Well, I was able to watch the whole interview! After I read a bunch of excerpts already and so on. I encourage you to watch it for yourself, and then come back and give your own opinion.
Let’s start with the lead up to this. Hrithik releases a statement, a brief statement. And then it is followed, after a day or so, by a very very long interview. An exhaustive detailed elaborate interview. And he looks incredibly uncomfortable the whole time, and keeps dropping into what are clearly comfort mantras he is using to get through it (“I have to walk my truth” “I am not a victim”). He says through out that he hates talking about this, hates doing this kind of thing, is not comfortable with it, and I believe him. Both because he looks physically ill (there is one moment he even half gets up out of the chair and then forces himself to sit back down), and because he has never been good in interviews or public appearances, it’s a thing with Hrithik, he’s just not comfortable talking to people. Oh, and his stutter shows up a couple of times towards the end, which is a real sign of how wrecked and exhausted he is. It’s a two hour interview, and it’s remarkably focused. He doesn’t talk about his divorce, his kids, his career. It is just a careful explanation of his experiences with Kangana start to finish. He doesn’t even talk about Kangana, refuses to take her name even (which also seems to me like a comfort technique, like saying her name will make it too real and upsetting and he won’t be able to keep talking), will not speculate about what she is thinking or doing or her motivations. Just describes his experiences.
So, what are his experiences? He worked with her twice, on two films he was headlining. He remembers her being very very good, and himself being “proud” of her and grateful to her for working as hard as she did for his film. And occasionally she would message him, between the two films, photos of her working out, stuff like that, and he would respond with a compliment, like “good job”. And then after a wrap party in Jordan while filming Krrish 3, at the end of the party, she asked if she could talk to him, ask his advice about her career and so on. He said he was very tired, he was going to bed, but they could talk on the plane tomorrow. And later that night, there was a loud knock on his door, and she was outside, he saw her through the peephole. And she wouldn’t leave. He didn’t want to open the door, so he called down to his assistant, and had the assistant get Kangana’s sister Rangoli and have her take Kangana away. And the next day he reassured Rangoli that these things happen, of course he wouldn’t talk about it to anyone, they would just forget the whole thing.
Months later, he was at Karan Johar’s birthday party and said something to her about how he had heard good things about Queen, which confused her since she said he had just emailed her that morning about her performance. He told her he never emailed her, and she seemed very upset. Later that night, he got an SMS message from her that was a string of abuses. And then an email from Rangoli asking him to explain himself, because he had been stringing Kangana along in a series of emails, one of which was attached to her message. Hrithik responded immediately that they had to figure this out, that it was not his email address, and so on. And all of these emails are in the public domain now, the entire exchange was part of Hrithik’s police report.
(Thank you Deccan Chronicle for already pulling photos from the night in question! Yes, they were both there)
For a month, nothing happened. And then he began to receive email after email from her, explicitly sexual, obsessive, detailed, disturbing. He read the first 30-50, the first 2 weeks, waiting for them to go away. And then when they didn’t stop, he had them sent to his spam folder and forgot about them. For almost a year. Until an article appeared in DNA from Kangana about her “secret love”. And that same day, the emails stopped.
Months later, he finally read the emails, after he hired a security firm (who is willing to testify, give interviews, talk to the police, whatever) to rescue them from spam. The final emails started happy, saying the article was coming out today, they could finally be together. And then over the course of the day, they turned increasingly abusive. Finally ending with a threat that he would be “permanently scarred” by this relationship.
The next thing that was odd for him, after another few months, is that he was told by someone that he couldn’t be invited to a screening because his girlfriend would be there and she asked that they not be there together. Which confused him, since he didn’t have a girlfriend. And then he started hearing this more and more, people teasing him, mentioning things, about his “girlfriend”. And it was in the press too, talking about “close friends” saying they were together, he had proposed, etc. etc. And Hrithik didn’t know what to do, how to fight this, he just shut down and waited and hoped for it to pass. He had already filed a police report at this point (I think), against what he thought was a catfisher tricking Kangana. He was still trying to wrap his head around this, thinking that perhaps Kangana was a victim, was confused.
Finally, there was the “silly ex” comment. Which was the first time she had actually publically said something to the media. And he was afraid that it was just the beginning. He hadn’t talked to her or interacted with her, because the police had told him not to. But now he consulted his lawyer, and wrote a letter to her which also served as a legal notice. And that is when it began to go public. And it just got worse since then. He has been waiting for a time to file a police report and talk about this, but he had to work around film releases, Mohenjo Daro (during the filming of which, the producer’s wife teased him about giving Kangana a ring and he didn’t know what to say), Kaabil, and Kangana’s Rangoon.
