A few months back, under the umbrella of a global movement, popularly called the #MeToo movement, several women came out in the open to discuss their sexual harrassment stories. As a part of the mevement, a lot of Hollywood celebrities named and shamed certain people from the industry. A lot of these perpetrators’ careers came crushing down after the incident.
While actresses in other parts of the world are calling out the wrong doers, actors from Bollywood and the South film industry have mostly refrained from taking names, except actress and TV anchor Sri Reddy, who mainly works in the Telugu film industry. Reddy had earlier staged a strip protest to expose the casting couch in Tollywood. It was her who exposed younger son of film producer Suresh Babu, Abhiram Daggubati and most recently actor-producer Nani. She recently admitted that she was enticed into prostitution by Telugu producer Modugumidi Kishan (alias Sreeraj Chennupati) and his wife Chandra in the US.
Soon, the US authorities busted a prostitution racket run by the NRI couple. News of many Telugu actresses allegedly involved in the racket also came to the fore. The authorities unvieled an explicit prostitution racket in Chicago, Illinois, involving young actresses from Tollywood. About five people from the Telugu and Kannada film industry were identified as victims of the racket.
Speaking about the same in an interview with News 18, Sri Reddy revealed that she was approached by the couple. She also alleged that they have coordinators in Hyderabad. According to her, actresses are lured into prostitution. “They will arrange visa and everything else for you. Artists are paid anything between $1000 and $10,000, depending on their popularity,” the channel quoted her as saying.
Multilingual actress Sanjjanaa Galrani too came out and claimed that actresses are advertised for sex at cross-cultural events. “Fact is that it is not a new thing going in US. Mostly it is C or D-grade artists, doing supporting roles in films… they fall into this trap. Sometimes they are asked to come for a dance performance, where they are lured with more money. Other times its mutual agreement also,” the actress says.
Though this prostitution racket in the US was busted in late April, the media started talking about it only after federal agents of Homeland Security Investigations filed a 42-page criminal complaint against Telugu film producer Kishan Modugumudi and his wife.
Anchor-actress Anasuya, too opened up about her encounter with them. She told a leading daily, “I haven’t visited the United States for a long time. I attended an event with music composer Devi Sri Prasad way back in 2014. In 2016, Sreeraj contacted me from his American number, asking me to attend a Telugu association event. I was uncomfortable with the way he spoke. He was talking about making a commitment. I refused to attend the event. Despite my refusal, he put my picture on poster. I tweeted saying I have nothing to do with the event.”
Shivaji Raja, President of Movie Artistes Association, also took to the stage and reacted to the controversy. “We are aware of Kishan Modugumudi’s suspicious activities. He worked as a production manager and co-produced at least two films. We have been warning artists not to go abroad for performances with those with dubious antecedents. Few years ago, when I was vice-president, we noticed suspicious activity,” Raja was quoted telling a daily.
He also went on to say that he along with his colleagues has convened a meeting on June 24 to discuss the issue. The association has requested artists to inform MAA about performance schedules and events abroad so that they can intervene and verify the organiser’s credentials. The sex racket has not only engulfed actresses, but also lyricists.
Shrestha, who has penned lyrics of the successful ‘Arjun Reddy’ and ‘Pelli Choopulu’, came out of the closet and shared her unbelievable story as well. According to an India Today report, she revealed in an interview that even the lyricists are subjected to sexual exploitation in the industry.
She talked about a producer’s wife once asking her to meet his sexual demands. She also shared that she was informed by a female director about a person throwing a grand party in Goa to propose to her, and when she turned down the invite, she received threatening calls. Talking about these incidents, she said, “I was helpless. I warned them strongly and left the industry for a few months.”
She also added, “I had to postpone my career because of a few bad experiences. Many people have openly suggested to me that I won’t be able to make a name for myself in the industry only with my writing. I have learned over the years that it’s not just men but also women who unabashedly perpetuate such things.”
Tollywood is in a state of shock with the recent revelations, but in order to bust many more such casting-couch rackets, celebrities would have to speak up and take names.