I was a 21, and they put me in the same cell as Kasab: Sooraj Pancholi on Jiah Khan's suicide

Over the past few years, since 2013 Sooraj Pancholi who made his debut with Hero has been facing an uphill task. Especially with the ongoing case that was filed against him by the late actress Jiah Khan’s mother Rabia Khan. In fact, Sooraj is currently gearing up for his next release Satellite Shankar, but the young actor, is still weighed down with the never ending media trail. However, though Sooraj has for the past seven years held his silence, in a freewheeling conversation with Bollywood Hungama, Sooraj Pancholi finally relented, opening up about what these past years have been like for him, and his family.

“My trailer launch should have been a happy day for me where I talk about my future; I talk about the film, about what we have gone through shooting the film. But the reality is that I have suffered for a long time, and it has been a really tough journey; not only for me, but a tougher journey for my mother my father, toughest for my sister, because of social media where everyone has their own judgement. So it is tougher for my mom and sister to read those things about me, and it is very painful to see them in tears every time someone talks bad about me. I just want this to end, whether good or bad whatever people think about me I don’t know. Seven – eight years of my like is a lot of time, and it has just been a big suffering for me. Whatever happened was very sad, and my sympathies go to her family, but people don’t understand that I at that point was the closest to her and that I was the support to her, and I was in love with her, and I lost somebody. And you guys put me into jail just because I was her boyfriend, on the basis of some text messages that every boyfriend and girlfriend have.

The last messages if you see, of our chat, it is her who is saying sorry to me, it is her who is saying I am sorry that I have done this, it is me who is saying that you have made my life into a prison, can you please leave me by myself for some time. I am the one saying that to her, so I don’t know why people though that I was the one torturing her.

Two days before her last, we had met, and her mother was not very happy that she was dating me. Her mother had to say that she was not concentrating on her work and I don’t want you guys to be together because you are very young for her. I was young, I was 21 and she was 27 at that point, so I was younger than her. Her mother asked me not to speak to her and not to be around her anymore, so I respected that fact and keeping a rock on my heart I took a step back, since I did not want to come between her mother and her, since they are a family. they were having issues for a long time, even before I came into the picture. So I never wanted to be the person who is creating problems in the family, so I told Nafisa, I can’t really do this, and she got really upset and insecure about me not talking to her as much, because her mother had asked me to. we met two days earlier and spoke about putting a hold on this relationship and she was very upset with her work that was not taking off, she had not done a film for a couple of years, and when we met she said she was going back to London, and looking to leave the industry. my answer to that was then I don’t think you and me should be in touch because it was only going to be hurtful for the both us to try and make this work when you are not going to be in the same country. She was fine with that, we had dinner, things were normal. And then the next day her crying and everything started again, saying that she wanted to see me and that she has had a fight with her family and that she wants to discuss a few things with me. I put my foot down, that I don’t want to meet you. I have had enough of this, I want to concentrate on my career, I want to go ahead, and she really wanted to meet me, since she had some issues in her house that day, since her mother was in town. For those who do not know, Nafisa lived here, and her family lived in London, her mother and step sister, there were a lot of complication within the family which I got to know much later.

But I am not that kind of person who, because someone is depressed or going through something would just leave her. I stepped back because her mother asked me to. And I respected her mother and that’s why I did. She wanted to meet me on the last day, and she said she had a fight with her family, her mother and she was upset. I just said I could not do this anymore and that I could not take this crying and depression coming from you every day, I just can’t do it.

