Actor Naresh, who is also the general secretary of the Movie Artists Association, has gone on record explaining why he was missing from the association’s press meet on Monday. He also refuted the claims made by the other executive members at the press meet.
MAA had called for the press meet after its president was accused of misappropriation of funds.
In conversation with Silverscreen, the actor says that he was asked to attend the press meet by Vice-President Srikanth, but he decided against it. “They said that I was busy shooting for my films and that’s why I did not attend. This is false. I was available. When Srikanth garu called to invite me, I told him that I would go public with my allegations at the event. To this, he did not respond and simply cut my call. Everything they’re saying is to cover their tracks.”
Moreover, Naresh says that he did not want to share the dais with Sivaji Raja (President, MAA), who’s been accused of misappropriation of funds. “My presence would have suggested that I agree with him. Also, even if I had attended the meet yesterday, I am sure they would not have given me an opportunity to go public with my accusations. Already, this issue has created so much turmoil. I did not want to sully the name of our esteemed organisation anymore.”
Naresh explains that he was the one who found out about the fraud. “This US event with Chiranjeevi garu was put together so hastily. They just called me one day and asked me to sign documents regarding that. I am the General Secretary and yet, they made every attempt to deliberately keep me out of the loop. I admit I did sign off on the US event, but it was in good faith. I campaigned with Sivaji Raja for the MAA elections and had mistakenly assumed that he would not do things like this.”
Later, someone warned Naresh about the event and asked him not to attend. “I had misgivings before the event, and someone close to me told me about the fraud going on. So, I decided not to attend the US event.”
The actor says that he has found documents that detail the misappropriation of funds. “We always record meetings of MAA. But, now, the meetings related to the US event and any documents that mention it are missing. I suspect that they’ve been deleted. If they’re as pure as they claim to be, then why are they doing all this?”
This prompted the actor to secure some information regarding the event. The executive members in support of Sivaji Raja say that the US event collected about Rs 1 crore. And this amount was promptly deposited in the account belonging to MAA. “But how can an event in the US, that too with such a big star like Chiranjeevi pull in only Rs 1 crore. This is a very small sum. Sivaji Raja was an event manager before he made it into cinema. He knows how to handle events. His claims that this was the first event MAA held abroad, and that they did not know how to go about it, contradict his previous track record. I can attest to the fact that Sivaji Raja does indeed have experience holding big events. They are lying,” Naresh said.
If the President was unaware of how such events work, they could have called in experts. But the committee did not call for tenders from the organisers as well. “They made the process so opaque deliberately. They did not want outsiders at all.”
The General Secretary says that an amount of Rs 80 lakhs was deposited into a benami account of Sivaji Raja by the organisers of the event. He also alleges that Rs 45 lakhs was paid to some of the members for access to popular stars from Telugu cinema. “These are all details that I can prove. I am investigating more so that I can confront them with proof.”
When he found out about the fraud, the actor had convened an emergency executive council meeting. But, when he made the allegations against the President, he was abused by Sivaji and other members. “He used such filthy language. It is very unbecoming of him. That too, as the president of one of India’s largest cinema industry, he should not be so cavalier with his words. I have never been so insulted in my life. This only reinforced my belief that something wrong is going on.”
He has asked for a fact-finding committee made up of members neutral to both sides, to make sure that the allegations are proved. His demands have been shot down by Sivaji Raja. “Most of the other members were in support of my demand, but Sivaji refused.”
Naresh says that his next step is to convene another meeting and demand Sivaji Raja’s resignation. “I know exactly who committed this fraud along with Sivaji. I want them all to know that I am very committed to finding out the truth.”
In instances such as this, the powers of the President must be transferred to the Vice-President or the General Secretary. When Naresh demanded this, he was once again shouted down. “Sivaji cannot keep this up. Truth is on my side,” Naresh adds.
Sivaji Raja and Srikanth refused to comment on Naresh’s allegations. They said that they stand by whatever they had said in the press meet yesterday.
Meanwhile, Naresh is asking for a swift end to the dispute. “MAA is truly our amma. We take care of so many artists. If we get caught in this issue, I am worried that their needs won’t be met. So I want Sivaji Raja to step down, or at the very least, call for another meeting to resolve this issue,” Naresh said.
In a media interaction held last week, Naresh had brushed off questions about the dispute and said that he had come to a compromise with Sivaji Raja. Yet, a few days after that, he asked for a fact-finding committee at a closed council meeting. When asked about this, Naresh said that he did not want the media to find out about the issue. “It would have sullied our organisation’s name. That is why I kept mum. I wanted to sort this issue out in the council meeting itself. But, sadly, it has come to this point anyway.”
Featured Image Courtesy: Telugu 360