Tamil News

Chinmayi On Dubbing Union Membership Termination: “I Was Expecting The Axe Anytime”

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Singer and voice artiste Chinmayi Sripada tweeted yesterday that her Dubbing Artistes Union membership in the Tamil film industry has been terminated for not paying the ‘subscription fee’. This news comes weeks after she accused lyricist Vairamuthu in the #MeToo campaign, and supported those accusing Radha Ravi, head of the union, for alleged sexual harrassment and misdemeanor.

Chinmayi’s tweets said that no written communication or message was sent to her on past dues. And even though she hadn’t paid her ‘subscription fee’, it didn’t stop the union from cutting 10% off her dubbing income.

Expanding on these tweets, Chinmayi told Silverscreen, “You don’t have a choice but to be a part of the Dubbing Union in Tamil industry. Other unions, like the one in Telugu industry are kind of voluntary. I’m not a part of the union there, but they don’t force me and say, ‘If you’re not part of the union, we won’t let your film release.’ But that is the case in Tamil Nadu.”

Singer Chinmayi began her career as a voice artiste with the Tamil film Sillnu Oru Kaadhal in 2006. She says she remembers not making any money on the film because she had to hand over whatever she made as a membership fee to the union. “Since then, for every work that got dubbed in Chennai, Tamil or Telugu, I’d have to pay 10% to the union, of which 5% goes to the PRO. And initially they took this fee from all artistes, main or supporting, to only release payment whenever they deemed ready,” she says.

But Chinmayi started having issues when she had to pay service taxes on her income, and the union’s 10% deduction was not on paper. “They never deducted TDS either. So when I consulted my auditor, we didn’t know what this deduction was for. Since this became an accounting issue, I told the union I’ll raise an invoice with the producers myself and pay 10% from my income anyway,” she says, adding, “They’d also told me there were a lot of legal issues and hurdles, and asked me not to make payments to South Indian Cine, Television Artistes and Dubbing Artistes Union (SICTADAU).”

In October this year, artiste and politician Radha Ravi, who heads this union, was accused of sexual misconduct by two women. During the same time, artistes Dasarathy, J Mathiazagan and Booma Subbaraomany spoke of his alleged authoritarian grip over the union – with concerns ranging from admission fee and pending legal cases, to the absence of an Internal Complaints Committee in the union.

Following this, Booma and Dasararthy were suspended from the union, and Mathiazhagan was terminated. Bhooma filed a civil suit against this termination and got herself reinstated.  But since then the union has appealed against her again, and no work has come her way.

Bhooma’s opposition started in 2016 when she shared her discomfort about the union to members of a closed Dubbing Union Facebook group. She says, “When I expressed my interest in joining the union, I was asked to meet Radha Ravi at his residence. I wasn’t interested in going to his house, and wondered why the union didn’t have an office.”

So when she asked on the group, ‘Is it required for someone to visit Radha Ravi at his residence to become a member?’, there was instant backlash from its members. She says they even circulated letters to studios saying disciplinary action had to be taken against her, and she had to be terminated.

Last month, Varalakshmi Sarathkumar, Chinmayi and others had voiced their support and retweeted these allegations against Radha Ravi. Some of these tweets were taken down for undisclosed reasons, but on October 9, Chinmayi said, “I can see my dubbing career go up in smokes now. He (Radha Ravi) heads the dubbing union.”

Chinmayi tells Silverscreen that only after these retweets, she got to know from Bhooma that presently there were also about 15 legal cases against the union. Responding to Radha Ravi’s comment about her being allowed to dub all these years, only because she was a well-known artiste, Chinmayi simply reiterates that she wasn’t told about the union elections or its membership fee on paper. “I don’t know why I was never informed,” she says.

Chinmayi, who is currently in the US for a concert, was terminated at the union’s general body meeting yesterday. She says she isn’t surprised at all by this and was expecting it anytime: “Radha Ravi got ‘elected’ president despite serious allegations… I shudder to think what happens to less vocal, less known artistes. The dubbing union is showing women what will happen if they speak up, and I am the example.”

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