Pakistani actress Meera alleges that Mahesh Bhatt was possessive and physically abusive, and that it was him who made her leave Bollywood and didn’t let her come back.
Meera, who became a known face in Bollywood with films like Mahesh Bhatt’s “Nazar” and Rajiv Babbar’s “Kasak”, is making a comeback.
When TOI caught up with her in Karachi, the actress opened up about her hiatus from Indian cinema, saying Bhatt didn’t want her to work with anyone else, and even thwarted her visa process when she wanted to return.
“Do saal ke baad main wapas Bollywood films karne wali hun. It’s been a long gap and people in Pakistan and India have been asking why. Today, I feel it’s time to share the truth. It was a heartening experience to work in Bollywood. I love the Indian audience and the appreciation I received here was unexpected. It was not an easy journey. Bahut mushkilen aayin, par maine haar nahin maani. I was new to Bollywood and Mahesh Bhatt introduced me to the industry. I respect Maheshji a lot, he has been my guru and mentor. I will always owe my success to him,” says she.
But then why did she move back to Pakistan? “I was all alone in Mumbai and didn’t know many people except Mahesh Bhatt. I felt insecure. Bahut waqt laga logon ko jaanne main. It was not that easy. After my success in my debut film, “Nazar”, I started getting a lot of offers from other renowned filmmakers, about which Mahesh Bhatt felt uncomfortable. Mujhe laga woh jealous thay mujhse jab main famous ho rahi thi. Woh nahin chahte thay ki main kisi aur director ke saath kaam karun. I got offers from big directors like Ram Gopal Varma, Mani Ratnam, Subhash Ghai and so on. He didn’t appreciate it at all,” Meera replies.
So was it her own decision to leave India after a dispute with Bhatt? Meera says, “Logon ne bahut kuch likha is bare mein, aur kaha bhi, but main ab chup nahin rahoongi. Aaj main sach bolna chahti hun. It was not my decision to stop doing films, but I was asked to leave India by Maheshji. He did not like my being famous and interacting with other directors.”
Pata nahin kyun… Woh bade ajeeb tarah ki baatein karte. He would tell me, ‘Tum mein aur Pooja (Bhatt, his daughter) mein koi farak nahin hai. You are like Pooja… Aur phir kuch der baad kahte ki main tumhe kaafi chahta hun aur tum mere liye bahut special ho. It was difficult for me to tell what exactly he wanted from me. He wanted me to only stick to his banner. One night, I had to meet Subhash Ghai at a hotel. Jab maine Maheshji ko kaha, toh woh bahut furious hue aur mujh par bahut chillaye, aur unhone mujhe do teen thappad bhi maare.
“I was shocked. We had a fight, and then he said to me, ‘Sorry Meera, I can’t handle your problems anymore. It’s better that you go back to Pakistan. I left, but then when I wanted to come back to India again, he made sure that I didn’t get a visa. After that, I had no hope to work in Bollywood anymore. Usne saare raaste rok diye. I felt very shocked and depressed. I kept asking myself, ki meri kya galti thi… main ab tak Maheshji ko samajh nahin paayi hun.”
Back in Pakistan, Meera is busy with her films and reality shows. She tells us she was also offered “Bigg Boss” in India, but she refused. She says, “I was offered twice to be a part of “Bigg Boss”. I wasn’t comfortable and refused. To stay in that house with people I didn’t know wasn’t a comfortable idea for me.”
Ask her about Veena Mallik’s fame courtesy “Bigg Boss”, and Meera says, “Veena is a dear friend and I’m happy for her. If she is happy with Ashmit, then why should people talk so much. She is a talented actress and has great potential.” Meera says she’ll be visiting Mumbai. “I have a lot of appointments with filmmakers and producers. There are lots of interesting projects in the pipeline. I’ve been approached by Imtiaz Ali to do his next movie opposite Ranbir Kapoor. I have also signed a new film, where I’m playing a Pakistani girl. The shooting should begin by this year end.”
In the same vein, Meera adds, “Ab main mature ho gayi hun aur kaafi confidence aa gaya hain mujh mein. Ab mujhe koi nahin rok sakta hai. Now, even if Mahesh Bhatt wants to stop me, I don’t care,” she laughs.
I have slapped her?” asks an incredulous Mahesh Bhatt, laughing, “First of all, Meera is a unique phenomenon. She is a South Asian treasure .
She’s bizarre and innocent at the same time; she’s smart and then completely childlike the next instant. So you cannot feel outraged by her utterances and feel wronged. What Meera needs more than anything at the moment is a parental gaze, which screams out for an urgent need to rescue her from herself. Her life is screaming out for it. She has an extraordinary talent of getting herself in equations where everyone who is her friend, turns hostile towards her.
Despite all the strange utterances that have come from her from time to time, I have refused to turn into her enemy. Earlier, in an interview to a newspaper in Pakistan, she said that I’d taken advantage of her. I don’t know what advantage I had taken. It said that I’d abused her and had dumped her. The journalist called me from there and I just said one thing, ‘Daant agar zabaan kaat le, toh koi daant nahi nikal deta na.’ Meera is my own.”
Bhatt says that he still feels like a parent towards her because of the condition she is in. He says, “She is a vulnerable person going through a vulnerable phase. It takes a lot to come to terms with the twilight in this world of cinema, especially for the glamourous girls. She did try to come back and mend bridges a while ago, which we did. And then she got herself into the marriage mess where she claimed that she was assaulted by her supposed husband. At that point, I’d told her to go to Asma Jehangirji (Pakistani lawyer) and Asmaji did call me and help her.”
But, the issue it seems, was not one of familial affection, but a career in Bollywood. Says Bhatt, “I told her that I don’t even have the power to cast my own son in a movie if it doesn’t work out. I cannot make you or break you, but if you think that going into every producer’s office and using your seductive power to get roles is going to work, then you are mistaken. The word Pakistan anyway is not a comfortable word in this world, when the relationship between the two countries is always in a blow-hot-and-blow-cold-situation. At that time, you come to me as a friend and I can’t prescribe to you this path that women think is useful. A path where you use your charms to get roles.”
On Meera’s allegations of Bhatt not letting her meet director Subhash Ghai for a role, he says, “Subhash Ghai is a respected man and a friend, so why would I stop her from meeting him? I told her that I don’t fall for every courteous statement uttered by a Bollywood producer. Don’t confuse your fantasies and desires with reality. But, for her to get work, I guess, she has to make me an enemy and say all this because I was responsible for creating a product called “Nazar”, which I didn’t give my heart to in terms of my creativity. I am singly, wholly and solely responsible for the BO debacle of “Nazar”.”
But, he does have advice now to give to her. He says, “You are young and beautiful. Get married and settle down because this world is very unforgiving to aging stars. You’ve got used to this standard of living and you need someone to fuel it. It’s the destiny of all stars that they are born and then they die. Don’t blame me – you are not angry with me but with facts. Accept them and move on.” TOI