Actress Sruthi Hariharan, best known for her role in critically and commercially acclaimed Kannada film Lucia, opened up about the bitter casting couch experience she had to face when she forayed into Tamil cinema. She spoke as one of the panelists in ‘Sexism in Indian Cinema’ at India Today Southern Conclave 2018. “We are five producers and we will exchange you however we want. I retorted by saying that I carry a slipper with me in my hand,” she quoted the Tamil producer.
Now, Sruthi Hariharan has released a detailed statement explaining her stand on the issue. “I stand by what I said because it is true to my experience. However, it definitely does not mean that the casting couch is an unavoidable prerequisite. Furthermore, I am not even trying to scare anyone by throwing light on how bad an industry the film industry is – it certainly is not. In fact, my intent of coming out with my truth is the exact opposite. The film industry is a wonderful place to be in and personally, I would have it no other way. It creatively satisfies me, and at the same time makes me feel very blessed with the love I receive from the audience for my work. I must add that my family is very proud of all that I did and continue to do as an actor,” she stated. (ALSO READ: Shocking! Dulquer Salmaan’s co-star Sruthi Hariharan revealed a Tamil producer wanted to ‘exchange’ her with four other men)
“Coming to the point, I know many women like me who have been victims of the casting couch. I also know women who have stood up against it and said NO. I believe that’s what is important. To take a stand and say NO. Even if it means you are going to lose that opportunity – it is okay as long as you don’t lose your integrity. The casting couch may get us our first opportunity, but will never help us survive. To survive, it’s only one’s talent and ability to learn and improve as a professional that’s going to help. To persevere yet never ‘ compromise’. I despise that last word there and I hope no girl hears it ever again, in the future,” she added.
Sruthi Hariharan also observed that there are amazing men in the film industry for whom she has a lot of respect and regard for. “So let’s not blame just those few men who ask for sexual favors. They ask because there have been women who have complied. You sure do need two hands to clap. So let’s remember it is 2018 now. There are a lot of new female actors in the film fraternity who are very successful without even having to face the casting couch and I am very proud of each of them,” she said.
“It is important to look at this as a bridge we need to destroy. The casting couch needs to die. And I believe it is only possible by women in cinema coming together to collectively say NO… No to not just the casting couch but everything which is sexist and derogatory to any woman,” she wrote.
“So that any girl who comes in tomorrow with dreams in her eyes does not have her family saying for the umpteenth time “are you crazy? Do you want to be an actress? Do you know what a dirty place it is? You come from a respectable family .. go study… do something respectable!!!” Eventually, it is the deeply ingrained mindset and perception of women we are fighting against. And this can’t be one person’s battle. It’s high time, not just women, but men too hollered #TIMESUP. It is high time patriarchy ended.”