After facing a severe backlash from the public and on social media, actor and Bigg Boss contestant Sarvanan has apologised for joking about groping women on buses as a college student, saying that his comment was edited and he had asked youngsters to not behave the way he did. Vijay TV, which produced, edited and aired the show, issued a clarification saying it does not promote content against women. The show’s host, actor-politician Kamal Haasan, who has been accused of normalising sexual harassment, has not responded to the criticism against him yet.

The controversy began earlier in the week, when actress Meera Mithun accused director Cheran of manhandling her during a task. This led to a discussion on whether her allegation of harrassment was true or not. Cheran broke down, with most contestants taking his side saying men are affected when wrongly accused. Meera later said she should have worded her accusation better, but insisted that she did not like how Cheran touched her.

Meera Mitun’s allegation was not taken up by the Internal Complaints Committee or any anti-sexual harassment body of Vijay TV, but mined for controversy with people taking digs against her on social media saying she is known for such behaviour. In a later episode, the video of the task was played once again, and Kamal Haasan’s judgement and consolation to Meera Mithun was that such accidental shoving happens all the time.

Kamal said that on public transport it was common for people to fall on each other, but acknowledged that there were men who got into buses just to molest women. Saravanan was seen raising his hand and admitting that he too had done it. The episode showed the audience clapping and laughing at his confession, while Kamal Haasan responded sarcastically.

In yesterday’s episode, Saravanan said, “The intention was to ask viewers to not do these things but it got cut and I couldn’t say it. I am repeating it once again. I did whatever I did when I was young and I want all youngsters to know that it’s wrong.”

Contestants from the previous seasons of Bigg Boss told Silverscreen that the show puts one under a lot of pressure, and is heavily edited, so Saravanan’s clarification should now settle the matter. Actress Rythvika, who won last season, said, “Since I’ve been part of the show, I know what we go through. Our statements often get cut and there are also technical glitches.”

She defended the channel, saying it would not have expected this to blow up. Actress Suja Varunee, another former participant, also said, “It’s difficult to say who is right and wrong, but I believe if Meera Mithun’s allegation was a serious one, it would’ve been dealt with by Vijay TV.”

Singer Chinmayi was among the first to call out Saravanan and the channel for airing it. She tweeted, “A Tamil channel aired a man proudly proclaiming he used the public bus transport system to molest/grope women – to cheers from the audience. And this is a joke. To the audience. To the women clapping. To the molester.”

Responding to whether Kamal should’ve called out Saravanan immediately, Chinmayi told Silverscreen that it possible that he said something but it was edited out. She said, “I know that when you’re facing the camera, and you could be anybody and have done any number of films, but when you’re standing there, your perspective of things is different from when you’re the spectator. Which is why, the team should’ve interrupted to handle or deal with the situation. It is the channel that made it look like a joke, and, somehow, believed it could let it slide. I still want to believe that Mr Kamal Haasan did not think it was cool. Here, the bigger question is does Vijay TV have an ICC to follow due process and deal with harassment complaints?”

Silverscreen has reached out to Vijay TV for clarification, and will update the copy when they respond.