By Subhash K Jha
MUMBAI: The last three days have been very hard on the Pancholi family, what with the son Suraj Pancholi being questioned for the death of actress Jiah Khan.
But Suraj’s protective father Aditya Pancholi, who emotionally confesses to being very fond of the dead girl, wants to know what his son is guilty of.
“If Suraj is to be blamed, then please make him the villain. What’s Shobhaa De’s problem with me and my son? What does she mean by saying, ‘Like father like son?’ I think Sonam Kapoor was very right in pulling up Shobhaa some years ago. Hats off to Sonam. Let the truth come out. If Suraj has some wrong, let it come out. But don’t condemn him in your column for something he hasn’t done. Everyone has children.”
Taking a deep breath, Aditya relives the nightmare of a death so close to the family.
“Suraj ki kya ghalti hai? They’re probably looking for a villain in this story, and Suraj has been selected as the villain of this story. If you take Raavan out of the Ramayan, it loses its impact. What is Sholay without Gabbar? As Mahesh Bhatt Saab said, they’ve chosen to make my son the villain of the story. For the last three days, I’ve done what I could do as a concerned father and the head of my family. Now I’ve the space to see what loss that Jiah’s family has suffered. My God! Tauba tauba…We were there. My son Suraj and I for the funeral. Not for a second did we think we should stay away just to avoid trouble. Jiah and her mother are our friends. We are not going to turn our backs on them just because some questions are being asked by some people who don’t know the truth are are only interested in being judgemental,” says Aditya.
Sighing deeply, Aditya adds, “My son and I had to be at the funeral. On the night before, I asked Suraj, ‘Beta, tumhara dil kya kehta hai?’ Suraj didn’t tell me anything. But on the morning of the funeral I got a call from my wife Zarina (who was shooting) saying Suraj wanted to go to the funeral. I asked Suraj if he really wanted to go. My son made me proud when he said, ‘If I don’t go to the funeral, I won’t be able to forgive myself ever.’ A close friend writer Moin Beg advised me to come home since we would not be allowed to see Jiah’s face at the graveyard. Suraj and I went to the home. I can’t tell you how beautiful she was looking.”
(Aditya breaks down and weeps inconsolably).
After a pause, Aditya says, “Suraj has told me so many things about Jiah. She was a beautiful girl. Maash Allah, she was such a lovely human being. And when I saw her still face, she looked such a lovely innocent child….I didn’t know her that well while she was still with us. I’ve got to know just how beautiful she was after her death while talking to my son Suraj about her. If she was facing problems in life, why didn’t she speak to any of her friends about it? Why didn’t she speak to Mahesh Bhatt Saab?Why didn’t she confide in her mother? They were the best of friends. I always met them together.”
Shedding light on his son’s relationship with Jiah, Aditya says, “My son got to know her just 9-10 months ago…Love is a beautiful emotion. But if things don’t work out between two people, it’s pointless to point a finger at one or the other person. And Mahesh Bhatt Saab, who knew Jiah well enough, has been comparing her volatile nature to other actresses…I don’t want to name anyone else. Why make a scapegoat out of my son?”
Mahesh Bhatt has compared Jiah’s predicament to Parveen Babi.
Says Aditya, “Bhatt Saab said something very beautiful….If two people go on expedition to the highest point of a mountain in Ladakh and one of then turns out to be asthmatic, suffocates and dies, does that make the experience of touching the highest peak any less exhilarating? Love is a beautiful emotion. If something goes wrong in a relationship, why blame one of the couple? The film industry is filled with examples of love stories gone wrong. No need to get judgmental.”
The worried father says his son is going through a rough time. “Suraj is very hurt and shaken. But what can he do? I know Suraj will be fine. But what about Jiah’s mother and sisters? Would they ever be normal again? Looking at Suraj’s grief I am reminded of Jiah’s family’s grief. Agar Suraj ko itna dukh ho raha hai to unpar kya beet rahi hogi?”
Aditya knows Jiah’s mother for a very long time. “I’ve known Rabiaji for the last 25 years .She is a wonderful lovely bubbly appealing person. And I’ve known Nafisa, that’s Jiah ,from the time she came to India in 2004 when she was a child . At Anju Mahendroo’s place I used to meet Rabiaji and her lovely little daughter who grew up to be Jiah.”
Aditya says it’s wrong to blame only the broken relationship for Jiah’s suicide. “There must be other factors. Jiah bottled up all her emotions.Suraj tells me she never raised her voice.He says the maximum she ever raised her voice to say was, ‘Suraj, this is not done.’ I want to request people to not try to make my son the villain. It’s circumstances that played villain in Jiah’s life. If that one moment when she took that drastic step had been averted she’d still be alive.”
About the run-in with a section of the electronic media at Jiah’s funeral Aditya says , “The electronic media has to exercize some kind of a self-restraint at a time like this when the family and close friends need privacy. This was not a film premiere. Can they imagine what the family was going through?Anyway those mediapersons with whom I had an argument have apologized. I am forwarding you their sms apologies.”