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Chinmayi vs. South Indian Dubbing Union: Singer Files Case

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Singer and dubbing artiste Chinmayi has filed a case against the Dubbing Artistes Union on her termination.

Chinmayi said the case will become sub judice in a week. So for what was the last time, for now, before the matter is taken up in court, she went live on Facebook this Monday.

In a 30-minute video, she spoke about the #MeToo movement, crediting those who started and kept it going. She spoke of the backlash she faced and asked why men don’t face this when they speak. She then asked Radha Ravi for answers about the union, which she said should have been asked by the media and others in the union.

Following #MeToo, Chinmayi has been verbally abused on social media. She said, “Many people who are following me on social media have abused me, used all bad words in Tamil, asked me who all I’ve slept with, if I was a prostitute. Don’t think you’re abusing me by calling me a prostitute. It’s a job that’s done for men, even eight-year-old girls are forced into it. These women have been sacrificing so much.”

We have only been creating an environment that enables perpetrators. And that’s obvious from the way questions are asked to men, she said: “When a man went up on stage and said all of us who come into the industry must go through a virginity test, everyone laughed and clapped, and later he was asked kindly, ‘Is a virginity test really required?’ But when I say anything, questions are thrown at me even before I can finish my answer. People say, ‘Look how she’s talking’.”

Before Chinmayi was terminated from the dubbing union for alleged non-payment of ‘subscription fee’, and before she exposed details of Radha Ravi’s ‘datuk’ title, she said Radha Ravi himself called out other men as sexual offenders. “I’m not sure who he was referring to, but in speeches he said that because there was no list and no Facebook or Twitter before, Puratchi Thalaivar became our CM. Everyone laughed and clapped again. When he called another man a sexual offender, why wasn’t any question or proof asked?”

She also asks why he called her a member of the union in these speeches, and later claimed that she’d never been a member for not paying the fee. “He empathised saying, ‘So sad, this child’s time is bad’, and he kept calling me a dubbing union member, but then, overnight, he said I was not a member.”

The dubbing union is identified by the Trade Union Act of 1926. It is called South Indian Cine, Television Artistes and Dubbing Artistes Union (SICTADAU) and is affiliated to Film Employees Federation of South India (FEFSI). In 2006, when Radha Ravi was the president, he changed the union by-laws, and one only had to pay a membership fee Rs 2500 to become a part of union. Chinmayi says. “But I paid my entire salary of Rs 15,000 that I made on my first film Sillunu Oru Kaadhal. I’ve paid way past my life membership fee, and I have no clarity on this.”

The rule was also that all members must pay 10% of their dubbing union income for every project they took up. 5% of this went to the PRO. But none of this was on paper, and the artiste could not raise an invoice. Chinmayi asks why there was no transparency on where the members’ money was spent. “Crowd voice artistes earn about Rs 750-800 a day as salary, and from that Rs 80 gets deducted. In the last few years the union has spent close to Rs 25 lakh on its court cases. I have no idea how they are spending this without getting any of our permission.”

Booma Subbarao, one of the few artistes like Dasarathy and J Mathiazagan who have called out Radha Ravi’s alleged authoritarian grip over the union, had to pay about 1 lakh to become the union’s member in 2016. She paid and became a member, but when she was asked to meet Radha Ravi at his house, she expressed her discomfort on a closed Facebook group with the union members. She asked ‘Is it required for someone to visit Radha Ravi at his residence to become a member?’, and faced an instant backlash from members. She said they even circulated letters to studios saying disciplinary action had to be taken against her, and she had to be terminated.

Like Chinmayi now, Booma Subbarao too filed a case against the termination. She got herself reinstated in the union, but she says barely any work has come her way. Chinmayi also says in the video, “Because of the termination I now can’t dub in any Tamil films, and I’ve lost opportunities and work.”

Since they’ve spoken out, she says many members who had been terminated by the union and treated unfairly, have contacted her. That’s also how she got to know about Radha Ravi’s ‘datuk’ title. “He claimed that the Sultan gave him the title, but which palace and which Sultan? Malaysians know they don’t have a Sultan. He has been using this title to say, ‘I’m a Datuk and you better behave’ and has the union building name after him.”

She says all of this needs to be investigated, and particularly members who are currently in the union must take it up. “We are not saying dubbing union should be closed down. I’m nobody to say that. But so many of us are fighting for our rights with the union, so the members must please speak for right things,” she says.

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