Yes, he had lied. He lied just once.
But no one in India has paid a price bigger than Shayan Munshi for that one lie.
Yes, the lie could have saved a murderer but in the end, it didn’t.
In the end, that one decision to get intimidated, listen to all the wrong advice from all the right people actually cost Shayan Munshi, his marriage, a career and a lifetime.
Everybody close to the actor knows that the Shayan Munshi was a typical lily-livered Bengali mamma’s boy, who wouldn’t dare take a risk. He was the guy who always played safe, hated controversies and loved his page three parties. Shayan wanted to get a break in films and somebody drilled into his head that page three events meant getting introduced to prospective filmmakers — a myth that tops most newbies’ to-do list.
But that fateful night of April 29, 1999 changed his life forever. The murder of Jessica Lall turned his life upside down, with half of it spent around courtrooms and police stations.
The world loves to make a demi god out of a hero and a demon out of a villain. To the nation, there is no bigger liar than Shayan Munshi. But if you ever speak to Shayan, you will realize that no one has ever paid a bigger price than him for one lie.
Yes, what Shayan Munshi did was horrible — stand in the witness-box and lie under oath (a practice exposed recently in a film called Jolly LLB, watch the trailer of the film here).
But that one lie has brought his life to standstill. The wheel of karma seems to have become a giant wheel, mowing him down completely.
But why did Shayan Munshi lie?
The incident leading to Shayan Munshi lying in court was a combination of several factors – his inherent personality trait, the ‘characters’ around him during the trial and of course, wrong professional advice. After speaking to his friends, I felt that a lot of people would have done the same thing that he has done.
The worst part of Shayan’s character, according to his friends in the modelling industry, is that he was ‘kaan-ka-kachha’ (a parlance for those who get easily influenced). He not only believed what others said, but also acted according to other people’s advice than listen his own instincts.
That day, when he entered the court as a witness to the Jessica Lall murder case, he had two choices before him – to be a hero or be a villain. Shayan wanted to give an account of all that he saw that fateful night – of Manu Sharma drawing out a pistol from his pocket, aiming at Jessica and firing two shots. The next instant Jessica lay on the floor in a pool of blood. Instead Shayan chose to follow the advice meted out to him than listen to his conscience.
It is a mathematical certainty that anybody who liked listening to others will do whatever you ask him to do if you do the following things:
1. Subject him and his family to incessant threats;
2. Put a set of lawyers to the job to make him understand that the only way to save his life and career was to ‘get away’ from the case by denying everything he had seen. Shayan did exactly what he was told to do.
Like everybody, Shayan wanted to wash his hands off the case, but got caught in the conundrum of web, lies and deceit.
His relatives, family members and the lawyers, who at that point of time encouraged and emotionally blackmailed him into lying in the court, are nowhere to be seen now. Nobody knows anything about the lawyer who advised him to deny everything he saw.
In the process of denying his statement that day in the court, Shayan said that he didn’t know the Hindi script. For someone whose career depended on knowing the language, Shayan dug his grave with that denial.
The sting operation on Shayan Munshi was just waiting to happen. It was again a mathematical certainty that Shayan Munshi would get caught with his pants on fire and boy, his pants were on an inferno! Following the sting operation on him, Shayan was ostracised, arrested, criticised, tortured and now, he might be even sent to jail for perjury. Ask him personally and he will tell you that for the last seven years, Shayan is looking for an opportunity to redeem himself, only to be told that there is no second chance for him.
Here is the video of the sting operation on Shayan Munshi –>
From that day, Shayan lay abandoned by – some of his closest friends, his wife Peeya and his own self-esteem. He also lost out on some big film offers.
Year after year, something or the other regarding the case comes up that ensures that he is thrown into the dumps again… and again!
Shayan Munshi was an ordinary guy who became extraordinarily bad because he listened to others. He was clearly the most vulnerable person associated with the case.
People who have watched Shayan through his trials, say that every bit of his esteem has been taken away from him, piece by piece. His biggest loss was losing his wife Peeya, who stood by him through his trials. But after they split, neither Shayan nor Peeya were ever spotted with anyone else again. When they were together, they came across as a sweet couple, and even acted in a film together calledThe Bong Connection.
Here is a song from the film, The Bong Connection ->
Shayan was arrested from the Kolkata airport on the day when he was supposed to fly off for his honeymoon to Thailand by the Kolkata police. The incident left a deep scar. The public humiliation that Peeya and her family suffered after the incident triggered the split. The couple never stopped fighting after that, his friends say. They finally separated in October 2010.
Here are photos of Piya and Shayan and Shayan getting arrested from the Kolkata airport while he was about to take off for his honeymoon->
Let me end this note with a story. In ancient Egypt, it was believed that death sets a man free and therefore it cannot be a form of punishment. Punishment is when the person is made to suffer for the rest of his life for his crime. The most dreaded of criminals were never killed; they were locked up and made to hear about their misdeeds, every day, every waking hour. Some of those hardened criminals would end up insane, but they were never granted death.
Shayan’s life after the Jessica Lall murder case has become just like that. The law should offer him a chance to redeem himself – a chance to come clean about what he saw. Or put him in jail for a year and set him free. But let the truth set him free!
Before judging him, let me show you what the supposed ‘bad guy’ Shayan has been up to in the meanwhile. Take a look at the video where he talks about how he is working in rural India, providing free eye treatment and surgery to rural Indians, who cannot afford to pay for it. The foundation is run by his parents and Shayan in an active part of the exercise. Though the video appears to be in Bengali but Shayan speaks enough English for anybody to understand.
Is that a bad guy who wants to be good? Or a good guy who listened once to the bad guy in him and paid a heavy price for it? Well, you decide.