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    'I am paying the price for being Madhur Bhandarkar'

    [Interview by Subhash K. Jha]
    Tuesday, July 27, 2004
    The maker of women-centric films like "Satta" and "Chandni Bar", Madhur Bhandarkar, who finds himself literally in the dock with a rape charge against him, says that it has all been blown out of proportion.

    Declaring that he is innocent, Bhandarkar admits that he knew the aspiring actress Preeti Jain but there was nothing beyond that.

    The girl has alleged that Bhandarkar had sexual relations with her for five years, promising her that he would give her a role in one of his films. She has filed a police complaint alleging that the director had raped her and threatened to kill her.

    Bhandarkar says he was a "little panicky" initially, as any law-abiding citizen should be, but found support in his wife who had been a "pillar of strength".

    In an interview with IANS, the director, who is on bail, admits that he is really tense and says that he may be paying a price for being Madhur Bhandarkar.

    Is it true?

    Of course it isn't! Otherwise I wouldn't have denied it.

    But you denied knowing her.

    nitially, yes I denied knowing her (Preeti Jain) because when the so-called news broke I didn't know who she was. So many girls come to me with requests for roles. Am I expected to remember them all? Besides her identity was initially being kept hidden. I've a family, a wife, and a name to protect. I guess I'm paying a price for who I am.

    But you aren't that big a filmmaker?

    I know. Then you tell me why this happened to me. I haven't done anything. Now it's been blown out of all proportions. I came to know who she was only after I saw her picture on television. I'm not going out of my way to defend myself because I know I'm innocent.

    So you had nothing to do with her?

    I know her. I run into aspiring actors and actresses everywhere. She was after me... make a picture for me...I told her no producer would be willing. She then said she'd get a producer. She called a couple of times trying to arrange meetings with producers. I evaded her, pleading that I had no time. Then she got insistent.

    She told me to sign her for my new film "Page 3". You should read the SMS that she sent me. In December, after my marriage, she threatened she'd accuse me of rape if I didn't sign her for a film.

    Do you have her SMS?

    Yes...everything. We presented it in court Friday. On Dec 23, 2003, she sent me the threat. She then got coaxing...'Do a film with me, please' etc etc.

    Why did you keep her SMS?

    Luckily they were on my old mobile.

    Did you send her SMS?

    If someone sends messages, isn't it protocol to reply?

    But vulgar SMS?

    Nothing like that.

    Has she acted in any of your films?

    No, none. I'll give you DVDs of my films. Please spot her.

    When did you first meet her?

    She first met me in 1999 when I wasn't Madhur Bhandarkar (important). She then disappeared for two-and-a-half years. Then I started running into her at parties. Now she says I've been raping her for five years! How could I've raped her 16 times?

    And you won't believe this, but in the application sent to me by her lawyer it says I've to sign her for a film within 48 hours. Unbelievably, in her entire application there's no rape charge at all. No rape charge at all! Everywhere, she's changing her clothes and contact lenses for photographs and interviews. Everyone from the industry has called me to express their solidarity.

    But you've been hiding!

    No no. Initially I was a little panicky as any law-abiding person would be when he suddenly faces such a situation.

    So have you slept with this girl?

    No, never.

    But she has stated the frequency of your intercourse with her?

    Let her. Tomorrow, any one from the industry can be charged with rape if he refuses to make a film with her. Maybe even aspiring guys will accuse filmmakers of making passes. A very dangerous trend has been set. Maybe, I've to pay a price for being Madhur Bhandarkar. I don't know. I'm really tense. My shooting for "Page 3" was almost over when this happened. Fortunately my wife has been a pillar of strength.

    Where do you stand legally?

    I'm out on bail. On July 27, I've to appear in court. I don't know what I've done to deserve this.

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