The #MeToo movement has been spreading across the media and cinema industries, and multiple prominent names in the industry have been accused of sexual harassment. On Sunday, filmmaker Leena Manimekalai called out director Susi Ganesan for harassing her.
Speaking to the press on Tuesday, Leena said “No one understands the basics of the #MeToo movement. People ask why the delay in coming out with the stories. But when even women in western countries are unable to out their harassers immediately, how can women in India do so? The discussion is not around trauma. None of your questions are ever directed at the accused. The questions are only to slut-shame and victim-shame the women who come forward.”
Adding that while she understands due process, Leena said that the MeToo movement is to ensure other women remain safe. She said, “Women will not lie about sexual harassment. We all know allegations should be proved only in courts but can anyone tell me how many such cases get justice? So we come out with our stories, to make sure that no other women face abuse.”
Talking about the delay in revealing Susi Ganesan’s name, she said, “When I heard about the harassment incident that happened to the Malayalam actress, I shared my story. It was a similar incident. In 2017 I did not have the courage to reveal the name. It is only now that I gained the courage to mention Susi Ganesan’s name. I silenced myself fearing his power and domination. But it’s time I speak out now, otherwise people will question the silence in the film industry. He can deny all he wants, I really don’t care about it and I have no fear, I haven’t made any false accusations. He asks why I got into the car. Does this mean that getting into someone’s car is an invitation for harassment?”
“People say that being a leftist I couldn’t open up. Leftist or right wing, sexual harassment of women is the same, regardless of your political leaning. We weren’t lucky enough to be born in an equal society. I have male friends, I do not blame all men.” she added.
Talking about the cinema industry, Leena said, “Today, Susi Ganesan is talking about virginity, but tell me has he ever portrayed women well in any of his films? Tamil cinema industry has now become a boys’ club. Even an unknown Ola, Uber driver takes us safely to the place where we want to go at night, but the men in the film industry aren’t like that. Women in Cinema Collective plays an important role in the industry; but only when every single person in Tamil cinema comes together for the victim, will there be no more Susi Ganesans in the industry.”
Asked about the silence of leading actors like Rajinikanth and Kamal Haasan, she said, “I hope the people who are silent now should come out and talk about this.”
Susi Ganesan meanwhile has filed for criminal defamation against Leena Manimekalai in court. He addressed the press yesterday and said, “She uses vulgar words. She uses words which I cannot utter in public. She has used the names of all the organs openly. Is this feminism? Is this a poem? I’m ashamed to be born as a man in a society that readily believes a woman’s allegations about a man. Does she have proof? Because she doesn’t I am defending myself.”
Susi Ganesan added that society thrives on gossip. He said, “The explanation is not for society, but for my children. It is my duty to explain to my children that their father is honest. I’m answerable only to them. I am going to court to wipe out the stain on my name.”
Susi Ganesan added, “She (Leena) is doing this for cheap publicity. If this is proved and court finds me guilty, I swear that people can hang me.”
Responding to this, Leena tweeted:
#metoo சுசி கணேசன் என் மேல் கிரிமினல் கேஸ் போட்டிருப்பதாக மீடியாவில் flash செய்கிறார். முதலில் கோர்ட்டில் நம்பர் ஆகட்டும். நோட்டீஸ் வரட்டும். Let me then quash it. இவனை மாதிரி பொய்யர்களோடல்லாமல் நேரடியாக அதிகாரத்தோடு போர் புரிவதும் தான் எனக்கும் பிடிக்கும்.
— Leena Manimekalai (@LeenaManimekali) October 17, 2018
Actor Siddharth, one of the few men from the Tamil film industry who has come out in support of the women who have come out with their #MeToo stories, tweeted:
#SusiGanesan spoke to my aged father on the phone and threatened us with dire consequences if I continue to stand by Leena. So I just want everyone to know that now more than ever… I Stand With #LeenaManimekalai. Stay strong and fight the good fight sister! #MeToo #TimesUp https://t.co/aMNfxXm46M
— Siddharth (@Actor_Siddharth) October 17, 2018