Shibani Dandekar defended her close friend Rhea Chakraborty in the Sushant Singh Rajput death case and said that she put her own life on hold to take care of him. In an exclusive conversation with India Today Television, Shibani said that Rhea comes from a wonderful family and it is “incredibly sad” to see them being villainised in this manner.
Here are excerpts from the conversation:
How do you respond to the allegations levelled against Rhea Chakraborty and her family?
It’s incredibly sad. I think for those of us who know Rhea and her wonderful, simple, middle-class family, to be vilified and villainised in this manner. To take away her basic human rights and not even try to understand what the truth is. We need to really question where we are as a human race. Are we interested in the truth? Do we want to try to understand what Sushant was going through what their relationship was all about? Or are we interested only in fabricated views and sensationalised news? Are we only interested in this TV serial type drama?
She was a girl who loved a boy deeply. He was the love of her life. She intended on spending the rest of her life with him. And she took care of him. In his darkest hours, he was suffering so much, and she stood by him like a rock. She did everything in her power to be there for him. She put her own life on hold, to take care of him. And this is what her life has come to now.
She has suddenly become the villain in this situation. Because somebody needs to be blamed and she is the perfect person to blame. We really have to ask ourselves, why and how have we got to this stage. Before the girl has a chance to speak, before she has a chance to tell us what happened, the media has already decided that she is the bad person here. They have already crucified her from the get go. Why? Why are you not interested in hearing what she has to say? Why are you not interested in hearing the truth? Why have we completely missed this opportunity to raise awareness on mental health and, the impact and importance of it?
We have a bunch of people who are fighting for the justice of Sushant Singh Rajput, we have the SSR warriors who are fighting for justice, but what have you done to his memory? What have you done to give him the peace that he needs. This has become a complete media circus. Her (Rhea) family is suffering so much because of this, they have had suicidal thoughts, they have thought about killing themselves, because of the amount of pressure that they have faced from your family. The entire family, the entire family as a whole. The only thing that has kept them going is knowing that they have truth on their side, but who, I asked you, is willing to listen. We have already convicted her of such horrible crimes. When all she did was look after the love of her life, respect his privacy. Try to understand that mental health is something very personal and private. She was protecting him. But everybody needs answers. Everybody wants to know the truth. Who are these people? Were they there?
Why doesn’t it deserve a certain amount of respect to be handled with in the right way? In the right time, let the investigating officers do their job. You have already crucified this poor girl and her family. You have tortured them to breaking point. This is a mother. Rhea’s mother has suffered such anxiety. She’s on medication. Again, we’re talking about mental health issues that we have caused this entire family. Because if they were to kill themselves, what the media has done, that is abetment to suicide. That is actually abetment to suicide. The amount of pressure you’ve got, you’ve got goons from the media breaking into their building, harassing their watchmen, trying to get upstairs to their house. Where is the privacy? Where is the need? I mean, where’s the room? For this girl to grieve a loss. Is this just a media frenzy that is hot news right now that you will move on from? All of them truly loved him and cared for him. They understood everything that he was going through, we have missed a massive opportunity to address the importance of mental health. See, because this entire circus that’s going on, and while everyone is discussing what the hot news is for today, what the sensationalized fabricated news is for today, this family is still trying to grieve with the loss of somebody that they love. This girl is grieving the loss of the love of her life. And it is horrific what has been happening the last few months. I am really saddened to see what humanity has come to, even at a time like this, where we are going through a world pandemic, any semblance of humanity that we had has been wiped out completely.
When was the first time Rhea told you that she was dating Sushant?
It was a while ago. I mean, I can’t remember the exact date but they were dating for a few years. I just remember I’ve never seen Rhea like this. She was so incredibly happy. She was so in love. I saw that change in her. I knew that he was the one for her. I did also know that he was unwell and she did a lot to protect his privacy. She did a lot to protect him because, at the end of the day, mental health is also something that is very personal. You don’t run around talking to everybody about it. He was a public figure. She did everything that she could to kind of hold his hand through the process, be there for him as well as much as she could, and then also respect his right to privacy. She protected all of his personal, the things that he was going through, she protected everyone from him.
Did Rhea ever tell you about Sushant’s mental illness? Did she mention it? Discuss it with you?
She did tell me that he was unwell.
When did she tell you the first time? Were there multiple conversations? Was she very distressed, looking for help or some support?
