'I stuck on to the marriage for my son’s sake,' Rati Agnihotri tells Subhash K Jha.
When actress Rati Agnihotri decided to complain to the police about the alleged violence perpetrated by her husband, she did not expect the personal matter would leak out into the public domain.
And even if it did, she expected sympathy from media persons.
"I am surprised and hurt that my motives for speaking out to the law enforcement and legal machinery about my domestic problems are being questioned,” said the 54-year-old actress, who was extremely popular in the 1980s.
“Just because I chose to not speak about it, some sections of the media doubt the veracity of my claims,” she continues.
"But the truth, as they say, will prevail. They are calling up my son while I am running around with my lawyers trying to make sense of what has happened in my life. Tanuj, poor thing, is just a young man. He doesn’t know how to react to media pressure.
“I had to take my lawyers in confidence about whether it’s okay to speak on the untruth that is being put out about my life while I’ve remained silent. Please underline the fact that what is being said about my life is not true,” Rati said, as she announces her decision to end her marriage.
“Yes, it’s time for me to move on. I’ve taken a very long time to take the right decision," she continues.
"People are asking why I remained in the marriage for so long. Well, firstly, it’s my life. I don’t owe any explanation to anyone except my son Tanuj for whose sake I chose to stay on. I’ve taken 30 years to opt out of my marriage. I’ve been patient and I’ve borne a lot.”
Rati wanted her son to understand why she needed to break away from the marriage. “That was most painful. Tanuj is the only reason I stuck on (in the marriage).
“He is 28 now and man enough to face the truth in his mother’s life. He knew the truth 10 years ago. He knows the truth now. He knows what his mother has endured.
“Finally he has told me, ‘Mom, don’t live your life for me. Live for yourself. Do what you think is right for yourself.’”
The actress is still reluctant to speak about what went wrong with the marriage, but says, “I got married three weeks after my dad passed away. I went from my father’s protective attention straight into my husband’s home.
“I knew I had to adjust almost overnight to my new life, and being from a glamorous profession, I was being scrutinised and judged far more harshly than a normal girl. Two years later, Tanuj was born. I felt I had a life-long responsibility towards my son.”
Why didn’t she discuss her marital problems with close family and friends?
“I really had no one to talk to. I stuck on to the marriage for my son’s sake," she says.
Pondering over her predicament, Rati asks, “Do I sound depressed to you? Do I sound desperate? One widely-read newspaper portrays me this way. I am painted poorly in numerous papers across the country. If you don’t have access to me, it doesn’t mean my life is open to distortion.”
She says matters came to a head in her violent marriage and that caused her to break away.
“After the latest violence, I couldn’t stay in the same house any more. I had nowhere to go, so I drove to my home in Lonavla.
“My son was shooting in Pune. He came to meet me in Lonavla and advised me to do what is right for me. This (ending the marriage) was my son’s decision for me. I am taking his advice. He knows he is the only reason I stayed in this marriage.
“Every time something of this sort happened within the four walls of my home, he’s the only person I reached out to. In the past, I’ve called him for help and he has immediately come to my rescue.
"I am still hurting because of the last beating. I don’t have the strength to go and see my ailing mother.
"I’ve never failed as a mother. And I don’t need the world to tell me otherwise. No matter what happens Tanuj will continue to be the centre of my universe.”
Rati would like to encourage other victims of domestic violence to speak out. In the meanwhile, she is trying to go on with her life as normally as possible.
"So far I’ve only earned and given back whatever I’ve made to the home I had with my husband and son. I am still running my house, watering my plants, cooking, speaking to my lawyers, paying my bills... I am looking at film projects.
“But it’s really hard to sit as producers stare at you for signs of depression. Hello! I am not depressed. I have my career, my mother and most important, my son. I’ve gone through a lot. I am angry but determined. I don’t want any of what I’ve gone through to affect my son’s life and future marriage."
In the picture: Rati Agnihotri and son Tanuj Virmani. Photograph: Pradeep Bandekar