Actor Bhavana Menon, a sexual assault survivor, was welcomed on stage with a thunderous applause at the International Film Festival of Kerala. The actor lit the lamp with Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan and other artists.
This was the actor's first public appearance on Saturday in Kerala, since the 2017 sexual assault on her, when she was kidnapped by a gang of men in the car while returning from work. The case is being heard by a court currently and among the accused is fellow actor Dileep.
Actor Bhavana is also set to begin shooting for a Malayalam movie, first time since the 2017 sexual assault. The shoot is expected to begin in May. The actor has featured in Kannada movies, but stayed away from Malayalam movies.
"The message is very clear that we have to fight and Bhavana has nothing to hide or be ashamed of. She is a professional and has this space," IFFK artistic director Beena Paul, also among the founding members of Women In Cinema Collective, told NDTV.
The collective, formed by women artists after the 2017 sexual assault case, is to voice and propagate women's rights in the cinema industry.
"Bhavana is a public figure and has owned the responsibility to say she won't hide. The message is clear for many other survivors, who may not be in such influential positions", Beena Paul added.
In January, the actor took to social media to announce that she would continue her journey and expressed hope that justice would prevail.
"This has not been an easy journey. From being a victim to a survivor. For 5 years now, my name and my identity have been suppressed under the weight of the assault inflicted on me. Though i am not the one to have committed the crime, there have been many attempts to humiliate, silence and isolate me...," the actor had written.
She added that she was "thankful to some who stepped up to keep her voice alive and that she would continue her journey, to ensure justice prevails, wrongdoers are punished and no one else would go through the same ordeal".