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“I’m Not Apologising For The Tweet, I’ve Expressed Regret To Latha”: Kasthuri Shankar

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Kasthuri At The Humanitarian Awards Ceremony

Actor Kasthuri Shankar has said that she will not apologise for her controversial tweet which compared a cricket match to a romantic scene from MGR and Latha starrer Pallaandu Vaazhga. After the incident blew up on social media, Latha reportedly said that the comment was not in good taste. Kasthuri has maintained that it was intended only as a pun.

On April 10, Kasthuri tweeted about an Indian Premiere League match saying that the Chennai team’s batting was slow like the way MGR made advances towards Latha in the song.

“என்னய்யா இது. பல்லாண்டு வாழ்க படத்துல வாத்தியாரு லதாவை தடவினதை விட அதிகமா தடவுறாங்க. CSK 81 -3 (14 overs),” she said.

After this resulted in an outrage, she deleted the tweet. Later that day she posted a response on Facebook saying there was nothing wrong in the way MGR touched his heroine in the song, and she did not have the slightest intention of criticising MGR or Latha. She also said she was sorry in case someone was hurt.

Following this, Latha told Chennai Times, “Kasthuri had called up to apologise for the tweet, but she maintained that what she’d written was not wrong. That’s her opinion, but I fail to understand what connection the song has with Team Chennai playing that way. Apparently, a lot of people have questioned her on social media, and I believe she’s also received a few calls regarding that. I agree that it’s everybody’s right to have an opinion, but prachanaiku kural kudakalameyYedhukku sambandhame illama ezhuthanumIdhu romba virasama irukku. There are lakhs who consider MGR their god; he lives in the hearts and memories of so many people.”

Speaking to Silverscreen, Kasthuri Shankar said, “I’m not apologising for the tweet, I have expressed regret to madam Latha for the unnecessary mess that she has been dragged into.” She further said that the controversy around her comment was blown up by the opposition party in Tamil Nadu who had a vested political interest. She also spoke about her stance on MeToo and said that her ‘joke’ about the movement at a recent event must not be taken out of context.

Is there a negative connotation to the word ‘Thadavaranga’?

The word means stroking, cajoling, or the closest – romancing… I have been talking to many MGR fans, and their problem is that they don’t think the word is a good thing. But why should I be ashamed of it? It’s a movie. If I had talked about someone beating up, singing or jumping from one building to another, it wouldn’t have been considered embarrassing.

Whenever I think of romance, I think of MGR. And he was as famous for romance as he was for his moral songs. I had a conversation with madam Latha, and I said that the outrage came from people’s feeling of shame. How could I have shamed her? So I asked her if she was ashamed of her movie or her song. She was quick to say no, and that she was proud of it. I said, “So am I. You have to tell people that.”

The problem is we can do whatever we want, but can’t speak about it. There’s so much hypocrisy around intimacy, which is enjoyed, practiced, but not spoken about. Even if it just a movie.

Why did you delete the tweet if there was nothing wrong with it?

I was asked to delete it by several people of authority. In the beginning, this wasn’t really a big deal but the comment blew up when people from the opposition party in Tamil Nadu jumped into the frame and started milking the issue. You would think that MGR fans would have been the most vocal, but it turns out that there were others who wanted to gain advantage of the controversy.

But why would the opposition want to blow this up?

So they can badmouth more, write Facebook posts about it. And also I want to clarify that I’m talking about a scene from a specific movie. There’s no comment about the people that MGR or Latha were. That itself has not been understood and it really became big because even if it was understood, perception manipulators are blowing it up for their own advantage, during election time.

You’re saying we must differentiate movies from real life. Can we do that, especially with someone like MGR? 

Are you going to say he was too big to be remembered as an actor? After this controversy, people have been pointing out to me that he was a Bharat Ratna awardee. But I want to say that before this he was a Bharat Awardee for his acting contribution in Rikshawkaran, a film that was known for its sensual scenes.

After director RS Ravikumar spoke at the Maaligai press meet recently, you said, “Sir, this is MeToo mike. Speak without touching it.”

Do you think it’s okay to joke about the MeToo movement?

I think it’s okay to make a joke about most things. Is this going to trivialise the movement? I will say this is the last thing that will trivialise a movement which has already not been given its due accord in Tamil Nadu. Today, a 61-year-old TV actress in Kerala is the talk of the town. She’s a famous actress and her sex tapes have leaked on social media. Now, after they have come out, she has registered a case of rape. This has trivialised rape as a tool you use against people that you manipulate. MeToo has also been trivialised by people who use it as a tool, and  by people who belittle the victim.

Long answers aside, here’s my response – good gracious, are you going to spin everything that I say out of context? At least I should be thankful that you’re not implying that I accused the speaker.

You have supported the MeToo movement.

I was taken aback when an actress insinuated that her hero took advantage, touched her inappropriately. It’s such a subjective matter. It’s not the same as asking someone to sleep with you and throwing them out of the job because they didn’t.

Sexual assault is a violent crime, sex by cheating someone is also considered rape but it is not as violent a crime as sexual assault. And deciding that it’s rape after it gets exposed is definitely not MeToo situation. MeToo movement is about sexual harassment at the workplace, where work is directly affected because someone’s telling you that you will be fired if you don’t do a sexual favour.

Do you also think there’s an outrage only when big stars are involved?

Actually, somebody sent me a tweet of someone else who made the same MGR comment that I made and they called me copycat Kasthuri. Someone had already expressed the same sentiment long ago, and that tweet went unnoticed.

When people who really deserve justice ask for it, their voices go unheard. Naturally, people with influence initiate and manipulate action faster. Nayanthara has friends in high places so action was more immediate. Nayanthara is a very visible person so attention is more aggressive.

But that works both ways, no? If Kasthuri says something vs half a dozen people say the same thing, only what I say gets heard. So is justice partial? It sure is.

Radha Ravi has spoken offensively of women, he has also refused to apologise. 

Why single Mr. Radha Ravi out, why not speak about Mr. Stalin who said, ‘after all, they are actresses,’ and ‘kevalamana actresses’. Everyone, starting from Stalin, is guilty of misogyny. For some reason actresses are lowly in his estimation.

There was some news regarding your support for BJP.

I definitely deny any affiliation with BJP. Even two days back I criticised the Tamil Hindu for implying and insinuating that I support the BJP. I support stuff that works for the people. If it comes from BJP, that’s fine. I don’t have a problem applauding their good deeds.

And that goes for everyone, I don’t have a problem applauding the many infrastructural accomplishments of DMK, but I’m not a big fan of their Hindu bashing.

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