bring mine

Sri Reddy, however, feels that she’s being denied membership only because she has been asking uncomfortable questions. “By denying me membership and preventing other artistes from working with me, they are sending out a message to all women that this is what will happen to them if they speak up about the harassment and abuse that they face. But I will not be deterred. Let them bring their lawyers, I will bring mine,” she retorts.

Why is MAA still silent on casting couch

The actress, who has been raising the issue of casting couch, and the physical, mental and sexual harassment of women in the Telugu film industry for over a month, said that MAA representatives are yet to address the issues she has raised.

“They held an hour-long press conference and said all sorts of things against me. But they didn’t say a word about casting couch, sexual abuse and other issues that I have raised. In fact, the only reason they are even speaking now is because my protest has reached the national media and they cannot avoid it anymore. This is nothing, but a face-saving attempt from them. But I’ll continue to fight,” Sri Reddy says, defiantly.

We are here to listen to women: MAA president Sivaji Raja

When cornered, MAA representatives stated that the association is always ready to “listen to women and their grievances” and that they had solved many issues in the past. Sri Reddy, however, questions why there isn’t a Committee against Sexual Harassment (CASH) in place? “Why is there no CASH in the film industry? Lots of women face harassment on the sets of a film too. A director may ask them to wear clothes she may not be

comfortable with, an actor might touch her inappropriately, a spotboy might stare at her creepily — who will they complain to then? After 9:30 pm, most MAA members are not reachable. Shouldn’t there be a separate committee to look after women’s safety?” Reddy asked.

MAA President Sivaji Raja acknowledged this issue finally, and confirmed to us that they are thinking of setting up a CASH committee now. “We are in talks with our lawyers regarding the legal procedure and the committee will be set up. Until then, we are always here for women and they can feel free to approach us with any concerns they may have,” Sivaji said.

I’ve been asked to vacate my house. The big people have started playing their games.

What will it take for this govt to speak up?

On Monday, the actress was apparently asked to vacate her house by her landlords. “My address has been leaked online by someone and a bunch of people came here and asked the landlord to remove me from the house. The big people have started playing their games already,” she says. urging the Telangana government to break its silence, she adds, “All I have been saying from day one, is that women feel unsafe in the film industry, local talent is being ignored and actresses are being sexually harassed. Because of this, people are targeting me. The Telangana government has conveniently avoided the issue. Why is KT Rama Rao, who speaks so much about women empowerment, silent today? Why isn’t Kavitha, who claims to be a symbol of strength for women in the state, not reaching out when I’m protesting in the nude? What it will it take for this government to react,” she asks, helplessly.

With Sri Reddy continuing her protest and taking her movement to the national stage, it remains to be seen if the government will step in and find a solution.

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