Let me say this upfront, Vairamuthu is a decent lyricist with no discernible literary merit. His absolute pretentiousness in projecting himself as the heir of Jeyakanthan, his laughable attempts at lobbying for awards apart, he is a sexist, uncouth, opportunistic, lowlife who has gone around harassing and exploiting girls and women using his position of privilege. His parasitic attachment to DMK and positioning as a supporter of social justice show that he knows how the Tamil Twitter mob works – which Chinmayi is yet to understand.
Before Chinmayi donned the woke avatar, like many of us here, she misspoke, acted rashly, was openly (and conservatively) upper class and proudly displayed her privilege and entitlement without any second thought. Notorious among her activities are her comments on the issue of Tamil fishermen that invited emotional responses from Tamil folks, among whom were trolls and abusers. Firstly, Chinmayi wasn’t qualified or even remotely informed about the bilateral politics, so her intended, if at all, nuance on the international boundary line was not well received.
Secondly, as a compatriot, she was expected to stand with the families of the Indian Tamil fishermen, which she failed to do. Let me clarify, she commented on the subject because her followers goaded her to, but it wasn’t an academic engagement by any stretch of imagination for her to say anything. Her lack of understanding and consideration for the dead fishermen drew the reaction it deserved and she hit back by filing complaints that were potentially career destroying. Chinmayi was quite remoreseless about this act and the twitter folks are genetically coded with long memory.
Then the #metoo movement burst forth and Chinmayi, unwittingly, became the celebrity face of the movement. As a face case, she was not a good fit for it, imho. I, like many, feared that her past raucous life threatened to seep into this movement that affected the lives of so many girls and women. Chinmayi took up the role of the harassment whistleblower quite enthusiastically, but a good part of the twitterati presumed that she mushroomed as an activist only because of her compulsive need for engagement. It is a matter of constant agony for me that the victims of sexual harassment are expected to be virgin Marys with the temperament of 5 year old Genelia. But it is what it is, either one plays the system or gets played. Chinmayi, owing to her celebrity status and her recklessly constructed soc-med image, is getting it at both the ends, which she can bear, but the #metoo movement has to grow bigger and beyond her.
Post her revelation, her nitpickings in the past were highlighted. Her ceaseless arguments were seen as flaws. Flaws, why? If someone were capable of being so loud and argumentative, why did they let VM scot-free when he harassed her was the question, I recall Reihanah’s slut shaming here. Chinmayi responded, and as is her wont, keeps on responding till date. Her reasonings are legitimate, her concerns are all valid, but alas, the image she created for herself has not been ideal. And now, no thanks to her over engagement, twitterati are producing screen grabs of the slight shifts and contradictions in her account of the incident and subjecting her to the pill of her choice, name calling. I don’t believe that Chinmayi has lied, not in the real sense. But the constant recounting of what happened a decade back has lead to the tale expanding – her own memory is probably adding nuggets to fill the gaps that trolls are constantly bringing to her attention. Chinmayi needs to pause and think here. This is the main disadvantage of trial by media – IF you have not cultivated an unshakeable media image, it is suicidal to get on the bogey. Can’t a celebrity be real? Can’t they enjoy all the little freedoms of an ordinary citizen? Name and fame are not alienable assets, even if they were none of those who have it would trade it for their purported freedom to be.
It appears that Chinmayi has a small but strong group of supporters – did no one think of asking her to limit her exposure with these trolls? Her interviews (the one with silverscreen is the best so far) are potent and powerful – if translated and taken to the people, it may have an effect. Instead, those who won’t have bear the brunt of her vociferousness, are seen hailing her courage and patience. I don’t doubt them for one second. She is hurt, she can express it as long as, as much as and in any way she pleases. My question is, is this the effective way of engagement for the movement she is riding on? Note that I am not talking about right or appropriate way. In this country, innocent folks waiting for trial get stuck in the prisons for years, children who are raped by their family members never get any closure, only last week people died in scores and lay in queues waiting for their turn to be cremated. There are all kinds of travails in the path to justice. Chinmayi has to wait for her turn – she has filed complaints, cases, pleaded her case on social media, gotten VM off Maniratnam’s venture and now induced a situation from where he had to recuse himself from receiving the ONV award. In the real world, these are victories that ordinary woman cannot even imagine. It may not put her back in the business or reinstate her membership in dubbing union, but these are very important gestures. To achieve the rest of her goals, SHE HAS TO WAIT and it will be a long wait. Sorry, Chinmayi, justice will never be handed to you on a platter. It has never been the case.
It is a lonely journey, like Chinmayi described it. But it is unfair on Chinmayi’s part to pretend as if she is the only victim around and turn every single action by any tdh into her reason for writing long threads of bile and acid, I say this as someone who still carries that bile and acid from a molestation incident from my childhood and not in the voice of the abusers that senselessly go ‘but why did you invite him to your marriage?’ What Chinmayi is responsible for, is her indirect, unintended and avoidable, encouragement of trolls that dare to challenge her victimhood every single day.
I wish to emphasize that her past actions should not be knotted with the VM incident, but it will be. Tamil people support those who they perceive as victims, and at this point Chinmayi is slipping from that position. I told myself that I will never write about this, because I knew that it will be counterproductive and will reflect badly on the issue of sexual harassment. Men protect their tribe KNOWING quite well that their friends are molesters, harassers, wife beaters, two timers, uncouth, corrupt, murderous monsters are more. Why should unconditional support not be given to a survivor woman was my reason to not pen these thoughts before. Seeing that Chinmayi has been called out for her ‘lies’, I realize that I can present my conditions clearly, lest my future self challenges my intellectual honesty, for there exist no conditions against the Chinmayi, the survivor of sexual harassment. My support for Chinmayi in her crusade against VM shall continue, but the brand Chinmayi needs to do a fundamental rethink and devise a fresh strategy for the sake of the #metoo movement.