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'I can't die with Pratyusha'

June 02, 2016 15:39 IST

'Did she, for a minute, think of what I've gone through or what my parents have gone through?'
'I've gone through hell. I wasn't given a chance to grieve for Pratyusha.'
'It was her financial mess that landed her in depression.'

He has been accused of abetting television (Balika Vadhu) actress Pratyusha Banerjee's suicide.

On May 30, a day after his birthday, the Supreme Court upturned the plea to cancel Rahul Raj Singh's bail.

This means the the late actress's 32-year-old boyfriend is, for now, a free man.

Singh tells Subhash K Jha he will continue the fight to prove his innocence and explains why he has filed a criminal defamation suit against three of Pratyusha's friends who accused him of mistreating her.

Rahul, the honourable Supreme Court has refused to cancel your bail.

I couldn't hope for a better birthday gift.

I know it's Pratyusha who arranged this respite for me from Heaven.

I didn't want to prove my innocence. I knew I was innocent. I was the victim. I wanted the truth to come out on its own.

People who hardly knew the truth about my relationship with Pratyusha lashed out at me. I kept quiet.

If I had retaliated, it would have seemed like a feeble attempt to defend myself.

Woh bol rahe hain main chor hoon, main bolta main chor nahin. Kya fayda hota? (They are saying I am a thief, I would have replied I am innocent. What purpose would that have served?)

Why were her friends so keen to attack you?

I don't know why I was so important in their lives. They couldn't bear the fact that I had made a place for myself in Mumbai. Being my colleagues, they couldn't understand why they couldn't achieve the same.

Who are these friends?

Kamya Panjabi claims to be Pratyusha's friend. But everyone knows they had a fight over (actor) Karan Patel (Panjabi's ex-boyfriend). If Pratyusha's call log for the entire year is checked, there might be just one or two calls.

You are saying her friends suddenly popped out of nowhere to express concern?

I am saying the power of the media is immense. If the media doesn't support it, even Sultan wouldn't get a good opening. I've taken strong legal action against three of Pratyusha's supposed friends who made wild allegations against me.

Who are these friends and what action have you taken?

Leena Dias, Vikas Gupta and Kamya Panjabi... I've filed a criminal defamation case against them. I am not asking for money. But they will have to explain their allegations in court.

What about those girls who went on record accusing you of defrauding them?

If you name them, I'll answer their allegations. I don't know who they are. Where were they for five years, since that's when I'm supposed to have wronged them?

What they said against me couldn't be important because no one remembers their names, let alone their allegations.

What about Saloni Sharma?

She is my partner in an events management company. She'd meet me for business reasons. The stories about her and me are untrue. Now, I've to be very careful. More people know me now than they did before. I'll be linked with any girl I am seen with.

For the record, you are single right now?

Of course! I don't know what will happen in the future. Zindagi toh jeena hai (Life will continue). I was on anti-depressants until recently.

Looking back, how do you feel?

I constantly play the whole tragedy in my mind, trying to figure out where I went wrong. Suicide is a very cowardly thing to do.

Did she, for a minute, think of what I've gone through or what my parents have gone through? Do you know what I've gone through?

I've gone through hell. I wasn't given a chance to grieve for Pratyusha. I had to deal with all the rubbish that was heaped on me, plus a 9-year-old son who never existed (laughs mirthlessly).

Where did this son come from?

I want to ask Kamya Panjabi that. She'd know. I am sure she pays my son's school fees. I have no clue about the son.

I went through the worst torture because of Pratyusha's overnight friends.

I can't seem to understand what I did wrong. Maybe it was punishment for something I did in my previous life. But I am born strong. And this whole experience has made me stronger.

Do you miss her?

(Quiet) That goes without saying. But I've realised one has to keep living. I can't die with her.

She was in a lot of depression. I helped her and supported her as much as I could. Lekin aap vidhi ka vidhan ko badal nahin sakte (You cannot change fate). Even those who go on holy pilgrimages get killed on the way. I feel there must be a reason for what I had to go through.

Why was Pratyusha depressed?

