Pop Vulture

The Curious Case of Sayali Bhagat

A tell-all email that cast Big B as a villain has petered down to two players: a starlet and a princeling
It started out with an email sent by two-month-old Crème talent agency to various media houses, a virtual scarlet letter that went viral within hours. And not for nothing: the press release stated that former Miss India, Sayali Bhagat, was quitting Bollywood to pursue a modelling career in Milan. But this international move wasn't the only reason for her supposed flight from tinsel town. There were other reasons too: because Amitabh Bachchan allegedly grabbed her buttocks when she bent down to touch his feet at an event, tainting the servile namaste that the Hindi film industry is so keen on; because actor-director Sajid Khan was allegedly buck naked when he invited her for an audition for a role in Housefull; because Aarya Babbar allegedly took the trouble to click his genitals and packaged them as a neat MMS sent to her inbox.

This was the string of allegations on Monday afternoon. But by Wednesday evening, the star cast of this drama changed quite dramatically. Sayali Bhagat, with a different PR agency behind her this time (Chanel Post run by Vinith Handa), despatched an email debunking Crème talent agency as a bogus unit that she has no truck with, that the email was a vicious conspiracy to malign her. So, at the heart of this 'casting couch' controversy, itself a budding genre of celebrity management for Bollywood's fringe contingent (and often an entry ticket to the reality shows that lionize tinsel town's pariahs) are two players now: Sayali Bhagat, a starlet who began her innings with the Emraan Hashmi-starrer, 'The Train: Some Lines Are Never Meant to be Crossed'; and Anant Narrayan, who claims to be a prince from the erstwhile royal state of Bhareh in the Etawah district of Uttar Pradesh (see pic below).

She agreed to an interview at the Lokhandwala flat of her new communications agent, Mr Vinith Handa. I took the trouble to dress up like Simi Garewal, somewhat: white pants and a very light blue shirt I assumed would do the trick. It didn't work; there were no teary-eyed confessions of how sordid Bollywood is. Her father, her sister, and Mr Handa (who was busy clicking away at his computer keyboard; another email, perhaps?) were also milling about in the living room. The father was dressed like a lawyer, in black pants and a black shirt with a faint pattern of dots. He was also holding legal documents in his hand. He later tells me that he is the legal manager for a corporate in Nasik, where Sayali hails from. Dressing up like Simi, perhaps, was not such a good idea.

They escorted me to a sofa. Then they all went inside once I sat down. I received two quick missed calls, first from Mr Handa's phone (my phone was on silent, so no one came out) Then another missed call from another unidentified number confirmed that I was not an imposter (I did say 'hello, hello!' louder this time). Fair enough: some lines, after all, should never be crossed. Then Sayali stepped out in a T-shirt and jeans, and her entourage stepped out as well. "The industry is giving me time to sort this out. All the actors who have been troubled by this defamation are in touch with me and are being patient. They know I am the victim here."

Coming back to the case of how the letter first came about, she adds, "The concerned people created this to earn publicity for themselves." When I ask her if these "concerned people" is Crème talent agency, she says that she is under legal advice to not reveal any names. Not even those who have maligned her so viciously? "Look, the point is that a cell similar to the cyber crime cell, but of a higher nature, are onto this case. The investigations are at a very advanced stage right now. I don't wish to hamper this."

Has she filed an FIR? "No, but I am in touch with the police at a top level to handle this. I can't reveal anything. What I can reveal, I am. I want to add that I am the victim here, and I hope that the media behaves responsibly through this." The press has been wary of Sayali's stance based on an earlier incident in which she had accused Shiney Ahuja of molesting her on the sets of 'Ghost'. After reports of these allegations came out, she accused the press of misquoting her. Then after a few days, there were reports that she was planning on filing a police complaint against Shiney. So when reports of the Big B, Sajid Khan and Aarya Babbar also treating her "like a piece of meat" emerged, the press for the most part stayed away, though the Big B did Twitter an understated but stern warning to any miscreants pushing their luck with him.

Has she ever met Amitabh Bachchan, Sajid Khan, Aarya Babbar, Shiney Ahuja? "I've met all of them, I've met the entire industry. I'm from it." A third public relations face, Shweta from Aria communications, is seated on a sofa bang next to us. It's a cosy bunch in the living room; tea and Marie biscuits are served. But Crème talent agency is claiming to have documents that prove that she was a client. What does she have to say to that? "Whatever is going on will take its course in the courts. If the concerned people are claiming to have had any connection with me when having sent that email they can present that evidence in court."

Was she ever a victim of the casting couch? "No, but I am being victimised here. Please understand that."

When confronted with the allegation that Crème talent agency has done this for cheap publicity, its owner, Anant Narrayan, goes ballistic. "Look, I come from an illustrious and glorious family. I am royalty. I come from the royal family of Bhareh in UP, on the confluence of the Yamuna and Chambal rivers. I was an honorary guest of Robert De Niro at Cannes this year. I was on the same Emirates flight as Mallika Sherawat and Minisha Lamba. In fact, we were all there together at the French consulate when applying for our visas," says he.

Then why did he send this slanderous email? "This email has been sanctioned by Sayali. Sayali was very clear that she wanted to create a dhamaka this Diwali with her confessions. We were also on the verge of signing her up with a reality show. Listen, nobody knew Sayali a few days ago. After this email, she's been trending on Twitter for three hours on Tuesday, okay? Let her not play this double game. I have documents and bank records to prove that we were serving as her representatives," add he.

Crème talent agency's website indeed lists Sayali as a client. It also lists him as a client under the moniker Prince Anant Narrayan, a strange overlap for he also owns the company. His bio on the Crème website reads thus: "Often referred to as one of the most beautiful men in India, His Royal Highness Prince Anant Narrayan is the Prince of the erstwhile Royal State of Bhareh in the Etawah District of Uttar Pradesh, India. A forerunner in the prestigious "Most Eligible Bachelors" list of India, Anant Narrayan is touted as India's Next Big Thing. An unmistakable head turner in New Delhi's high society, Anant has formerly been a well-known media personality and has a calendar filled with appearances and professional commitments all over the world. Anant was invited as an honourary guest at the prestigious Cannes Film Festival in May 2011, where he walked the red carpet for the biggest movies that premiered at Cannes in 2011. At 24, Anant made it to all A list parties at Cannes and was on the guest list of international super-stars Robert De Niro, Angelina Jolie, Brad Pitt and Woody Allen. Whether it was the glittering red carpet or the top parties, Anant dazzled at Cannes 2011. Anant has formally signed Oscar winner Jeffrey D Brown's Hollywood next titled Sold as the lead protagonist. Anant is also looked upon as a popular twitter icon, with a huge fan following over 20,000 fans from across the globe…"

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