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#MeToo In Tamil Cinema: Filmmaker Leena Manimekalai Names Susi Ganesan; Director Refutes Allegations

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Further to Leena Manimekalai’s Facebook post from 2017 in which she’d described an instance of assault, the filmmaker has now named director Susi Ganesan as the person who had harassed her. Manimekalai had spoken out about a filmmaker who attempted to assault her in his car in 2005, under the pretext of giving her a ride back home. She did not name him in the original post that she had written shortly after the kidnapping and sexual assault of a popular Malayalam actress.

In the post published last year, she wrote that she had interviewed a filmmaker in 2005 for a channel and when she was waiting for an auto to take her back home, he had come by and told her that he would drop her.

“I trusted him and that’s why I got in. Sometime later, I heard the central lock click. He took away my phone and switched it off. He compelled me to go along with him to his apartment. I pleaded with him. I screamed at him. Finally, I threatened him. I told him that I would break the car door. But he did not listen.”

Leena wrote that a small knife that she had kept in her handbag since college proved to be her saviour. “I threatened him with it. What was supposed to be a twenty-five minute journey took forty-five minutes. ”

She added that she did not have the courage to speak out about her experiences at the time. “I was worried that my parents who were firmly against me working in the media industry would use this opportunity to force me to quit. I was worried that Susi Ganesan might spread rumours about me and endanger my position within the film industry. So I kept quiet.”

In a conversation with Silverscreen, Susi Ganesan denied the allegations. He said that the incident Leena has described did not happen and that it is entirely fictitious. “I met her just before the interview and I interacted with her during the interview. That is it. I did not give her a ride back home. I did not meet her outside the office.”

Susi alleged that Leena asked to assist him in his next film and also asked for an opportunity to write songs for him. “But at the time, I could not do either of them. She is trying to use the #MeToo movement to settle old scores. Please do not let people like her derail the movement. I have utmost respect for the women who are coming out now and sharing their stories on social media. Women like Leena are trying to destroy this with their actions.”

He then said that he will file a criminal defamation suit against her if she does not post an apology on her social media page as soon as possible.

Denying the allegations in a Facebook post as well, Susi, using the word ‘pokkiri’ to describe Leena, wrote: “She failed in her personal life and she has failed in the literary world as well. The film industry knows the kind of life she has had. Unable to spit on her own life, she has decided to spit on mine. My family is suffering ever since this story came out. I have no other course than to wipe their tears by going to the courts.”

Leena, responding to the apology on her own page, wrote:

“Susi Ganesan’s denial shows the kind of person he is. My personal life is exactly the way I want it to be. How can he determine whether it is a victory or a loss? My books and poems are proof of my stature as a writer in this world. I have made better films than him. In my movies, a porukki is not the hero. What can one expect from people who sell their conscience? Many people have come forward to me privately with worse stories about him. I hope that they get the strength to come out in the open.”

Attempts to reach Leena were in vain.

(This report will be updated once Leena responds.)

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