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April 8, 2000


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'It has still to sink in'

Sharmila Taliculam

Priya Rajvansh Nothing, at the present moment, has caught the industry's imagination as much as the gruesome tale of the murder of yesteryear actress, Priya Rajvansh. And the horrifying knowledge that the alleged suspects are Chetan Anand's sons.

But a few months ago, nobody even remembered Priya Rajvansh. She was as good as forgotten by the industry and its people. For those whose memory went that far back, she was just a heroine that film-maker Chetan Anand, Dev Anand's elder brother, was fascinated with and lived in with.

But their lifestyle did not generate much gossip. They made very few films and never really partied much. They kept to themselves of the most time and interacted with only a few close friends. They preferred to invite friends over to their shack and have a few drinks and discuss poetry, politics, books, etc. Amit Khanna, CEO, Plus Channel, who had known the couple since 1971, says, "The evenings in their shack were very stimulating."

Priya came to India from London, where her father was deputed as a forest conservator by the United Nations. She had studied acting at the Royal Academy of Dramatics. Chetan, who was on the lookout for a new heroine for his film Haqeekat, spotted her a friend's place and immediately signed her on.

"They became very close during the making of the film. Chetansaab had just gone through a divorce and Priya was alone here. They both were lonely and that, I think, is what brought them together in the first place," says Hasan Kamaal, writer and lyricist, who worked with Chetan on Haathon Ki Lakheeren (1982) and the television serial, Paramveer Chakra.

Priya was 20 years younger than Chetan, a fact that obviously didn't bother either of them. "Chetansaab was her mentor. He introduced her to the film industry. Priya was totally dedicated to him. Whatever relationship they had, everybody knew about it. We also accepted it. We never thought about it ever. It was a decent relationship and they both liked each other," says Kamaal.

"Priya and Chetan had a very good relationship," adds Khanna. "She was the gregarious one, he was very reticent. Despite that, they liked each other a lot. Priya was completely dedicated to him."

Priya's dependence on Chetan was not just mental and emotional, there are strong indications that it could have been financial as well. "When Chetansaab was alive, he saw to it that she was well looked after. Perhaps, if he had married her, the situation would have been different today because she would have more legal powers," says Kamaal.

Chetan Anand Priya and Chetan never thought of marriage. Even if they did, it probably didn't affect their relationship. They were happy with each other. "Priya and Chetansaab never discussed their relationship. I don't know why they never married and, frankly, I never thought of asking them. It never mattered," says Khanna.

"As far as I know, Priya was happy with the way things were going. She never talked about marriage. Chetansaab didn't want to marry, maybe because of the kids and his previous marriage, which had gone sour," says Kamaal.

"I remember we used to tell Priya she must do something for herself and not be involved so much with the man she loved. She would only reply that she couldn't see beyond Chetansaab at all. She was completely devoted to him and, finally, it didn't matter because they really behaved like husband and wife. Only, they didn't have the tag of 'being married.' We accepted this. We found nothing unusual in their relationship as such."

The usual fights and arguments were generally considered normal, they would have happened even if the two were married. The only difference was the fact that Priya lived separately. She had her own flat first in Kalumal Estate and, later, a bigger house in Mangal Kiran. She would go over to Chetan's house twice a day, for lunch and in the evenings for about three or four hours.

"That was when she would call and invite us over for drinks and conversation. They would behave like any married couple. They had their share of fights and arguments. They would also discuss their likes and dislikes. We never thought it was something different because we accepted them as a couple," says Kamaal.

They were so dedicated to each other that Priya never thought of acting in anyone else's films. Chetan, too, never made a film without her as the central character. She probably had offers, but she never accepted them. She never gave any reasons why she did that.

"She did tell me she had got some offers. But she never really explained why she didn't take them up. Maybe Chetansaab didn't want her to. Maybe, she didn't feel like it. The fact is, she was involved in every aspect of Chetansaab's films. Right from scripts to story to lyrics to postproduction. It wasn't as if she didn't have anything to do at all. She contributed a lot professionally and personally," says Kamaal.

Ketan and Vivek Anand Even Chetan's family, including his two brothers, their families and his two children, had accepted her.

Since she was so involved with a man who was so much older to her, Priya never gave a thought to herself. She never even thought about having an income of her own. Apparently, she never gave any thought to what life would be like after Chetan Anand. That, probably, could be why she became very lonely after his death.

According to Khanna, though she was lonely, she had her circle of friends whom she kept in touch with on a regular basis. Kamaal disagrees. "The people who would drop in when Chetansaab was alive didn't come over anymore. Even though we would go over sometimes, the frequency of our visits decreased. She even contemplated going back to Chandigarh because she felt she had nothing left after Chetansaab. She had a beautiful bungalow there and she wanted to settle down. But we would discourage her, saying she didn't have anybody there and she would be very lonely. At least she had us here, to call and chat with whenever she wanted."

Since she never acted in any other films and never thought of doing films after Chetan's death, Priya was not very well off financially. Kamaal says she wanted to sell the bungalow because she thought the resultant money would assure her of a decent living for the rest of her life.

"She did mention she had arguments about the property with Chetansaab's sons, but she put it in such a manner that we thought it was regular thing and it would get solved soon. We never thought it would take such a dramatic and violent turn," says Kamaal.

"She would mention them in such a manner that we would think these things happen everywhere. She never gave us a chance to seriously worry about her situation. Like she would say that her servant would be rude to her, but then again we thought it was something which was quite ordinary."

Priya was known in the industry for her grace and style. She was looked upon as a very civilised and cultured person. "Never has she spoken a harsh word against anybody. Or been rude to anyone. So this death has shocked me and everybody who knew her."

Priya was murdered in the same bungalow and the culprits are suspected to be Chetan's sons, Ketan and Vivek. "The whole thing baffles me because I know the boys well and logic tells me there is something more to this than meets the eye. Both the boys wouldn't do such a ridiculous thing," says Khanna.

Again, Kamaal disagrees. "I have no reason not to believe it. I only wish I had known the seriousness of the situation. It's sad that she had to die in this manner. She was very close to my wife and daughter. She would come to my house for Eid every year for dinner. She would tell me, 'Hasansaab, if this house could get sold, I would be settled.' Now she is dead. It has still to sink in."

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