Right now, there are not many constants in Bollywood actor Shiney Ahuja's life.
Ahuja, who was sentenced to seven years of rigorous imprisonment on March 30 after being convicted of raping his domestic help in his Mumbai flat in 2009, has very little going for him in terms of film projects and friends from showbiz.
But there has been one variable which has remained unchanged during the last three years and that's the support of his wife Anupam Ahuja.
In an exclusive chat with tabloid!, Ahuja claims that her actor-husband has been framed and has been made a soft target due to his celebrity status. But she adds that she has faith in the Indian judiciary and that the truth will prevail.
On June 14, 2009, the Woh Lamhe star was accused of raping his 18-year-old maid.
The actor, 38, is currently on bail and has appealed against the verdict at a higher court. Despite calling the three-year ordeal "horrific", Ahuja says that their spirits haven't been broken.
Married to the actor for the last 14 years, the economics graduate says she is determined to support her husband until the end.
"I feel as if I have landed in the woods and it's a long walk to get out of there. I cannot afford to focus on how hard the walk is or if an animal is going to bite me or focus on how tired I am... At such a time, there's only one thing to do and that's to keep walking," said Ahuja over the phone from Mumbai.
Excerpts from the interview:
You stuck to Shiney Ahuja from the word go. What made you decide to support him and how was the ordeal?
It was the right thing to do. It wasn't a choice or a decision to be made. It was the most obvious decision to make.
You don't abandon a man who is innocent and you don't abandon the truth either. It was horrific… this whole thing. But when you know this thing is absolutely false — you don't walk away. You don't walk away from people you love. You stand by them when they have been wronged.
It was that which kept me going and it was that which kept the entire family going. We believe in our judiciary and have faith that we will get justice.
Has the Bollywood industry offered you support?
When the news broke out, there were many people who came out and supported us. There was [director] Mukesh Bhatt who came out in support, there was [director] Sudhir Mishra, there was [director] Anurag Basu, we had Soha [Ali Khan, actress] and [producer] Pritish Nandy too.
Even today, where we are, I still continue to have their support and they say that "we stand by you".
I still remember Anurag Basu saying that they have never believed a word about this thing with Shiney. And the funny thing is, Shiney has never been linked to any co-star ever.
In fact Salman Khan has now spoken in favour and there was Farhan Akhtar who also spoke about it. Even the people who know him like Vidya Balan have spoken about him.
In Koffee With Karan, Kangana Ranaut when asked if she would be working with Shiney, she had said: "Absolutely and that he [Shiney] is a safe guy to work with". There has been nothing but support from that perspective.
Even our close friends from Dubai like Malini [Dhawan, CEO of Dubai-based Red Door Productions] have supported us.
Those who know him believe that the two don't go together. It is such a heinous, disgusting allegation to make on anyone and that too against someone who belongs to a regular family.
Did his fame have anything to do with it?
Definitely, he was a soft target. With films like Hazaaron Khwaishein Aisi and Gangster, he had fame but did not have the clout or a network in Bollywood. If anybody were to target him, he is a perfect target — completely soft.
There was no network beneath that fame. And Shiney being Shiney — he is the kind of guy who has always believed that talent will speak for itself. He kept saying people will buy talent. It was something of a debate between us and I often said that it may make a huge difference if you go out there and meet people.
But why would anyone target Shiney Ahuja? What's the motive?
The motive could be greed or the motive could be jealousy because of his rising fame. I am not at liberty to speculate now. The fact is that it is a frame up — 100 per cent. At this point, all I can tell you is that there were forces at work to bring him down. I can reveal more after the court case comes to a close.
How was life as a star wife?
Shiney and I got married in 1997. We knew each other for four years before that. I am an economics graduate from Miranda House, Delhi University. In January 2004, I joined a New York-based company as the director of marketing.
I was never into financing or Wall Street as some people have reported. Some even said that I was a tarot card reader, I don't know the T of tarot card reading.
During this period [when I was in New York], every two or three months Shiney and I would meet either in New York or in our off-shore office in Chennai… I was fiercely protective of my privacy.
That was the deal between us. I want to go to work in peace. I didn't want to be a star wife — it's not to say that star wives are bad — it's a personal choice and I wanted my own personal space and do my own thing.
In 2006, I was working in Chennai when Hazaaron Khwahishien Aisi had released and it was the Star Screen Awards night. I had this important meeting but when my boss then found out that my husband was nominated, he just booked my tickets and asked me to fly to Mumbai immediately.
And I remember, I was in my regular office attire and the security guard wouldn't let me in because he thought I was some crazy Shiney fan. I remember telling him: "I know I don't look the part, but I am his wife."
We were continuously reading news reports about us getting either separated or divorced etc. It upset Shiney a great deal, but I always maintained that as long as you and I know the truth — why do you care?
As a private person, how have you dealt with the attention?
We both understand what we are up against. But we have such tremendous faith in the truth. If we are not in the wrong, we can safely say that you can pin me down for a bit, but you cannot pin me down for long.
When I stood up for him, I knew I was standing up for the truth. It was not just about Shiney anymore, it was now about the honour of my family. The reason why I stand for my man is that I know he has been wronged.
He is incredibly gifted, but I know his people's skills are a lot to be desired. He is not a smooth talker or a diplomat. Also, the media reported a whole lot of things that were not factually correct. They made him out to be a demon. They were painting this picture of a man — but it was not the picture of the man that I knew. After this incident, Shiney's conduct will always be under the scanner.
Recently, there were also reports that he misbehaved on the sets with a director (Last month, director Puja Jatinder Bedi, who is directing Ahuja in a horror film, claimed that the actor misbehaved with her).
That was utter fabrication and lie. Bharat Shah [the film's producer] has already come out in the open and actually said that it is utter rubbish. He was a thorough gentleman on the set. Shiney being under the scanner... it's bound to happen. It's a natural course of things.
Now, he will have to be doubly careful because any act or word of his can be misconstrued. The amazing thing about all this is that people can say anything without any fact or truth in it. That is the biggest lesson we have learnt.
Are you and Shiney done with Bollywood and the world of showbiz?
Shiney is a part of Bollywood and it was a platform that helped him showcase his talents. As for me, I feel Bollywood is a great industry and provided a medium for our dreams to come true. Agreed, we are going through a tough time but it's is not the end of anyone.
We will go ahead and continue with the legal aspects of fighting the case in the higher courts. In the meantime, it's going to be a time for rehabilitation for our family. We want to start rebuilding our life and continue walking.