Shweta Basu’s Interview on ‘Prostitution scandal’

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Shweta Prasad Basu who spent two months in a rescue home after her alleged involvement in a prostitution racket is now out, and in her home in Mumbai. for the first time she breaks her silence on what happened that night and the sixty days that followed…

When did you get back home?

I came home on Friday. I’ve no complaints against anyone except the journalist who during my hour of crisis made up a statement attributed to me. That statement was circulated everywhere. I had no idea about it as I had no access to newspapers or websites for two months. It’s only now that I came to know of this.

You never made that statement that was picked up by every paper and website and television channel?
No I never made that statement. I was in custody. I wasn’t allowed to speak to my mother and father, then how would I speak to the media? Whoever made up that statement damaged my reputation by saying that all doors were closed on me—no such thing has happened and the film industry has always been very warm and welcoming to me—and that “people encouraged me to get into prostitution to earn money.” These are outrageous lies that I never uttered.

We’re in the process of tracking down the journalist and the newspaper where these fake statements originated. We are taking very strong legal action against them. I need to set this falsification right before I move on.

What kind of a journalist would make up something?

We as a nation enjoy watching suffering. We are sadistic people. I want to ask the journalist who made up this statement: how much do you know about me and my family? I’ve friends in the film industry. I am well-connected. I’ve been auditioning for roles even when this (the arrest) happened. I’ve spent three-and-half-years of my life making a documentary on Hindustani classical music. I turned down roles after my first Tamil film as a leading lady was a hit because I wanted to focus on my documentary. Now that it’s in post-production I want to concentrate on my acting. So I want to know which doors were being closed? Such shallow emotions and vocabulary! Any sane person would have seen it’s made up. I can’t understand how it was used everywhere as my statement.

But a major section of the media supported you in a graceful way?

Yes, I came across largely unscathed. I am at home and back at work. I don’t wish to go too deep into what happened, as it is a legal matter. But I am completely unaffected by the entire episode. I now see how futile and unnecessary it was. I am glad to be alive and kicking and raring to go. Life looks beautiful and hopeful.

Any regrets?

The media should have waited for me to come out before making up its mind whether I was guilty or not. I should’ve been given the right to defend myself. When I was in there I was not allowed to look at television or read papers. It’s now when I come out that I see what a media circus my life was made into.

Why were you caught in this situation?

(Pauses, sighs and answers) I hadn’t been called to Hyderabad by any agent for commercial sex. I had gone to there to attend an awards ceremony. Call it fate or whatever, I missed my flight back in the morning. My air ticket and stay were done by the organisers of the awards function. I still have the ticket. I’ve been told that the agent has been arrested. The case is being investigated. I am a victim in the whole situation. There was a raid… I am not denying the incident. But the facts are not what they’ve been made out to be.

Were you questioned harshly by the police?

No, but when I was detained for interrogation the police asked me the names of Tollywood actresses (allegedly involved in prostitution rackets). I didn’t even know many of their names.Why should I make comments on other actresses? Shame on the people who said I was forced to do certain things by my family to afford a lifestyle.

Were you treated well after arrest?

Absolutely. I was at the rescue home. It is a hostel for kids who are victims of human trafficking, etc. I volunteered as a teacher there and taught the kids Hindi, English and Hindustani classical music. I used my two months in there very productively. I was not depressed at all. Why should I be? I knew the truth. While I was in there I realized how lucky I was to have a family to support me. My parents have always wanted me to pursue a dignified career. After I did Iqbal, my parents made me pursue my studies. I make documentaries. I attend film festivals. I don’t have time to sit at cafes taking selfies. I’ve dedicated my life to cinema and acting. I am not going to let one incident spoil my life.

How did your parents take all this?

While I was in the rescue home my grandfather passed away. That’s one loss I’ll have to live with all my life. I couldn’t even be at the last rituals. I’ll have to live with the guilt. Thanks to the reports in the media my grandfather went thinking I had actually made those awfully wrong statements. Then my mother was running in and out of courts with petition after petition. She was confused. I wasn’t even allowed to call her. Later, I was allowed one call a week when she’d only be crying and reassuring me.

You are very strong girl.

I don’t think I’ve the luxury of being weak. Being strong is my only option. I’ve the truth on my side. And I’ve my parents and a lot of supportive friends.

Many filmmakers spoke up for you. Hansal Mehta wants to work with you?
I haven’t yet got a call from him. I’d like to audition for Hansal Mehta and get the role only if I am suitable for it. I don’t want a role out of sympathy. I don’t want people to think I am cashing in on the controversy.

Who would doubt your talents? You won a National award at 10!

People forget very easily. It’s only during tough times that you get to know who your friends are. There are many who turned their backs on my family. Many friends wouldn’t take my mother’s calls. If something had happened to my parents who would’ve taken responsibility? I am grateful to those who have supported us. As for those who didn’t support us, that’s life. It’s time to move on.

What plans now?

I am an actress. And I will always remain one. Right now, I have just returned to the post-production of my documentary on Hindustani classical music. Life has moved forward from exactly from where I left off.