Group President, Group Managing Director & Editor In Chief: Dr.Shelly Ahmed

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

The Murder - Behind the Screen 'Trap'

By M H Ahssan

The lights behind the camera and the action aren’t always bright and with the murder of starlet Bhargavi on Tuesday have surfaced stories of the not-so-bright lives these ‘mini celebrities’ lead. Earning well, the seemingly independent bunch of professionals, mainly girls, seem to be leading lives largely governed by their guardians, be it parents or lovers.

A call made by this newspaper to a television personality on Tuesday only revealed this trend when her husband answered her ‘personal’ cell phone and said how he did not wish his wife’s number to be made public.

While the case of Bhargavi’s murder is yet to be solved, industry insiders say they wouldn’t be surprised if there is a similar angle to the unfortunate incident.

Insiders in the television industry note they are perturbed by the general trend of young women turning into the proverbial golden goose for their loved ones. A senior official with a regional channel notes that “girls in television have more or less such problems’’. “Whether the girl hails from a small town or a city is besides the point. Girls coming from relatively poor backgrounds are the most hassled with their families expecting a lot from them. These girls work under a lot of pressure. We see it very often,’’ the official says.

An anchor shares that much like cine stars, mothers accompany their ‘star’ daughters who would be anchoring television shows. “These mothers also ask their daughters to meet the boss manning the show or coax him to accompany her for dinner. All this to bag better projects promising more money,’’ the anchor says.

Industry sources say that while on one hand, the families want their girls to earn well (and they do with even a small time television anchor taking home Rs 1 lakh per month), on the other they grudge any relationship the girl gets into. “This fear does not stem from their conservative background but from the insecurity of losing their daughter, and easy money, to a boy or to a marriage,’’ says a television anchor, who did not wish to be identified.

A producer with a leading Telugu channel narrates how a popular young soap star tied the knot with a much married man, thinking he was the best she could get. “Most of the time, families decline marriage proposals and at others their long work hours work against their eligibility to get a good match,’’ observes the producer.

In many cases, the men involved in getting young promising girls good offers with TV firms feel sidelined when the girl makes it big, says Gayatri Bhargavi, a famous TV anchor. “Making it big is not very difficult. In a year or so, you do manage to get show if you are looking at an anchoring job. But your career graph, of course, depends on the success of the show,’’ says a TV producer.

Bhargavi, for example, owed her popularity largely to television followed by some not-so-significant roles in films, apart from her latest one ‘Ashta Chamma’. “She was a sweet girl and reserved. She was very silent, and would often sit by herself,’’ says popular anchor Jhansi, who believes that crimes against women are on the rise in general, but incidents from the television industry get reported as they are now mini celebrities.

Nevertheless, television anchors such as Shilpa Chakaborthy, who started anchoring television shows in 2001 rue that most people joining TV now are just focussed on easy money. “Very few are attached to the profession and its only their screen presence they are worried about,’’ she says.

The Starlet Murder: In what had created a flutter in Telugu Film industry then, on February 23 in 2002, Pratyusha, a then upcoming Tollywood actress committed suicide after she consumed poison along with her college boyfriend G Siddhartha Reddy. While Pratyusha died, Siddhartha Reddy recovered after treatment.

However, two years later on February 24, 2004, metropolitan sessions judge convicted Reddy for driving Pratyusha to suicide and sentencing him to rigorous imprisonment for a period of five years and a fine of Rs.6,000.

The 20-year old actress had reportedly fallen in love with Reddy, then 22, during their college days in 1996. Both had planned to get married but their proposed marriage was opposed by the Reddy family.

CBI reports stated that while Siddharth had decided to leave for US to pursue higher studies after his engineering final exams, Pratyusha got confirmation for a Kannada movie and was about to leave for Bangalore the next day when she asked Siddharth to see her before leaving. For reasons still unclear, the couple decided to end their life by consuming Novocran, a pesticide.

While the doctors who conducted the post-mortem examination on the body of Prathyusha sensed manual strangulation and gang-rape, the Director of Andhra Pradesh Forensic Science Laboratory (APFSL) said it was a case of suicide by poison. These conflicting reports led to a huge hue and cry by the public that also saw writ petitions filed before Andhra Pradesh High court. Following this in March the same year, CBI took over the case from the Panjagutta Police that was handling the case.