Rhea is as resilient and as strong as they come, she made it her mission to look after him. Yes, of course it is very, very difficult for anyone who is handling a partner with mental health issues to go through that. So, there’s a, you know, she there’s obviously, but a side of her wants to reach out for help, talk to her friends. But you’re so lost in that world of looking after your partner and being there for him, twenty-four seven, that sometimes you also battle that battle on your own. You do what you can to be there and protect and she was super strong. She always has been very strong. I’ve known her since she was 16 years old.
What did Rhea say about Sushant’s mental illness when she mentioned it to you for the first time?
She said that he was suffering from a few things. She said that it was something that was very difficult to deal with. There were lots of ups and downs, as there is with mental health. There were, you know, multiple doctors. It was just a really tough time because things sometimes are great then sometimes they take a turn for the worst. And it’s always one of those very unpredictable situations where you don’t know what each day is going to be like. And I think this was a really important time for us to address the impact of mental health and talk about what someone goes through as a partner when you’re dealing with someone who has mental health issues. And listen, if we just stopped to ask her, all of this could be brought to light if someone was just willing to listen to what she went through to what she has to say, instead of crucifying her from the beginning. She could have explained all of this but it’s become such a public discussion. We’ve just made it, you know, something that’s just up to public grabs. So now she’s supposed to come out and speak about it. Something that she tried to protect and keep private. She now has to talk about.
Do you remember the month or maybe a date when she first spoke to you about Sushant’s mental illness?
No, but it was quite a while ago. It was probably more than a year ago.
Did you follow up on that? Did you get to know more about Sushant or what he was going through or what Rhea was going through?
I did speak to her about it. And she was handling it. She was doing the best that she could. She also had her good days and bad days. But she listened once she makes up her mind about something. She was going to fight and be with him right till the end, you know, and it was something. He was the love of her life. When I saw them together, you could see it. You could see how in love they were. And it was it was a difficult thing to go through. I think for both of them.
When Rhea left Sushant Singh Rajput’s house on June 8. Did she speak to you then?
No, she didn’t. She didn’t speak to me. I think she just went home to her family. She needed to be around her family. It’s a lot. It’s a lot to deal with someone who is going through mental health issues that talk starts to take a toll on you. You start to go through your own anxiety, you start to go through your own kind of stress and I think she needed just a moment to reset, you know, just a moment to reset and then be able to handle it again.
Were there any conversations with Rhea from June 8 to June 14?
And once you got the news Sushant Singh Rajput had passed away. I’m sure you tried to call her. Find out more what happened?
I saw it. I heard about it from a friend of mine. I saw it on the news and within half an hour I went to her house because I couldn’t get in touch with her. And obviously, as expected, she was completely devastated. I mean, she would have never imagined that this would have happened. I don’t think any of her family would have ever imagined that this would have happened.
From there on the Mumbai Police starts the investigation in the post mortem, the visceral report, the dye industry is paraded. Suddenly you see this FIR filed against Rhea Chakraborty by the father of Sushant Singh Rajput. This case just turned once the FIR was filed in Bihar, it also became political.
What was your conversation with Rhea like then, what was the state of mind? What did she say to you?
Look, obviously, it’s something that comes as a huge shock. You know, you spend the last couple of years holding someone’s hand, loving them as much as you can, walking them through everything that they’re going through. You hear this incredibly devastating news that he has taken his own life. You’re trying to come to terms with that, you’re trying to grieve. It’s all so much. And then suddenly you’re being blamed for it. Can we just stop for a minute just to imagine what that must feel like? It is beyond imaginable to think that somebody who was the love of her life, who she looked after single-handedly. And today, while we look for justice for Sushant, she is the one person who is being vilified. She’s being crucified. She’s being villainised for looking after the love of her life, this is the world we live in because nobody wants to hear the truth.
Did you know Sushant? Have you ever met him? Did you meet him? Did you have a conversation with him?
I met him a couple of times incredibly smart, full of life. (He was) very shy when he first met me. Now, obviously, that’s because Rhea and I are such close friends. And, you know, he obviously would have known that I’ve heard a lot about him. And she’s like a younger sister to me, so I could see how in love both of them were. And it’s just really, it’s so tragic.
There are three agencies probing Rhea right now and the truth shall come out eventually. But tell me something, why did it take so long for everybody, because now I am seeing stars have started supporting her earlier for more than 17 days, not a word from the industry, nothing?
