As another historic day passes with #metoo campaign growing stronger, the latest to reveal their predators are two debutant actresses with theatre background. While Malayalam actor Divya Gopinath, known for her roles in Aabhasam, Kammatti-ppadam and Ayaal Sasi, has revealed herself as the survivor who faced harassment from actor Alencier Ley Lopez on the sets of Aabhaasam, Revathy Sampath, who has acted in Telugu-Odia bilingual film Patnagar, has alleged that director Rajesh Touchriver, noted for his films In the Name of Buddha and Ente, harassed her during the 28-day shooting schedule.
Divya, the survivor who came out against award-winning actor Alencier, says she decided to reveal her identity with the support from her parents. “I heard them talking about the revelation against the actor and seeing their support to the ‘anonymous’ survivor, I told them that it was me,” says Divya, who is also a member of the Women in Cinema Collective (WCC).
“WCC members had been aware of my experience and they have been very supportive because many of them are aware of his attitude. They had told me that I could share my experience whenever I was ready and they would stand with me. And no, this is not part of any agenda. I called him out because I know many actresses who were harassed by Alencier. Another actress in the Aabhaasam crew, too, had bad experiences from him. I speak for these women, who wouldn’t dare to speak up against a senior actor and put their career at jeopardy. There’s another reason, too. Alencier started telling around that I was trying to malign his career and destroy his family,” she says.
Now that she has spoken, Divya is receiving support from all around. “Manju (Warrier) chechi and all the WCC members called me and offered solidarity. I have decided to go forward,” says Divya, who adds that she didn’t believe in A.M.M.A. of which she is not a member. “I can see what that organisation does to protect an accused and shun the survivor and her supporters. None of their actions are supportive. Naturally, I joined WCC who have been fighting for justice.” She dreads the reactions, especially on social media. “But I have decided to ignore them because this is not a personal issue.” Divya is now waiting for the date to appear before the Justice Hema Commission where she has presented the case.
However, Alencier has reportedly agreed to the charges of lewd comments ‘in inebriated state’. He claims that the issue was settled after he apologised to the actress and said that no one should misuse the #metoo campaign to destroy families.
Revathy, a theatre actor and model, recalls her experiences on the sets of Rajesh-directed Telugu-Odia bilingual film Patnagar, starring Atul Kulkarni and Sanju Shivram. Calling the director unprofessional and manipulative, Revathy says, “Patnagar was my very first film. During the shooting, Rajesh made sexually explicit comments, misogynist jokes, and I suffered mental harassment, gender discrimination and blackmailing from him. At one such instance, during a shot on the beach, my casual wear was wet and he commented on my lingerie and said he enjoyed watching me wet. I felt very humiliated and when I reacted, he claimed those to be ‘funny little jokes and nothing personal’. When I raised my disapproval of objectifying actresses and verbal abuse, he said it was common on film sets and since I was a newcomer I wasn’t supposed to speak against it,” she says.
Revathy alleges, “I used to get continuous phone calls and texts from Rajesh at midnight. ‘Ready for dance?’ read one of those texts. When I expressed my discomfort, I was blackmailed saying he wouldn’t promote me. He even told me that due to my quarrelsome attitude, he rejected two offers that came to me. It was sort of blackmailing.”
“Once, I was summoned to a room for discussion but when I entered, it was a booze session where six men were enjoying. What sort of professionalism is that!” she asks, adding many junior artists had told her about the vulgar language used by the director and his friends on the sets.
She also alleges that even Rajesh’s wife and noted activist Sunitha Krishnan didn’t hear her out, “Sunitha is a woman I respect a lot, but she came to the sets only twice and when she did, the only thing she told me was that as a newcomer, I am not supposed to react. I don’t really blame her for that. Rajesh is so manipulative and had presented a far-fetched version of the happenings, blaming me for the troubles. She had no idea what I had been facing during the 28-day shooting schedule.”Rajesh could not be contacted for reactions....