Cracking down on Carnatic singers facing sexual harassment charges, the Madras Music Academy has barred seven artistes from performing in the prestigious Margazhi festival in Chennai this December. After singer Chinmayi Sripaada "exposed" lyricist Vairamuthu in a series of tweets earlier this week, several artistes came forward to level accusations against academy gurus who had mentored them.
"We can't remain silent on what's happening around us," said Madras Music Academy president N Murali, referring to the MeToo movement. "We spoke to many unbiased people in the industry and took multiple complaints into account. We are not branding anybody guilty; we are only exercising our right to pick who will perform at the event."
Vocalist OS Thyagarajan, who has been accused of groping an overseas student, said he has no reason to feel guilty. "Nothing of that kind happened. I don't remember anything. This action by the Madras Music Academy will not affect me," he told NDTV.
Chitraveena N Ravikiran, a vocalist-cum-instrumentalist, said he has decided against performing until his name is cleared. "Taking a stance to suspend my performances until I can clear the air to my satisfaction," the artiste, who is currently in the United States, tweeted.
Other Carnatic musicians such as TM Krishna and Swarnamalya Ganesh have vowed to prevent sexual harassment in Carnatic circles, and create a safe and non-exploitative environment for upcoming artistes. Ms Ganesh had even initiated a public consultation process for redressing such complaints in the performing arts. "We will make every sphere of the performing arts, from private dance schools to sabhas, organisations, government nodal agencies, ministry, artistes and universities, accountable. No matter your gender, power, status and age, you will never intimidate us anymore... If the performing artistes want to continue their radio silence, that is fine. Coz this battle is fought for you too. Your children will live in a safer space from now on," she wrote on her Facebook page earlier this month.
The #MeToo movement was sparked off in India after Bollywood actor Tanushree Dutta renewed a decade-old sexual harassment allegation against veteran filmstar Nana Patekar. It then went on to expose several high profile individuals in the media and the field of arts.
Mr Patekar and Mr Vairamuthu have denied the charges.
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