Singer Chinmayi Sripaada has called outBigg Boss Tamil on Twitter after a male contestant joked about having sexually harassed women on public transport. In a Kamal Haasan-conducted interaction with the contestants, actor Saravanan appeared to boast about taking buses while in college so that he could grope female passengers. His remark was received with cheers and applause. Chinmayi Sripaada, a leading voice in the #MeToo movement, shared a clip and 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. Damn.”
The comments thread is filled with outraged responses, condemning not just Saravanan but also Kamal Haasan’s handling of the situation.
Kamal Haasan, who hosts Bigg Boss Tamil, attempted to deflect contestant Meera Mithun’s allegation that director Cheran had ‘manhandled’ her during a task by mansplaining molestation – Mr Haasan told Meera Mithun that inadvertent pushing happens all the time, on a bus for instance; people don’t get into crowded buses with the purpose of groping women, Mr Haasan said. Saravanan raised his response, claiming he did exactly that as a college student. Kamal Haasan’s problematic reply to this: A dialogue from his film Guna – “Avar adhaiyum thandi punidham aayitaar,” which The Hindu translates as “He (Saravanan) has gone beyond all that and is now become pure and holy.”
Chinmayi Sripaada outed veteran poet-lyricist Vairamuthu as an alleged sexual predator in the tidal wave of #MeToo accusations that emerged from the film industry last year. She has subsequently spoken up in support of other women who came forward with their own stories of being sexually harassed.
Kamal Haasan’s comments on the #MeToo movement have erred on the side of caution; only “the accused should respond; if all respond, it could be wrong,” he said last year. He also said that if women “say their grievances in a fair manner, there is no harm in that.”