Investigations into the case made CBI file a charge sheet against Siddhartha Reddy on September 11 2002 for abetting Pratyusha to commit suicide and attempting suicide himself under sections of 306 and 309 IPC. The trial court found the accused guilty for the offences and convicted him.

Guntur Girl Dreams: t was as if death came calling on Thota Bhargavi. For, the starlet had left Guntur for Hyderabad on Monday evening and a few hours after she landed in Hyderabad, she lay dead in the flat.

Bhargavi’s mother Bhanu Bharathi, who accompanies her daughter to the shootings in Hyderabad, stayed back as she was on ‘Bhavani deeksha’ and was supposed to meet her daughter two days later. But, upon learning about the murder, she rushed to Hyderabad. “My daughter is not a coward to end her life and she does not have any problems either. Obviously, she was murdered,” Bharati cried.

Bhargavi, the youngest of the two girls in the lower middle class family, had always aspired to reach top in the film world since her childhood, Ramanamma, a distant relative, said.

The family still lives in a semi-roofed house in 100 sq yards of site at Gorantla on the outskirts of Guntur.

Bhargavi’s father Rajendraprasad runs a type institute in the city and was the sole revenue source for the family till Bhargavi earned popularity as a television anchor. Prasad shifted to Gorantla about two years ago as he was unable to pay the rentals in the city, particularly after the marriage of elder daughter.

Wailing inconsolably, Prasad said: “The contents of Praveen’s suicide note are false. My daughter did not marry him.

” He, however, admitted that her daughter worked with Praveen, who was head of an orchestra band in Nellore. He disputed the claims that Praveen was their relative, as revealed by the latter in his suicide note. “It was a mere professional relationship and nothing else,” he said.

Bhargavi did her SSC from Stall girl’s high school and intermediate from the government women’s college in the city. Thereafter, she discontinued her studies to test her luck as a TV anchor.

Sources said film director YVS Chowdary had introduced Bhargavi to the celluloid world by offering a minor role in his ‘Devdas’ film. It was in the recent hit ‘Ashta Chamma’ that brought her some fame.

Small Fights Make Big News: Popular anchor, TV and film artist Jhansi’s marital discord dominated gossip columns. Jhansi who conducted successful programs like Pelli Pustakam for Maa TV and a ladies’ special program for TV9 married small time comedian Jogi Naidu of the ‘Jogi Brothers’ fame. Cracks developed in their marriage and reportedly Jhansi gave away her L.J.Studio to her husband in return for peaceful separation. However soon after her husband Jogi Naidu gave a public statement saying that he had been mentally harassed and kicked out of his home. He also went on to knock the doors of the Human Rights Commission alleging that he was asked to pay Rs.75 lakhs by Jhansi’s family in order to get custody of his daughter Dhanya. However when he tried to do so her family handed him divorce papers.

In a public spat with her family, Telugu TV personality and actress Udayabhanu alleged that she was facing threats to her life from her mother and brother as she had married against their wishes. After she married software engineer Vijay Udayabhanu sought police protection against her mother who was demanding money and was threatening to spoil her career by revealing details about her first marriage. According to Udayabhanu she was coerced into marriage by her mother when she was just 18. She also said she was fleeced of her all her money and her mansion at Miyapur by her family.

A TV channel anchor Dimple was accused of kidnapping teenage choreographer E. Surya Teja by his parents. Teja was training Dimple for Aata-2 — a dance contest held by a TV channel and was missing for over a month when his parents approached the police alleging their son had been whisked away by the anchor. However soon Teja resurfaced but refused to return to his parents saying that he was being tortured by them and they were only interested in his money. He also negated reports that Dimple was involved in his disappearance and instead said that she had helped him on several occasions.

It was about two years ago that TV newsreader Badiga Lakshmi Sujatha was brutally murdered by her close friend and colleague, Gandla Chandrasekhar alias Chandu, in Vijayawada. Her body was found in a decomposed state in a lodge in Governorpet on February 10, 2007, a day after her murder. Chandu (26) was a make-up artiste with a private channel when he met Sujatha. Chandu admitted that he killed Sujatha out of jealousy. Sujatha was intoxicated and raped before she was murdered. Though Sujatha was intimate with Chandu, she was said maintaining good relations with a few colleagues after she joined as a radio jockey at a private FM radio channel.

When she began to ignore Chandu’s calls, it upset him and he hatched a plan to eliminate her. Chandu has since been arrested and sent to the jail along with two other offenders who helped him in the crime.
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