Why are TV channels vilifying women actors?

Why are TV channels vilifying women actors?

Actors Ragini Dwivedi and Sanjjanaa Galrani (behind), involved in the Sandalwood drug case, being taken for a medical check up by the CCB Police. DH PHOTO/JANARDHAN BK

Television channels are having a field day with the naming of TV anchor Anushree in a narcotics case. Earlier, they had gone into a similar frenzy when actors Ragini Dwivedi and Sanjjanaa Galrani were arrested and jailed for alleged narcotics offences. With information purportedly acquired from investigators, anchors are going overboard with sensational stories.

Why were the Hindi channels so loud and aggressive in talking about Rhea Chakraborthy, who allegedly had in her possession 59 grams of curated marijuana, and why have they gone so deafeningly silent when a mind-boggling 3,000 kg haul of cocaine was reported in Gujarat?

Is there a pattern behind what Anushree, Sanjjanaa Galrani, Ragini Dwivedi and Rhea are going through? Are they being used to keep audiences distracted?

The #MeToo movement that dominated the media space three years ago may offer some answers. Women in cinema, media and the arts, who then gathered the courage to name their abusers, have been fighting lonely, individual battles. Many say opportunities no longer come their way.

Sruthi Hariharan, the talented Kannada actor, has come to the conclusion that the system is skewed, and has little interest in punishing predators. With great difficulty, she has now made a comeback in a Tamil webseries called 'Vadham'.

How the movement panned out also tells us a lot about why singer Chinmayi, and actors Ragini, Sanjjanaa, and Anushree are hounded by TV channels. The TV channels have already passed judgment, even before the completion of any judicial trial, by dubbing them 'Nashe Raniyaru' (queens of inebriation) and 'Drugginiyaru' (junkies). The women became the focus, even when the police claimed they had brought to book big-time drug peddlers and party hosts.

Many channels are running moral policing campaigns against women in cinema, and branding them as ‘lacking in character.’ What is it that makes the police and the media create such a spectacle with women actors? How do male actors and politicians get away even after their names crop up in one or two places? Why don’t the channels pursue those leads? Is it because the men have contacts in high places? When the spotlight is turned on women actors, it is easy for the real culprits to escape. While the women are being blamed for eroding the moral fabric of society, the big fish find their way out.

TV channels continue to insinuate that Anushree got off the hook because she had an influential politician-friend. By all accounts, the case against her is sketchy. An RJ reportedly told the police that she had brought drugs to a hotel room when they were taking part in an event in 2007.

The Mangaluru police have said it is not possible to establish Anushree’s guilt based just on the statement of the RJ, Kishore Aman Shetty. Even after they dropped the case against her, for an alleged offence dating back 14 years, the channels have not stopped talking about her. Incidentally, she is one of the highest-paid female anchors in the Kannada television industry.

The opposition accuses the government of benefiting from such vilification, and encouraging it. After all, those in power don’t want people taking them to task for rising prices, lack of unemployment, and pandemic mismanagement.

It is evident that women actors are soft and easy targets and their names sell. Neither the police nor the TV channels show any awareness of the consequences of vilifying vulnerable women whose interests they are duty-bound to protect.

When strategy misfires

The arrest of Ragini was a self-goal for the BJP government. She had campaigned for the party ahead of the KR Pet by-election in 2019. B Y Vijayendra, son of former chief minister B S Yeddyurappa, had been in charge of the campaign. The BJP quickly distanced itself from her.  

(The author is a senior Bengaluru-based film writer)

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