(I wish I could chalk Mohenjo‘s failure up to Hrithik’s personal trauma, but no, it was just a bad movie)
So, that’s it, that’s his whole story. And I’m gonna say straight out, I believe him. I’ve believed him all along, really. Because he has been consistent and minimal in his responses, while Kangana has been erratic and strange and talking much more. Things like the emails he clearly received from her, the police report he filed months before the story broke, the fact that there was absolutely no evidence, even airport departure and arrival photos, nothing to indicate they were anything more than co-workers. And the photo, which for me backfired since it was so easily disproved. Meaning all it proved was that Kangana was delusional if she thought it proved anything.
(Photo of him with Kangana and his wife from that same night. Which was released almost immediately along with a flurry of other photos from an assortment of people who were there, none of them with a particularly close connection to Hrithik or any reason to hate Kangana)
Plus, Hrithik is just too self-protective for this. That story of Kangana knocking too loudly on his hotel room door and he decided to just not answer it, that rang true for me. He feels like someone who is very good at instinctively protecting himself and avoiding drama. He doesn’t have to risk getting into a thing with an insecure odd much younger woman. He can play it safe and have a fling with someone who will never backfire on him. That’s kind of what his narrative supports here. He couldn’t be bothered, he just waited for it to go away. Safer to protect himself and do nothing than to confront Kangana, to try to argue with his acquaintances who believed her, just wait for someone else or something else to fix it. Just like everything else in his life has been magically fixed for him.
Although I wouldn’t be surprised if Hrithik also has something to hide. Not necessarily something “bad”, just something private that the larger world wouldn’t understand. Maybe he and Suzanne had an open marriage. Maybe he had a drug addiction in the past. Maybe he is bisexual. Something that the industry wouldn’t judge him for, and he doesn’t judge himself for, but it makes him cautious about getting into this mess. Plus, the fact that he says he responded to Kangana’s occasional texts even between the two films they did together, that seems like maybe on some level he was flirting a little. Heck, maybe they even had a one night stand. But none of that means he should suffer the 3 year nightmare he is describing now. It just helps explain even more why he was trapped.
I think Hrithik is truly a victim here and has been living a nightmare. This actually explains a lot of stuff. For one thing, as long as two years ago, I read an interview with him in which it was pretty clear he had a close relationship with a Guru. Which makes more sense if he has been going through this whole thing. He would need someone for psychological support and healing (and seems like in India, “Guru” is a more acceptable route than “therapist”). It might even explain his odd film choices, taking ones where he felt like he could “trust” the filmmaker, certainly it explains why he hasn’t signed a new movie since Kaabil, if he was waiting for this to come out. And the really dark thought I had, it might explain why he goes on so many exotic vacations with his kids. If he is afraid to spend too much time with them in country for their own safety. There was one email from Kangana where she mentioned planning to rearrange the kitchen in his new home. Which is scary no matter what, but is really scary if your small children are sleeping down the hall from that kitchen.
(Or maybe he is just doing the divorced Dad thing and trying to make the vacations amazing enough for the memories to last through the everyday life at Mom’s house)
On a lighter note, I love the very industry kid mentality of “protecting the film release is the most important thing”. I find that completely believable. Not just that he would put this off in order to protect his own Mohenjo Daro and Kaabil, but also Rangoon. Which wasn’t just Kangana’s film, but a whole expensive thing with a lot of other people who could be affected. There’s also a great industry kid moment when Arnab (the interviewer) tried to get him to say he was mad at Kangana using his name for film promotions. And Hrithik had this “nah, doesn’t bother me, it’s just promotions” reaction. He’s been around long enough, he knows when it is just for promotions and will blow over. And everything’s fair game for that.
Although in a way that same industry kid thing is what might have made this harder for him. Hrithik has never had to “sell” himself to anyone, media or fellow industry folks. His way was smoothed. He just had to work with his Dad and let his Dad handle things. Which meant when this came up, who could he talk to? Who would he be comfortable talking to? A handful of people he grew up with, and a bunch of strangers who worked with him on a few films but he never really bonded with them beyond that. It must have been such a terrifying experience, to realize that all but your closest friends don’t believe you. And to realize suddenly what a disadvantage you were at because of the limited number of close friends you had.
A final thought, I was watching this with a friend who lived in Delhi off and on for years, and she pointed out the class element of this. Not that Kangana was taken advantage of, not that part of it, but that the class Hrithik grew up in, and the very specific way the film industry interacts (which is the other thing Hrithik grew up with), has it’s own rules. And Kangana was not raised in that class, or that industry, and doesn’t seem to understand those rules. This is what struck me about her Koffee appearance, that she seemed to miss what was acceptable to talk about (jokes about personal appearance, about bad films they were in in the past, even teasing about rumored romances), versus what is not acceptable to talk about (calling someone bad at the thing they are proud of, in Karan’s case being a director/producer). So, if we theoretically expand that to the whole experience Hrithik is describing, Kangana would see someone being overly friendly and nice to her on film sets and what she thinks of as “outside of work”, at dinners and events in the hotel after shooting. And then he responds to her occasional texts, and invites her to parties and so on. And casually embraces her as part of a party game. All of that could be read, both to Kangana and the general public hearing bits of this story, as a sign of a relationship.
