It’s been almost a year since Chinmayi Sripaada, award-winning singer and dubbing artist, accused influential Tamil lyricist Vairamuthu of sexually harassing her. Since then, she has been banned by the Tamil film industry’s dubbing union, given some relief by a Chennai court, lost many job opportunities and been trolled online. But through it all, she has been indefatigable in her pursuit of justice, not just for herself but for thousands of other survivors.
Not only does she engage with her online harassers with wit and sarcasm—“because this is not the way to speak to me and there are girls and women who are watching”—she also organises solidarity meets offline to bring together women from different walks of life and advocate for safer workspaces.
In a phone conversation with HuffPost India, Chinmayi spoke about what she has learnt in the past year, where she gets the energy to keep fighting and why she thinks art and the artist cannot be separated.
Edited excerpts from the interview:
It’s been a year since you spoke out about your experience of sexual harassment in the Tamil film industry. What has a year of publicly fighting sexual harassment taught you?
One of the things it has taught me is that however difficult the going feels, one has to be relentless and it is not at all easy. And I knew this when I walked into it, naming a man who’s politically backed like Vairumuthu. He has the Tamil nationalistic pride thing also going, he has all these Tamil nationalists wanting to back him because he speaks for the language and it doesn’t matter if he’s molested how many ever women.
And the general power circles that be, the men that can actually take a stand, have this conundrum and I don’t blame them for it—whether they separate the art and the artist. This is a question we have to keep asking over and over. I do believe that the art and artist can’t be separated, because if it’s just about the art, then take away his name, na? Don’t...