(Trigger warning: Mentions of sexual and physical assault)
It is a moment of reckoning for the Malayalam film industry as it is swept up by the #MeToo movement, especially after the sexual assault case involving Dileep. On 28 April, another woman actor spoke out and accused actor and producer Vijay Babu of rape and sexual assault. Soon after, Vijay took to Facebook to deny the allegations and even revealed the victim’s name, garnering flak online.
Who is Vijay Babu?
Actor Vijay Babu believed that the film industry was his ‘destiny,’ but he started out by working in Star India and went on to work in Dubai. After stints in Asianet, Sitara TV, and Surya TV (as the vice president), Vijay entered the world of cinema.
Success came quickly for the relatively new actor and he won the Kerala State Film Award for ‘Best Children's Film’ for Philips and the Monkey Pen. Vijay is also the co-founder of the production house Friday Film House along with filmmaker Sandra Thomas.
Sandra Thomas Accuses Vijay of Physical Assault
Sandra had, in 2017, accused Vijay of physically assaulting her at her office in Elamakkara, Ernakulam. Based on Thomas’ complaint, a case was filed against Vijay Babu at the Elamakkara police station. Indian Express had also reported that Sandra was taken to a hospital to recover after the alleged altercation.
The actor was booked under IPC sections 323 (punishment for voluntarily causing hurt), 364 (kidnapping or abducting in order to murder) and 506 (1) (punishment for criminal intimidation) and 294 (b) sings, recites or utters any obscene song, ballad or words, in or near any public place.
Vijay had taken to Facebook and had accused Sandra and her husband of filing a ‘fake case’ to take over his business property.
The complaint was later withdrawn.
Vijay, the Actor and Producer
Vijay, known for his roles as an actor and producer on releases like Peruchazhi, Aadu, Mudhugauv, Aadu 2 and #Home, became the name in Malayalam cinema who didn’t shy away from risks. Even though Philips and the Monkey Pen was important for his career, people started to take note of the actor after Nee-Na.
Vijay Babu and his production house worked on experimental scripts and took on new talent for their films. The actor had told FullPicture that new talent can just ‘walk in’ to the office of Friday Film House, “They can walk in and take an appointment and come back again. We are very accessible. It’s mostly on a first come first serve basis.”
On the other hand, Vijay has also worked with big names in the South film industry including the megastar Mammootty, actors Prithviraj Sukumaran and Indrajith Sukumaran, and filmmakers Lal Jose.
During the pandemic, the entertainment industry took a blow since people were stuck in homes and work-from-home because the new professional set-up. In a time like this, several people in the industry were skeptical about releasing films on OTT, be it out of concern of money or reach. Despite criticism, Vijay decided to release Sufiyum Sujatayum directly on OTT amidst the pandemic making it the first Malayalam film to do so.
Vijay Babu's production house Friday Film House has produced several hits including Friday (2012), Zachariayude Garbhinikal (2013), Philips and the Monkey Pen (2013), Adi Kapyare Kootamani (2015), Theri (2016), Angamaly Diaries (2017), Aadu 2 (2017), Jallikattu (2019), and Sufiyum Sujathayum (2020).
Jallikattu, directed by Lijo Jose, was India's official entry to the 93rd Academy Awards under the 'Best International Feature' category but didn't make it to the shortlist. The film stars Antony Varghese, Chemban Vinod Jose, Sabumon Abdusamad and Santhy Balachandran.
The production house has also received seven Kerala State Awards including ones for ‘Best Story’, ‘Jury Award’, ‘Jury Special Award’ for Zachariayude Garbhinikal. Vijay won the Kerala State Special Jury Award for Best Producers in 2014.
“He was like a monster to me,” the young actor who accused Vijay Babu of sexual assault wrote in her statement. The woman wrote that Vijay ‘gained her trust by being friendly and advising her’ when she was a newcomer in the industry. She added that he sexually exploited her under the guise of being a ‘saviour’ to her when it came to personal and professional issues.
A complaint has been registered against Vijay with the Ernakulam police.
The actor then hosted a Facebook Live and denied all allegations against him. He then said that he is writing ‘a new chapter’ of the #MeToo movement, which has helped several survivors of assault come out with their stories and hold the perpetrators accountable.
He also revealed the survivor’s name (a law violation) and had said that he will face the consequences of the same. A case has also been registered against the actor for revealing her name.
Deputy Commisioner of Police, Kochi gave an update on the case, “Two First Information Reports (FIR) have been filed against Vijay Babu. Prima facie, this is a proved case. Since he disclosed the survivor's identity on a public forum, he is charged under IPC Section 228A (disclosure of the identity of the victim in certain offences).”
A look out notice has also been issued against the actor who has been on the run since the accusations surfaced.