I Gave Up My Singing Dream, Thanks to Vairamuthu – But No More
Chinmayi’s strength inspired me. I hope my story inspires more women.
The Quint DAILY
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1. I am not referring to all men. I have some fantastic male friends.
2. I am aware that boys and men are also subjected to sexual abuse and my support is for victims in general, it is not gender specific.
3. If any of my friends find my declaration cheap and shameful, please leave my friends list. I respect your perspective, but you need to respect me.
4. Please don't add any caste or religious or political affinity to this. I'm speaking as Bhuvana, a woman.
I'm aware that my personal life and my character will be assassinated. If you have no other work, please go ahead and get your high by slandering me. But I resent your attitude.
I had a nasty experience with Vairamuthu. It happened almost 20 years ago, but I have carried the pain in my heart for years, and I shudder every time I see his disgusting face on television.
Why didn't I come out with it then? I was scared. I had shared it with a few of my close friends who still stand by me. Back in those days, society was way narrower than it is now.
I saw so many derogatory statements about Chinmayi simply because she stepped up. I really don't care about anyone's personal life and choices but if anyone has been pained because of something, we need to stand up. I contemplated. I was worried my son would hear and read judgmental posts about me. But I'm so proud to say that he was the one who encouraged me to speak up.
Vairamuthu and Trichy Sarathas:
I have nothing against Sarathas. No complaint. No issue. I’m mentioning Sarathas only because it was for Sarathas’ jingle that I met Vairamuthu. The recording was in Joy Studio, Rangarajapuram, Directors Colony. The studio is not in operation now, I'm mentioning it for documentation.
Vairamuthu penned the lyrics for the jingle and was also producing the project. He was “impressed” with my voice and Tamil diction. He took my number and told me to meet him with my demo at his office, which was in Trustpuram then. I gave him the demo.
Subsequently, he started contacting me on the phone. It was harmless conversation, initially. We discussed Bharathi, Thi Janakiraman, Sivaji Ganesan, MSV, Ilayaraja etc. Slowly, Panmai (many) became Orumai (one). Well, I didn't mind.
One day, he told me that not only do I have a great voice, but I am also an intelligent woman. “Oru arivupoorvamana pannai naan thedik kondirundhen. En thedal unnil mudindhuvidumo?”’ (“I was searching for an intelligent, attractive woman. Will my search end with you?”)
Discomfort started creeping in. “Un kangal enna koorvaalaa? En kavidhaye thunduthundaagi un kaalil kidakkiradhe.” (“Are your eyes sharpened swords? My poetry lies in pieces at thy feet.”)
I told him I was uncomfortable. The next day, he called again. He told me he would be going to Malaysia the following week and asked if I wanted to join. I said, “Do you want me for singing or anchoring?”
He said, “Neither.”
Though I understood what he said, I spoke like I didn't. Then came the dagger. “Idhu kooda puriyalaya? Nee enna chinna penna? Pattum padama nadandhukitta unlife settled.” (“Don’t you even understand this? Are you a little girl? If you behave compliantly and discreetly, consider your life settled.”)
I respectfully rejected his gracious offer. He tried to sell himself with promises of AR Rahman and riches. I simply told him not to call anymore.
After a week, he called again. “Kadaisiya kekaren, Malaysiaku ticket podaren. Variya illaya?” (“For the last time I ask you, I’m booking a ticket to Malaysia. Coming or not?”)
I said, “Kadaisiya enna mudhalendhe solrene. NO.” (“What last time, I’ve been telling you since the first time. NO.”)
Then came the threats.
Nee indha industrylaye illama panniduven. Unaku Ella kadhavayum saathiduven. En influence indha industry la enna nu theriyuma. Unna onnum illama panna mudiyum. (You will cease to exist in this industry. I will shut all doors for you. Do you know what my influence is in this industry? I can reduce you to nothing.)Vairamuthu
I said, “Please go ahead.”
Subsequently, I lost three trips abroad and some recording opportunities. In the words of the production manager, “Sorry, ma. Melidathu pressure.” (“Sorry, ma. Pressure from high places.”)
I sulked for a week but then got up to move on – but I decided I would never pursue playback singing.
“Isn’t this an industry norm? Do you mean to say only Vairamuthu did this?”
Of course, I faced more of this in the industry. But I have thrown away every opportunity I got, if the couch was a prerequisite.
See, there were many guys who put this on the table. But when I rejected the offer, they would apologise and move away.
I'm not justifying the behaviour of the others. The major difference was that the others did not threaten me. Vairamuthu threatened me with dire consequences and I decided to give up on my dream. So, I stopped pursuing playback singing. I was happy singing on stage for elite audiences.
What Do I Get By Speaking Up Now?
Let me make it very clear: I am a single parent and I can proudly say that I have brought my son up well.
But one particular question kept popping up in my head: What if I had had a girl child? My whole life would have been spent just protecting her from predators. What about these young girls who are being subjected to harassment and threats? Naive little things. I decided I should do my bit to leave a better world for all the daughters of this country.
It is the “shame” of speaking up that gives these scumbags the audacity to do these things.
If sharing my bitter experience inspires a few more genuinely affected women, I will be happy.
I'm not moralising here. I don't peep into people's lives and I'm not talking about consensual sex. I'm talking against forced sex which amounts to rape. I'm talking about making sex a pre-requisite for introducing your talent to this world.
I lost my dreams. I chose to. But I'm not a happy woman. Chinmayi’s strength inspired me. I hope my story inspires more women.
My special thanks to my 16-year-old son, Advaith, who encouraged me to speak the truth without shame, and stands by me. I see heartwarming potential in the next generation.
Thank you, Chinmayi, for stepping up and inspiring me.
(The Quint reached out to Poet Vairamuthu's office/residence 'Kavignar Illam' via telephone for a comment on Bhuvana Seshan's allegations. Mr Kesavan, who mans the desk has denied, on behalf of Vairamuthu, any knowledge of the incident or of the woman in question.
The Quint also tried to reach out to Mr Baskar, secretary to Vairamuthu. His phone was switched off, and not reachable.)
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