Bhavana’s return to the Malayalam movie industry is a statement to the world that the survivors need not hide in shame of the crime that happened to them and has every right to occupy their space in society and their respective fields of work.
In February 2017, one of the most popular actresses in South Indian Cinema, Bhavana was subjected to a brutal sexual assault as she was travelling from Thrissur to Kochi, Kerala. It was allegedly orchestrated by one of the most popular and powerful actors of Malayalam cinema out of a personal feud. It was a horrible display of cruelty as someone used sexual assault as a means of revenge.
Following her assault, for five years, actress Bhavana was away from the Malayalam film industry. Even her name was not uttered in public. Overnight she turned from one of the most popular actresses whose name everybody knew to ‘the victim’ whose name should never be uttered. Her presence in the media and film industry was wiped away, whereas the actor who orchestrated the crime continued to release movies and be in the media even while he was arrested and the court case against him was going on.
It was in January 2022 that Bhavana identified herself as the actress who was sexually assaulted and came out in her social media account. This was a revolutionary move as usually survivors are forced to remain hidden from the eyes of the public. They are subjected to the ‘shame’ of having been the victim of a sexual assault. Rape is, unfortunately, the only crime where the word ‘shame’ is associated with the victim rather than the assailant, which should never be this way. In this situation, Bhavana’s move was really an inspiring one.
Recently Bhavana also announced her return to the Malayalam movie industry with her new film ‘Adam John’. Bhavana had worked in a few Kannada films after 2017, but she had stayed away from the Malayalam industry because she did not feel safe in that environment. She found it more comfortable staying in Bangalore rather than in her home state.
Following this, she opened up to the media in an interview and said, “When one goes to court, a person expects that they can just tell their truth and it will be over. But what happened was not something I had expected at all. Through many of the questions — directly and indirectly — it was implied that I had staged it. I’m sure they are doing their jobs, but the onus is on me to prove my innocence. I struggled, wondering why am I being asked this? Why should I explain? It was not just in court, but outside too people were asking why I went out at that time. In my mind I would ask them a counter-question, “Do you think a woman out at 10 am won’t get assaulted?”
Coming back to Malayalam cinema is another inspiring and path changing move from her. She is making a statement to the world that the survivors need not hide in the shame of the crime that happened to them and have every right to occupy their space in society and their respective fields of work. Her return to Malayalam cinema is not only happy news for her fans who missed her on-screen but also a great inspiration to all the survivors out there. It is not them who need to hide their names in shame, it is the assailants.
Bhavana was also recently spotted at the inauguration ceremony of the 26th International Film Festival of Kerala, lighting the lamp. She received a standing ovation there, and this shows immense courage and confidence in her which all survivors should develop and hope for the future.