Hyderabad: Telugu women film artistes shared their horrific experiences of sexual exploitation, being discriminated because of their colour, and getting less pay, in a round table conference on Sunday evening in Hyderabad.
“We have to relieve ourselves under trees because we are junior artistes, not leading artistes in the movie who are provided caravans,” one of the victims said.
Tollywood actor Sri Reddy said that the Telugu film industry denies roles to Telugu artistes and prefers North Indian artistes because they are fair.
The women also threatened to reveal the names of the directors, male film stars or ‘heroes’ and producers who have exploited them if they don’t respond within two days to the issues they are facing in the Telugu film industry.
“The same men in the industry who deny us roles during the day, saying we are fat and dark- skinned, approach us at night asking for our nude and sexy pictures. I was promised a few roles with commitment but after I slept with those guys they denied me the roles saying that I am dark-skinned and not that good looking. That same night they would text me asking what kind of dress I am wearing, why don’t you send your sexy pictures, nude pictures, pictures in a two-piece,” said Hema, one of the women who bravely shared her experiences.
Another artiste, Sandhya Naidu, said that, “Apart from using and exploiting young girls, men from the industry also want to sleep with aunties like me. They are even okay sleeping with a 60-year-old woman. That is how desperate these men are for women.”
The women film artistes launched a campaign called Sthree Shakthi, against sexual exploitation in the Tollywood film industry. One of the activists present at the round table conference also announced a ban on watching Telugu movies if the film industry doesn't settle the issues faced by women artistes. For the first time Telugu women artistes are to form a union for women in the industry to fight for their rights.
Actress Sri Reddy, who brought the issue of sexual exploitation of women in Tollywood to the fore, said, “Film Nagar area should be called ‘Red-Light area’ and a brothel instead of a residence of film stars in should be put up. We demand that the Telugu film industry gives opportunities to Telugu artistes instead of North Indian artistes from other states just because they are fair and slim. Please give opportunities to Telugu artistes who have talent.”
She said artistes from other states should be employed on a 70:30 ratio, 70 per cent should be Telugus.
She touched on another very important point when she said, “It’s very easy to ask artistes to change their profession if there is casting couch in the film industry, but why should we leave the industry when it’s our right to act? Top men from the industry suggest we approach the police, but the police stations will not even have place for all of us if we start approaching police stations for justice.”
She touched on another sore point when she said, “Artistes are paid very little so I demand more work and better pay for us from now on.”
Transgender character artiste Sana Rathod was in tears when she narrated her experience of being asked to strip in front of the director of the serial Madhurani Saniveshalu.
“I was asked by the director to strip off my clothes because he wanted to see the body parts of a transgender. If a transgender was asked to strip then why will these men leave women artistes alone? Yesterday Pawan Kalyan sir told us to go to the police station but we have earlier approached the police but no justice was done to us. If a transgender woman is not safe in this industry what about women?”