As celebrities travel with assistants and staff to ensure safety, one would think that they live in a perfectly safe bubble. But the recent incident of popular Malayalam actress Bhavana being gruesomely harassed by a gang of men including her current and former drivers, has revealed that no girl is safe. The horrifying incident left the country shaken and the film industry in utter shock. It was reported that her former driver Sunil Kumar was one of the conspirators along with her current driver Martin. One of the accused has been taken into custody. As people who often travel alone, sometimes at night, we speak to actresses from the industry about their safety concerns.
Actress Nanditha Shwetha says, “If we can’t believe our own people/staff, then how can we believe others? We actresses travel believing that we have people who will take care of us. But it’s unfortunate that even in 2017, we cannot travel alone. I take my mom or brothers along to ensure safety. We trust make-up artistes and costume designers who work with us in our caravans. Similarly, we trust drivers too. I usually avoid travelling at night. If I have to travel for a day or two, I take my own car and leave it in the airport parking area. After coming back, I drive back in my car. I never hire a cab.”
Even if it’s a friend’s or her pal’s buddy’s car, Nanditha doesn’t like getting into their vehicles. “I tell them that I’ll follow them in my car. I appreciate the actresses courage for filing a complaint. I completely support her and I hope she makes more movies.”
Actress Samyukta Hornad, who’s currently in a shoot and going to Chennai post that, says, “I don’t know the driver! Post this incident, people around me are worried about me. Whether you’re a celebrity or not, when you sit in a cab, as a woman, you will get a little scared. When in a cab, I make a fake call to my parents and act like I’m giving details about the driver to them. However, you can’t blame all drivers – it’s not about the profession, anybody can do it – it depends on the man’s mindset. Also in this case, the perpetrator was someone she knew. Studies show that it’s mostly people you know who end up doing such things. I recently went to Kashmir and travelled alone at night with a driver. Thankfully, he was a safe person. It’s the man’s mindset that must change, but it will take years to happen, so till then we have to be careful.
Reacting to this barbaric episode, actress Rukshar opines, “We think our drivers are safe, but after this incident, we know anything can happen. If it’s a night shoot, the production house should ensure that the actress is put up at a nearby safe place and then she can head back in the morning. Even if someone accompanies you, you don’t know if they’re trustworthy! Sadly, the fear makes us take precautions - I carry a pepper spray, I’m on a call during travels to let my folks know my whereabouts etc. The industry should stand by this actress.”
Talking about security, Godrej Rustumji, a close protection officer says, “If I go to a client and say I want to do a background check on his staff, the former will say he/she trusts him. Irrespective of that, it is your bounded duty to know where they come from. Sadly, trust and loyalty do not exist in today’s world. It’s upto you to take precautions like telling someone where you’re travelling, having a GPS in your car, having an ICE number on your phone that you can dial immediately, etc. Even if your driver is trustworthy, he should be able to deal with attacks. Security starts with a mindset of self-preservation, especially if you’re a high profile person.”