The police are aware of the fight she had with her mother on that day, the CBI knows as well. People have, even I have sometimes have arguments with my family too, but it is normal. But I just could not be around that depressed situation; I wanted a break for myself as I was really preparing for my first film Hero. I had signed the film then; I had pressure on me to be in a certain way because of the competition and such. And we had a small argument on the phone and the next thing I know is that she is no more. But our fight was a normal argument, it was not even a fight it was a basic normal argument. That was it. And in today’s day and age everybody fights. I fight worse with my sister than I have with her. I only knew Nafisa for 5 months. It has been my shortest relationship; all my other relationships have been 5, 4 or three years long. You can ask any of my ex-girlfriends if I have ever been abusive, physical or whatever. I am not the best person ever but I am not what people say I am. It has been a media trial for me and it has been very unfair. Anything has been written and said about me, and when people ask me why have I not spoken out, well guess what I haven’t because of respect for the person that has gone. There are such dirty details I know about her personal life before I knew her, stories that I heard and stories that I know, stories that the police and the CBI also know, but I cannot say it out loud. It is not right. I loved her and I can’t talk bad about her or her family. So that is why I never did, but now if I don’t do it, who is going to speak for me?

The so called suicide note, it was found 7 days after her death. There are mixed reports about the forensics on the note, but besides that, even if it was her handwriting, it does not mention my name anywhere. And why was it found 7 days after the police panchnama, the police went and did their investigation in the house, they were there for two days and then her mom comes with this letter suddenly after 7 days and she does not give it to the police, she gives it to the media. If I want justice I will go to the police first and not the media. But she have given a printed/ scanned copy first to the media, and then she had to give it to the police because they asked for it. It didn’t mention my name, it didn’t mention Nafisa’s name. Why did they arrest me? Because I was her boyfriend, because I had an argument with her, it is so unfair. I was a 21 year old boy, and they put me in police custody for 4-5 days, didn’t let me meet my family, nothing and then I was sent to jail for almost a month at Arthur road jail, in the anda cell where they put Kasab. That is where they put me. I have been through so much, but no one sees this, why because I was her boyfriend. What wrong have I done in this relationship? Whatever is written about me in the media today, even a big newspaper had done a dirty front article about me. But none of it is true. It is all coming from her family; it is all paid interviews, paid media.

I understand that you have lost your daughter, and really my sympathies go with you. But this is not how you put someone down. Nafisa had a history of depression since years; there are cases against her previous boyfriends that you can find online. Every allegation they made against me, every single one made against me, abatement, torture, murder, none of them have been proved. And the police and the CBI say that I have no role to play in it. So why is my trial not starting. It took 4 years for my trial to start, to come to that point, because there were 2 police investigations, and they could not get anything. There was a CBI investigation and they could not get anything CBI said, that we did not get anything, maybe Sooraj is lying. That is the easiest thing and the safest thing they could say, because I did not lie about anything, and they had to give some answer.

How is it possible that a 21 year old boy sitting with the CBI day and night, I used to drive 2-3 hours to get there at 8 in the morning and they would leave me at 1 or 2 in the night, questioning me the same thing again. And this was happening while I was preparing for my first film Hero. After doing that I used to go home read my script and do what I had to. This is what all I was going through. The reason my trial is not starting is because the complainant is not coming to court, I am the only single person in the history of India that has appealed in court to expedite the trial. The case started when I had just completed 21 years of age, my 29th birthday is lesser than a month away. You have taken away my 20s, my peak of my life, it is really not fair. I do want to cry, but I will not, I have to speak out because it has been hard on my family, it has been hard on my sister, and it has been hard going to court every time.

I stand in court every time, but the complainants are not there. They put the case on me. If you want justice, you want the truth, then why don’t you come to court. It is because you have to stand in the witness box, and you are scared to get cross questioned, and that is why you are not coming. The Indian authorities cannot do anything about it because you have a British passport that is not fair. If that was not a media case, and instead was an India based case with two Indian citizens, this case would have been over and out in the first few months.

It is still a media trial because, people write ‘Jiah Khan murder case?’, first of all the case in a 306, it is abatement of suicide case, not a murder case. That is a completely different charge. The police and CBI have said that it is not a murder, how many times do they have to say it.