It was her financial mess that landed her in depression. At a very young age, she earned Rs 5, 6 crores (Rs 50 to Rs 60 million).

Since she didn't know how to handle her finances, she handed over her earnings to her parents. Later, when she asked for her hard-earned money, they said there was nothing.

What do you mean?

She had a loan of lakhs and lakhs to pay. Her EMIs had not been paid for months. How much of this kind of financial pressure can a girl of her age take?

All the loans that she had taken were in her name, not in her parents' name.

They own a 5-bedroom home in Jamshedpur. Pratyusha, who earned Rs 4, 5 crores, doesn't even own a jhopda (hut). She didn't have one piece of jewellery for herself.

A private financier lent Pratyusha Rs 10 lakhs (Rs 1 million) at an interest rate of 10 percent. This was before she went into Bigg Boss.

She got Rs 30, 35 lakhs (Rs 3 million, Rs 3.5 million) for Bigg Boss and yet she couldn't pay back the loan. Nor were her EMI installments paid.

Her car was purchased on loan. She had personal loans amounting to Rs 20, 25 lakhs (Rs 2 million, Rs 2.5 million). Even her beautician was not paid.

Are those loans going to be written off now?

How can they be written off? According to the law the parents have to repay the loans.

When her parents can afford to take me to the Supreme Court, I am sure they have the money to repay loans.

I have a message on Pratyusha's phone from her mom saying Pratyusha must pay her EMI since the creditors are coming to the mom's doorstep.

I never thought I'd be discussing Pratyusha's finances. But God has strange plans for us.

What are your future plans?

I want to work hard. Despite what has happened, I love Mumbai. I don't want to ever leave this place.

After Pratyusha's death, I haven't visited my hometown, Ranchi, even once. I don't want people to say I've run away.

I fought my battle from right here, in Mumbai. The police has sealed my house for the last two months. Since then, I am staying in a hotel with my father. He has left everything back home to be with me.

Why did the police seal your home?

No reason was given. Contrary to belief, that isn't Pratyusha's house. It's mine. The police has no right to seal my home after doing the panchnama. But the case became so media-centric that they wanted to make sure they didn't do anything that would raise eyebrows.

There were allegations ke police Rahul se mila hua hai (The police are supporting Rahul). As it is, in the hospital, after she died, people said I was acting grief-stricken.

Has this experience put you off relationships?

For sure. At least for now.

What this experience has taught me is that anything can happen in life. That your life can turn around in a second.

I've re-lived the whole experience over and over again in my mind. I never thought I'd one day carry Pratyusha's lifeless figure to the hospital. I had met her just an hour earlier. An hour later, she was gone.

I've had fights with God. I've asked him what he thinks of us human beings. We are nothing but tools.

What do you say to those who blame you for Pratyusha's suicide?

I did nothing to provoke her into taking such a drastic step.

She was very depressed about her career and mismanaged finances. I used to help her as much as possible.

I found out about her financial distress only three months before her death.

So what did you do?

Whatever I could. I gave my share of the fees that we earned for (the television show) Power Couple to her. I've documented proof of this.

She stayed in my house. I didn't stay in her house.

If we had fights, she could've easily broken up with me since we weren't married. Why did she continue to stay with me?

Why did she party with me days before her death? Why did she order her wedding lehenga if, as her so-called friends say, she was unhappy with me?

What about her friends saying you were physically abusive?

They claim to have video proof it. Where is that video? Why haven't they shown it to the court?

Pratyusha had filed a case against her former boyfriend for physical abuse. If I was violent with her, she could've done the same with me.

So you don't hold yourself responsible in any way for her death?

I've done nothing wrong. So I don't feel guilty.

I am not going to spoil my life by feeling responsible, when I am not.

The honourable Supreme Court didn't spare Sanjay Dutt. If the honourable court had any doubt about my innocence, they'd have cancelled my bail.

It was my birthday on May 29. A day later, I got this wonderful gift from the courts.

What next?

The fight has just begin. I want to do good work. Let my work speak for me. I am innocent. I have nothing to fear.

Subhash K Jha in Mumbai
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