(See how incredibly uncomfortable she is making Saif, and she just doesn’t seem to notice? Because he knows she is crossing lines, and she does not know)
But what Hrithik is trying to explain in this interview is that, for him and for the film industry, that WAS work. As the star of the film, he had to make sure everyone was happy and comfortable (we’ve all heard the same stories about every other star, it’s part of their job to keep the set moving smoothly). The job didn’t end at the end of the day, hanging out at the hotel together, that was still a work event. And inviting for large parties, that’s part of the job too. You are supposed to build and confirm connections at these sorts of events, to not invite a former co-star in a major film would be a serious professional insult. It meant nothing to him, it was not intended to send any signal, and Kangana trying to point to it as proof just shows that she is unaware of how things work.
But none of this really matters. What became increasingly clear in this interview, and has already been kind of clear from the released emails, is that Kangana has an illness. It sounds like she has something called “erotomania”, which was first described in a paper by a psychiatrist in 1921. And it matches exactly what Hrithik is describing and what Kangana herself is doing, and what was written in the emails. Here, here’s a quote from the wikipedia entry:
Erotomania is a type of delusional disorder where the affected person believes that another person is in love with him or her. This belief is usually applied to someone with higher status or a famous person, but can also be applied to a complete stranger. Erotomanic delusions often occur in patients with schizophrenia and other psychotic disorders, but can also occur during a manic episode in the context of bipolar I disorder. During an erotomanic delusion, the patient believes that a secret admirer is declaring his or her affection for the patient, often by special glances, signals, telepathy, or messages through the media. Usually the patient then returns the perceived affection by means of letters, phone calls, gifts, and visits to the unwitting recipient. Even though these advances are unexpected and often unwanted, any denial of affection by the object of this delusional love is dismissed by the patient as a ploy to conceal the forbidden love from the rest of the world. The core symptom of the disorder is that the sufferer holds an unshakable belief that another person is secretly in love with them.
So, that’s pretty much exactly what Hrithik is describing, as backed up by Kangana’s own behavior and the objective evidence (no trip to Paris, thousands of emails with no responses, Kangana’s strange willingness to talk about this)
As I see it, there were three big problems for Hrithik in this situation.
First, his own personality. Uncomfortable talking to the media, very close to his family and few other people but no one else, with a natural self-protective instinct to avoid confrontation. It left him unable to cut this off once it began to be rumors in the film society, the way someone else could, who knew how to play the media and pressure the key parts of society to shut things down.
Second, that Kangana is also famous. They had actually met and worked together. Which made it harder to ignore her, and the media more likely to listen to her and report.
Third, that Kangana is so so sure. Which, according to the description above, is a symptom of the disorder. An unshakeable conviction which comes through in all her interviews on the topic. Unlike poor Hrithik who shakes and stutters and drinks water and forces himself to stay in the chair.
(very different from Hrithik)
Let me end by picking up on that final point. I, watching this from a distance, was pretty sure she was ill by a few weeks back at least, if not even earlier. To hijack all her interviews supposedly about her film Simran on this issue, to remain determined to present that photo as proof which was obviously not really proof, to continually repeat the story of a Paris engagement which was clearly false, that’s not healthy.
Not Kangana’s fault, but I am very angry at the Indian journalists. I read somewhere that Anupama Chopra was the only interviewer to start off by indicating clearly she would NOT be asking about Hrithik, and sticking with that. Anupama by the way also has a journalism degree from Northwestern University, one of the best journalism programs in the world. And part of a journalism degree is an ethics course. The very first element of Society of Professional Journalists code of ethics is:
- Show compassion for those who may be affected adversely by news coverage. Use special sensitivity when dealing with children and inexperienced sources or subjects.
Kangana isn’t exactly a child, or inexperienced. But someone in the middle of a manic episode or a psychotic break would definitely fall within a similar category. Balancing the public right to know with compassion should be a basic requirement of journalism, not something we forgive with “well, they are just looking for views”. You could as easily say “well, a doctor just wants more patients”. Sure, he does, but he is also supposed to do no harm! There is a standard that exists which you are taught, if you are actually taught anything, and which you have to make a choice to follow or ignore.
So, if I look at this whole story and try to find a “villain”, the closest I can come to is the journalists who sat in the room with Kangana and choose to drive her on to further heights, who ignored the voice in their head which must have been whispering to them “something is not right with this woman”.
If anything good comes of this, I hope it will be a greater awareness of mental health issues, how to recognize them, and the responsibility society has to protect those who are suffering.