Edited to add: Flowers Television Channel, in an official statement, said that actress Nisha Sarangh will continue to work in Uppum Mulakum. The channel added that they would examine the sexual harassment complaint raised by Nisha, and take action at the earliest. “The filming of the sitcom has not been cancelled. It will proceed as usual in Kochi,” the statement said. Actress Maala Parvathy, on a Facebook post, said that the channel had also decided to expel R Unnikrishnan, the director of the sitcom against whom Nisha has raised sexual harassment allegations.
Nisha Sarangh, a popular Malayalam television actor, opened up about sexual harassment and gender discrimination in Malayalam television in an interview to a private news channel on Saturday.
Recently, it was known that Nisha was removed from the cast of Uppum Mulakum (Salt And Pepper), a popular Malayalam sitcom aired on Flowers TV, in which she had been working as a lead actor since 2015. Allegedly, the director of the show, R Unnikrishnan, had been harassing Nisha on the sets of the show for a long time, after she rebuffed his sexual advances and complained to the channel head, Sreekantan Nair, on the same.
“Ever since that incident, he has been mentally harassing me. My co-actors on the set are witness to everything,” Nisha told Reporter TV. She also said the director had tried to remove her from the cast in the past, after she refused to reply to his lewd Whatsapp messages.
In 2017, Nisha had won a Kerala State Television Award (Special Jury), Adoor Bhasi Memorial award and Mangalam TV award for her performance in the sitcom. Her character, Neelima, is a working woman married to Balachandran aka Balu (Biju Sopanam), and mother of six children. The show is immensely popular in the state. On the official YouTube channel of Flowers TV, the views for every episode of Uppum Mulakum are around 7 million.
On Reporter TV, Nisha also spoke about the unprofessional treatment meted out to her by the director. “I am a single parent to two daughters. Last year when my daughter got married, I was allotted just three days off from work.” She also alleged that Unnikrishnan spread gossip on vernacular media that Nisha was not legally married, but living together with a partner. “I was lawfully married and later divorced. No one (in the media) fact-checked with me about it before publishing that news,” she said. Nisha also revealed that Unnikrishnan used to bring liquor to the sets, and drink during the shoot.
“Although initially, I used to raise my voice or notify authorities about the director’s behaviour, I gradually lost the energy to do that. I wanted to work and earn, and not lose my peace of mind over arguments,” said Nisha on why she waited for many months to come out in public about the severe workplace harassment.
Although she was officially given five days off from work, she was later asked to leave the show, citing disciplinary issues. “The leave approval from managing director of the channel is on my mail. Everyone on the sets are witness to him (Unnikrishnan) giving me nod to take off from work. Now, if I return to the sets, he will continue to harass me, even more brutal than before,” she said.
Nisha has also appeared in supporting roles in a number of Malayalam films such as My Boss, Oru Indian Pranaya Katha and Amen. She is a member of ATMA (Association of Malayalam Television Actors) and AMMA (Association Of Malayalam Movie Actors).
In the interview, she also spoke about a recent AMMA meeting where she was insulted by Idavela Babu, secretary of the association. At the meeting where state award winners were being felicitated, Nisha’s name was left out, and when she stood up and reminded the leadership about it, Babu raged out at her, saying it was not their responsibility to find out and felicitate every award winner. “It was a small mistake, and they immediately rectified it,” said Nisha, adding that Babu might have been under stress. “They are important people handling several crucial issues, and it’s possible that they forgot about me. It is alright,” she said, while agreeing that she was taken aback by Babu’s sudden show of fury.
Feature image courtesy: Manoramaonline