Composure is now when I am out, when I am in front of 4 cameras, it is composed. But I have to go back home and try and sleep every night, knowing the fact that this is what people think about me. I have a sleep disorder, I have depression, I have a lot that I am going through, I don’t discuss it with my family, because I know that it will hurt them even more. Sometimes I don’t get sleep till 6 in the morning, my mind is constantly running, because no matter how much we think we are not guilty, or that God is there for you, or your family is there for you, it hits you. Because people talk such rubbish about you, for what reason, without knowing anything they made me the villain, the bad person, on the basis of unprofessional journalism.

Just because my father has a certain image, that he has made mistakes in his life, I am not happy with them, nor is he or my mother, but he has done it, and he has been open about it. But the media gives it to me just because I am my father’s son. It is not fair.

I have seen this industry from every angle; it only depends on perception of what other people think. You go to a studio, they first find out what people are saying about a particular person. After than they give you a film, they don’t give you a film on merits of your job. I won 95% of the debutant awards, but what do I do with those awards if people are not accepting you.

I am not the best but I am not a bad actor, I would have done more films if not for this case. I am decently talented. I just want people to understand that this is my life, me being an actor, me being a public figure is not your life, this is my career, and this is what I am going to build my family on in the future. This is what I am going to give back to my parents with too. My father was a star back in his time, but not anymore, and I will have to support them.

My father has done really well in his time. At that time the highest he would get paid was Rs. 50 lakhs. But today that same amount is nothing, so it is not that I come from a super-rich family. I do not come from a super-rich family. Yes I have been blessed with parents who have been blessed by their work. But I am not a superstar’s son that you treat me like a star kid. I have to go through a lot of struggles; I have to take care of my family. My mother is almost 60 years old, and they are not really working actors. People don’t understand these things, and this is my life. Who is going to be giving it back to me?

He comes from a powerful family, must be dominating the case. But if my father had connections he would have been a working superstar today, but he is clearly not. My father has this personality of a 6foot guy, good looking with green eyes, but he had his time. Now it is my time and these guys are not letting me shine.

I was a 21, and they put me in the same cell as Kasab: Sooraj Pancholi on Jiah Khan's suicide

I was doing a football film called Fireball with Excel, I trained for three to four months, we were about to start the film, and then the entire stupid allegations came up, and the producers backed out. I don’t blame them, they were giving me a chance after knowing, there is a lot of money involved and I do not blame them. After that I tried to do other films, but every time I announced a film, there would be media articles about the case, and these were backed by the complainants. If you have the courage to speak to the media behind closed doors, why don’t you have the courage to come to court and fight the battle truthfully?

I would love to speak to Rabia, because I do not know what I have done. She knows for a fact that I was the only good thing in Nafisa’s life. I was the only happiness in her life, because she was super depressed. And not only me, the police records, the CBI will also say this to you.

If you want the truth, if you want justice come to court. If you want to put me behind bars, come to court. Talking to the media and talking bad about me or the family will not get you justice. I am ready to face any charge, they want, but start the trial, at least come to court. I have never told the court that I will not cooperate, my entire 20s I have been going to court. An accused does not need to go, since they have no role to play, but I still go. And the complaints catch a flight and go to London 1 or 2 days before the date.

People think I am the bad guy, but look at it. I am going to court because I want this to end peacefully, and with the truth.

Every time I have a trial, there are people from the crime department of journalism in court, and there have been times when the judge has asked why are the complainants not coming to court, and she has shouted at the prosecutors and lawyers, but when I ask the journalists to cover this they say, ‘No Sooraj there is nothing negative about you, so it will not get traction.’ is my life traction for you. Anything that is negative they want to write, anything that is in my favour they do not want to write, maybe because I don’t have the funding for it I guess.

I am very scared about what I say, to who I say, it is trauma to me. I don’t answer people’s calls in the night, I am scare of being even a little bit rude to people. Because I am unsure what the consequences are going to be. I was blamed for a small argument I had, so it is like trauma to me in my sub conscious mind.

As for relationships, we have not sat down at the dinner table and laughed openly in the past 7-8 years. It is because we have all been through so much pain. Every time my mother sees me, in her smile I know she has a lot of pain, but she does not show it. I know my mother’s eyes; I know what she is going through.

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