Look, I can’t speak on behalf of the industry. I am just one person. There’s a handful of us who have been supporting Rhea from the beginning. Because we know what she is all about. We know what our family is about. We know the truth. And ultimately, it is important to come out and fight for those who need our help. We shouldn’t be silent. We have given an opportunity for people who weren’t even there, who weren’t even a part of his life, who are on a rampage, using platforms to spew hate, you know, to say the most horrific things to judge Rhea. It’s time to come out and show support to somebody you
You have known Rhea for a long time. What is it about her personality that you are so sure, that you are saying that she is not capable of these things because the matter is still under investigation? She is accused number one in the case.
Rhea Chakraborty and her family are not capable of anything that you are accusing her of. She is the most loving, strong, colorful, vibrant personality. She’s full of life. She is there for anyone who needs her, just actions alone of how she supported Sushant, isn’t that enough? She’s just not capable of the things that people are accusing her of. She’s just not capable of it. I have known her now for 12 years. I knew her before she was an adult. I’ve watched her grow.
The accusation also is that she replaced Sushant’s family with her own familythat she tried to take over his life?
Whatever woman comes into your life, you’ll always accuse them of horrible things. Why? Why is it that she tried to take over? Why is it that her family tried to take over? Was there not enough room for Sushant to also be a part of Rhea’s family? Why is it not okay for them to love him? Why does it have to be one or the other? They loved him. He was a fantastic guy. He loved their family, Rhea’s family. Imagine
The allegations were that she was a gold digger and she stole from him? That she stole his money?
Of course, why wouldn’t people say that? Where is this money that she’s stolen? Please tell me. Where are these 15 crores that she has stolen? Have we found it yet? I mean, you know, it’s just so easy to paint that picture, isn’t it? It’s so easy to date a high-profile person and then have people say that you are only dating them for that reason.
India today has done that interview with Rhea Chakraborty. We showed her side of the story, we’ve even done reports on how the family was fully aware of Sushant Singh Rajput’s mental illness. And it went as far as one of her sisters even suggesting medicine without even a legal prescription, but still, they are accusing her of drugging him, of taking him to psychiatrists. How do you respond to that charge?
Well, she certainly was not drugging him. See, I’m not going to get into the case because that’s really for the investigating officers to handle and this is the problem. Everybody has something to say about this. Let them do their job. It is not up to us to decide the facts of the case and try to figure out what is going on. This is not a trial by media, we need to let the professionals do their job on this. All I know is that she was looking after him, she was helping him the best that she could, whether that meant, you know, seeking advice from doctors, whether that meant being there for him or her and her family did everything in their power to be by his side and look after him. And they understood the importance of mental health. We have to also just ask ourselves, it’s going to be really scary for women to just date anybody in the future, especially like, what kind of message are we sending out, that if you are dating someone with a mental health issue, please be careful of what the repercussions of that could be because if you choose to look after that person, please know that if something happens, you could be accused of killing him.
How do you think this case is not going to pan out because we’ve seen it’s gone from the Mumbai Police to the CBI, to the Enforcement Directorate and now to the Narcotics Control Bureau?
Let them do their job. Let them do their job. This is not up to media outlets to decide what is going on, who is guilty, they have made an absolute circus of this. They have destroyed lives. This is not about justice. This is an absolute frenzy.
Did you know that Rhea is not getting along with his family because the family just turned on her
Yes, I did
So, what did she say about the family and her relationship with the family?
It’s not always the case that when you’re dating someone that the family likes you. Is this the first time this has happened? Are we so shocked by this that you know, someone is dating someone and their family doesn’t like them? Is it the first time that it’s happened?
But what was the problem? Why didn’t they like her? Did she ever mention that?
No, and I don’t really want to get into the details of that. She had issues with one of his sisters. You know, you guys have reported the molestation accusations which were brought to light. And obviously, this is going to cause problems between a family.
Did she tell you when it happened?
Yes, she did.
What did she say?
She said that it happened, that it happened and she was completely outraged by it. And obviously she is going to tell Sushant how she feels about it and that would have caused a rift. How can it be okay after that? So, this is not something that is shocking news. Sometimes these things happen, sometimes the girlfriend doesn’t get along with the family. What does that mean? Does that equal murder? Does that equal abetment to suicide? Does that equal her being a witch? Does it equal her being a villain? Does it allow for her to be vilified? Is this just locked down entertainment for everybody? Let the investigating officers do their job and leave her and her family alone. It is not anybody’s business. If you truly want justice for Sushant then leave it alone.