The perspective about Indian television underwent a major transformation in 2008 with the advent of a show based on the sensitive subject of marriage. Titled 'Balika Vadhu', the daily soap became an instant hit and was able to strike an emotional chord with the viewers—as the subject was a hard-hitting reality of our society. If Avika Gor played the young Anandi, it was Pratyusha Banerjee who played the grown-up character with as much élan and precision as the former did.
As Anandi, Pratyusha had won a million hearts and was a household name!
(For the uninitiated, Pratyusha quit the show midway at the height of her popularity to do something different as an actor and was replaced by Toral Rasputra to play Anandi.)
However, on April 1, 2016, news of Pratyusha's suicide rocked not just the showbiz fraternity but followers of Indian TV across the country. The minute the news broke, people initially thought it to be a hoax or an April fool prank.
It was hard to digest but Pratyusha had indeed ended her life.
Suddenly, the shock and grief was felt not just by her family members and close friends but also her fans were disheartened. What drew an even traumatic sketch of her suicide was the fact that Pratyusha’s body was found hanging from her Goregaon residence in Mumbai. An actress par excellence and a bundle of talent lay dead in her flat—all at the tender age of 24. How was it possible or why did she end her life? These questions and several others were boggling every sane person's mind (well, they still haunt many).
With her death, a man, who will always be better known as Pratyusha's boyfriend—Rahul Raj Singh - came into the picture. He first seemed like a guy who had lost the love of his life and was in acute stress and depression like state—cut to the allegations levelled by Pratyusha's friends and family that Rahul was behind the actress' death.
The case no longer remained what it looked like on the surface. Each and every layer of the revelation led to an even murkier detail making people wonder what really was going on between Rahul and Pratyusha.
Rahul was accused of allegedly abetting Pratyusha's suicide. He was arrested on the basis of a FIR filed by the late TV actress' mother Shoma Banerjee. She even said that he used to 'assault' her daughter.
Soon after he was taken into custody, a dramatic event took place where the lawyer following his case called it quits. Neeraj Gupta, who was Rahul's lawyer, reportedly claimed that his client concealed several crucial details, prompting him to listen to his conscience and leave the case.
Rahul got anticipatory bail from the Bombay High Court where Justice Mridula Bhatkar heard a three-and-half minute audio clip of the last telephonic conversation between Rahul and Pratyusha, an hour before she hanged herself at her suburban home on April 1. After which it was observed that there was no prima facie evidence to show that the accused "instigated or intended" the suicide, reports suggest.
Justice Bhatkar observed from witness statements, it was clear that harassment and disputes existed between them but there was nothing prima facie on record to show abetment.
The actress' boyfriend again got a reprieve from Supreme Court after it rejected the plea to cancel his bail. Pratyusha's parents, on the other hand, refuse to let go of their spirit in fighting for justice. They have sought re-investigation of their daughter's alleged suicide. From her last WhatsApp status to several phone call transcripts—each detail hints at a possible hidden jigsaw puzzle which awaits to be unfolded.
During the investigation, Pratyusha's personal life was in full public glare, getting judged every hour. What's ironic is the fact that just a few months prior to her untimely demise, she was seen sharing the screenspace with her boyfriend Rahul on a celebrity reality show 'Power Couple'.
None could possibly fathom that one fine morning, this young 24-year-old Balika Vadhu would not wake up to greet life. Several details from her personal life including the one where 'another woman' angle had been speculated a lot in the reports. Rahul's past had come calling and that too not in a pleasant way.
A television actress named Saloni Sharma has been put in the dock. Reason? She once reportedly dated the same, Rahul. Saloni was also allegedly accused of having some arguments with Pratyusha on-and-off and also 'hitting' her at the latter's residence which was shared by Rahul as well.
Saloni did break her silence and in an interview with TOI.com and was quoted as saying, “I was done with them and was trying to move on but it was my money (that she had given Rahul to run an event management firm) I was concerned about. Rahul wasn't paying me back... It made me angry and I landed there to ask for my dues. On seeing me, Pratyusha and Rahul both assaulted me and physically kicked me out of the flat. I was hysterical and refused to leave the premises. So they came down and that's when I hit them back out of utter humiliation”.
So, literally, there is a lot to be understood in this case which opened a can of worms as soon as it was reported. Each passing day saw a fresh detail unfolding itself.
Her parents are still fighting for justice demanding CBI investigation in the case, and have even written an application to the sessions court for the same. The curious case of Pratyusha's death continues to haunt us as the jigsaw puzzle leading to the culprit remains unsolved.