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    I'm scared to step out: Madhur Bhandarkar

    [Interview by Subhash K. Jha]
    Monday, September 12, 2005
    "Why talk about killing me? I''m just a poor director," says an upset Madhur Bhandarkar after news that model-turned-actress Preeti Jain had allegedly paid contract money to have him eliminated.

    Jain was arrested by Mumbai Police Saturday on charges of conspiring to kill the "Page 3" director - more than a year after she accused him of sexually exploiting her.

    "I''m a person who walks alone seven km from my house to a temple every Tuesday. Now all of us in my family are scared for my life. I''m scared to step out. For me it''s shocking to even think that anyone can go these lengths," Bhandarkar told IANS in an interview.

    The director said his wife has been a major source of strength. "If my wife hadn''t supported me through this I''d have been shattered."

    Bhandarkar said this new turn of events had made matters difficult for newcomers in the industry. "Now I''ll cast newcomers only when they''re recommended by someone whom I believe," he said.

    Excerpts from the interview:

    How did you react to the revelation that Preeti Jain had paid a supari (contract money) against you?

    My family and I had already gone through a lot in this matter earlier. Now suddenly this comes up. Can a person really go to this extent to get revenge? Why talk about killing me? I'm just a poor director.

    Everyone presumed the whole Jain jamboree (over her allegations that Bhandarkar had sexually exploited her) had died down...

    That's the whole point. After the high court and sessions court rejected her application three times, this was her way of getting back... How do I know what goes on in her mind? It's shocking. Let the police investigate the matter now and see who is linked with this whole shocking revelation.

    Arun Gawli (the alleged mob boss-turned-legislator who was approached by Jain) says he wanted to warn you.

    See, the case is between the Mumbai police and the person Pardesi, who was supposedly hired to kill me. Let's see now...I'm a person who walks alone seven km from my house to a temple every Tuesday. Now all of us in my family are scared for my life. I'm scared to step out. For me it's shocking to even think that anyone can go these lengths.

    Are you getting security?

    I'm definitely going to speak to the authorities. If they feel I need security I will go for it. I'm supposed to start my new film next month. And I will.

    I've learnt to be strong after she (Jain) first came out with her allegations. Then came "Page 3". And it went on to be the first hit of the year, then a silver jubilee and then won National Awards. That gave me back my self confidence. Success is a great confident-booster.

    You sound fearful yet defiant?

    All said and done, this kind of extreme provocation does scare you a lot. I'm very disturbed. Earlier, when the matter was in the court, we were fighting within civil boundaries. Now when it has gone to the underworld, anything can happen to me. I feel I'm under danger now. In a couple of days I'd decide how to cope with this crisis.

    In the light of the new expose do you think the sympathy factor would swing completely away from her?

    I just don't understand. When the matter was in court why did she have to go to such extreme lengths. The high court has already said she's trying to implicate Bhandarkar and that she's too ambitious for her own good... maybe that's why she got anxious.

    I feel the rape issue is completely overshadowed.

    I've had people calling me from all over the world all day long. Friends and relatives are standing by me.

    Do you think the Jain episode has made things difficult for newcomers in the film industry?

    Very, very difficult. I've worked with top actresses like Tabu, Konkona and Raveena. Now I'll cast newcomers only when they're recommended by someone whom I believe. I've two casting assistants to look into the casting. It's sad for genuinely talented newcomers who are not well connected. Now producers are very cautious. Some even put cameras in their offices after I was accused. Anyone can plant someone to malign a filmmaker.

    How has your wife reacted to the latest allegation?

    She was out doing up our new home. When the news broke on the channels she left everything and came home to be with me. If my wife hadn't supported me through this I'd have been shattered.

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