Kangana Ranaut was lucky to emerge stronger. Jiah Khan was not

The common template of abuse that the two women faced from father-son Pancholi duo is too sinister to deny.

 |  Miscellany  |  4-minute read |   16-01-2016
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When allegations against Bollywood actor Suraj Pancholi - that he had extricated the fetus Jiah Khan was carrying weeks before her death in 2013 - made the media rounds last December, his father Aditya Pancholi appeared on a news show and said that such disgraceful things should not be discussed in the media.

Those were his exact words, pointing to how infamy had been thrust upon his family by the media's reckless broadcast of grim details of the case. His hypocrisy boggled the mind: he felt no compunction on account of his son's behaviour.

His problem was with the media's coverage of a case that had now become too murky to call it suicide. (I had written then on how we now know more about her death than what the Mumbai police had led us to believe. This is thanks to the CBI taking up the case due to the tireless efforts of Jiah's mother.)

Look at the twisted morality at play here. A woman died; she was in trauma due to the loss of her child. The man who refused to get her medical care, rather took matters in his own hands, was being defended by his father under the guise of propriety.

I was reminded of this on listening to Kangana Ranaut who, during the launch of Barkha Dutt's new book This Unquiet Land in Mumbai, made some shocking revelations about the physical abuse she suffered at the hands of an industry senior when she joined Bollywood.

Ranaut said: "I was a newcomer to Bollywood when a man who must have been my father's age hit me so hard. I fell on my head on the floor. It started to bleed, and I picked up my sandal and hit his head hard and he started to bleed. I struggled so much that I couldn't believe I had so much strength that either I died or I kill you. And then I went to the cops and lodged an FIR against this man. But that day, I really saw myself as who I always thought I was. I'm actually a born fighter."

Ranaut refused to reveal the name of her abuser but we know that she filed a police complaint against Aditya Pancholi in 2007 for physical abuse perpetrated under the influence of alcohol. This was barely a year after Ranaut had made a grand entry into Bollywood with two back-to-back hits, Gangster and Woh Lamhe.

Ranaut's story is well-known to her fans and followers. Born and raised in Himachal Pradesh, she moved to Chandigarh and later Delhi in her teens to make a life for herself, and eventually landed in Bollywood.

With no godfather in the industry she drifted towards Aditya Pancholi with whom she had a relationship until things soured between the two.

The details of that breakup have, however, not been known so far, and Ranaut's revelation throws new light on that chapter of her life. But coming as it does on the heels of revelations in the Jiah Khan death case, Ranaut's statement showcases a worrying tendency for abuse and acting in contravention of the law in the case of both father and son in the Pancholi household.

The similarities between what Ranaut went through with Aditya and Jiah with Suraj are too glaring to overlook. Both women were outsiders who tried making it in an industry that can be a most brutal place.

Jiah was raised in the United Kingdom and made a splashy debut opposite Amitabh Bachchan in Nishabd. Both were drawn to consummate industry insiders. Suraj Pancholi got a dream debut in last year's Hero, a movie midwifed by Salman Khan.

Both faced ridicule when their careers refused to take off. Ranaut did a series of forgettable films until returning to the spotlight with 2010's Once Upon A Time In Mumbai. From there to last year's Tanu Weds Manu Returns, her career has gone from strength to strength. Jiah never really scaled the heights of stardom, and this was bandied about as one reason that may have prompted her to finish her life.

We now know that is not true. Last year's revelations have reopened the case and we are yet to hear the final word on whether her death was a suicide or if something more sinister was afoot. Either way, a young life was snuffed out due to what looks to be, at best, callousness and, at worst, menace in love.

What cannot be denied is the common template of abuse that the two women faced from a father-son duo. Happily for Ranaut, she emerged from that dark period stronger and became one of Bollywood's topmost stars. Jiah was not so lucky.


Vikram Johri Vikram Johri @vikramjohri

I write for a living. Sometimes the words comfort the heart too.

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