India, Nov. 30 -- Rahul Bhatt talks to Subhash K Jha on his Headley book, on Headley, his troubled relationship with his father, and the world at large
In your book Headley & I, written with Hussain Zaidi, you have described yourself as a "super-bastard" child. What do you mean?
(Chuckles loudly) That's because my father Mahesh Bhatt never treated me like his own child. You know how it is. You've known me from the time I was a child fighting for my sister against Ranvir Shorey, to Bigg Boss to the book. Main kabhi bhi jhooth nahin bolta. It's the raw uncut truth about my relationship with my father. I've put it all in the book. I've exorcized my demons. It's a closed chapter after I speak to you.
I had a story to tell about my experiences with this man named David Headley. With the help of a friend I got in touch with author-journalist Hussain Zaidi and we wrote out the book.
This book is not just about Headley and you. It's also about Mahesh Bhatt Saab and you?
Yeah, they are inter-connected. Perhaps if Mr Mahesh Bhatt had been a father to me, I wouldn't have got into the friendship with Headley. My childhood insecurities, the lack of a father-figure in my growing years were lacunas in my life that Mr. Headley used to win over my confidence. I was vulnerable. I had no father to guide me in my growing years.
So you're blaming the Headley episode on Bhatt Saab?
No, I blame only myself. We all have our own crosses to bear. If mine became unbearable it's my problem. Having said that, I maintain my father was always been indifferent to me. He has always treated me like a bast**d. I felt like Andy Garcia in The Godfather 3.
Apparently Bhatt Saab wanted to name you Mohammed when you were born?
Yeah, that's what Mr Mahesh Bhatt wanted to call me. But then my anglo-Indian mother put her foot down on the insistence of her Maharastrian neighbours arguing that he should keep his notions of secularism for some other occasion. And besides, if Mr Bhatt thinks of himself as a good Muslim, he should've treated all his children equally.
But Bhatt Saab's mom was Muslim?
She was. But I had no interaction with that side of my family. Can you imagine what would have happened to me if I was called Mohamed? Do you think I'd have ever come out of the Headley episode? I'd have been in Tihar jail instead of talking to you. And they'd have thrown the key into the sea.
You seem to have come out with details of your interaction with Headley so vividly after all these years. Photographic memory?
No, it was documented. I kept a diary. That was my mother's idea. She asked me to maintain a diary about my life. Thankfully, I listened to her and so the story of my interaction with Headley was stored.
How did Headley change your life?
Because of that episode people at least know me. Before that nobody even knew Mahesh Bhatt had a son. I became infamous after Mr Headley. I got the chance to be on a reality show. Mr Bhatt didn't recommend me. Let's be very clear on that. Not that I expected him to. He has never done anything for me.
Why do you keep coming back to your father when this book is about Headley you?
I am not playing the victim's card. Nor am I trying to generate interest in my book by talking about him. But I firmly believe what happened to me with Headley has its antecedents in my past.
Every parent is preferential to one child?
I am not a bitter person. I think I am BETTER person because of Mr Bhatt's treatment. I believe what doesn't kill you makes you stronger. I grew up with these feelings of anger and resentment which could've easily be harnessed by Mr Headley. That's what bothers me. I think I escaped miraculously from real damage.
What attracted you to Headley?
Common interests. A good sense of humour. He was well-travelled. He had a large view of the world. I am basically a loner. I don't make friends easily.
What made you befriend Headley?
Pataa nahin. Aapke saath kyon jamaa hai mera? (Why do I vibe with you). I make friends instinctively. Duniya kya bolti hai bhaad mei jaye. (To hell with what the world thinks). Mr Headley offered good friendship. It was both a buddy-buddy thing where we discussed girls and guns, and a mentor-pupil relationship. He struck me as an action guy, a swashbuckler. I saw him as an American adventurer who had seen The Godfather repeatedly. So had I. I could never guess what his real intentions were.
You had know no other friends?
I had one other friend. Vilas Varak. He is still my closest buddy. But just see the irony of my unlikely friendship with Mr Headley. In a city of 16 million people, this harlequin yank comes to me, of all people!
In the book you describe your first impressions of Mr Headley in poetic terms? You wax eloquently on his eyes?
Please don't give it a homo-erotic interpretation. There was no such thing. The most striking thing about Mr. Headley when anyone met him for the first time was his mismatched eyes. Looking back that too was a measure of his multiple personality disorder. This guy was one of his kind. The first thing that hit anyone were his eyes. And aren't the eyes the window to the soul? There was a contradiction to his personality. He loved children and dogs. But then he did what he did.
He was a father figure?
I guess. I spent all my life looking after myself.
How painful was it to piece together the events associated with your friendship with Mr Headley?
It wasn't painful. But it was laborious. Me and Hussain Zaid stayed up for hours and hours. I'd speak into a dictaphone randomly. And he would put it together.
Do you realize the book will open up a Pandora's Box?
I don't give a rat's ass about what the world thinks about me. I know what I am. I know what I am doing in the book. There are three perspectives in the book: mine, Headley's and the law enforcement's. I am not glorifying David Headley. Nowhere have I said what he did was right. David Headley came to me in Mumbai. I didn't go anywhere with him. My vulnerabilities could have easily been used to his advantage. I am the victim here. I was never aware of his Machiavellian schemes.
You never got an inkling of what he was up to?
None at all. We judge a book by his cover. Headley was a caucasian American. I had no idea of his Pakistani ancestry when I befriended with me. And he spoke sense. The kind of sense that one comes across on the intelligence-forecasting websites. So what did I do? I listened to him.
Do you want the book to be made into the film?
Yes, and I should play myself. That would be my only pre-condition. Since no one is coming forward to offer me roles at least I should be the hero of my own story. I've done a reality show. I've written a book. Ab kam-se-kam ek picture to karne do (let me do at least one film). Give me an opportunity to prove myself.
Why doesn't Bhatt Saab sign you?
Only he can answer that. Just as there are many questions only Mr Headley can answer. Because he doesn't sign me others don't. They say, 'Jab baap ko bharosa nahin bete pe to hum kyon Karen?' (Why should we trust him when his own father doesn't?). I am hoping he would make a movie announcement at the book launch.
Your best friend is a Shiv Sainik. Why not you?
Well, I have a huge tiger tattoo on my back. And that's the closest I'll get to the Shiv Sena. I am not a political person.
What impact do you think the book will have?
It's a historical document. Whatever I had to say, I am done with it. I'd like the book give me some career opportunity. At the moment I see myself as an author and an actor.
What are you writing next?
A book on physical fitness.
Published by HT Syndication with permission from Hindustan Times.