In a no-holds-barred exclusive interview to Subhash K. Jha model-actress Tarina Patel whose husband South-African entrepreneur Iqbal Sharma was allegedly roughed up by Saif Ali Khan on Tuesday night at a posh restaurant, reveals her husband's Gandhi connection and lashes out at Kareena Kapoor's allegations
First of all tell me about that fistful night at the Taj?
First of all, let me tell you my husband is not some star-struck foreigner in India. He comes from the biggest political family in South Africa. He is Fatima Meer's nephew. His family was instrumental in getting Mahatma Gandhi in South Africa.
So your husband has Gandhian connections!
Yes, and to find himself in such a non-Gandhian situation. How ironic is that! My husband is a truly peace-loving person. His uncle and Nelson Mandela were best friends. He's in and out of Mumbai doing business, negotiating trade on behalf of South Africa with India for the last ten years. He comes from a very distinguished family. Though I stay in South Africa with my husband, I too am in and out of Mumbai all the time. My husband has a great deal of business in Mumbai. As you may know India and South Africa have great trade relations and my husband is a pivotal part of it.
Kareena says Saif was provoked by your husband?
Wow! It doesn't take much to get people provoked. We had no idea asking people to lower their voices in a restaurant was such a provocation that it would warrant a broken nose for my husband. I am so sorry about Bebo's stress level caused by our objection to their volume level.
Is that all your husband did, asked them to lower their volume?
We didn't even ask them directly. We asked the manager to ask them to keep them down.
Then what happened?
The noise was so unbearable that we decided to move downstairs. We were on the way down and waiting for the lift when this happened. Saif was on the way up. This was certainly not normal behaviour. We were willing to go to the police station and submit ourselves to a blood test. But they were not willing to do the same. In fact he (Saif) went missing for 20 hours.
What did Saif actually say at the lift where you all were waiting to go down?
He told us to f**k off to a library if we wanted peace. Frankly my husband was more stunned than me. I've known this film industry because I work here. My husband is clueless about the ways of Bollywood actors. He didn't know who Saif or Kareena are. Why should he? He knows who Amitabh Bachchan or Shah Rukh Khan is. Beyond that my husband or the rest of my family doesn't know the industry and they don't care.
That's what got Saif offended?
Of course! He hit my father. My father is a gentle doctor. He saves lives. How would your daughter react if she saw you hit? I am hurt beyond reason by what happened. And to now have Kareena say I'm doing this for publicity!
But are you any part of Bollywood any longer?
I do come here and do a part now and then. I'm right now working in Priyadarshan's Malamaal Weekly 2. I've earlier done his Bhool Bhulaiya. I do a lot of work in South Africa and come here for work when I can. But that's not the point. I am not in this for publicity. If I was I'd have spoken to a thousand journalists who have tried to get in touch since the incident. I chose to remain in the shadows, took calls on my husband's behalf handing it to him. I was playing the phone operator.
No, the good wife.
Okay, thanks. I am glad you said that. And then how can Bebo turn around and say I am doing this for publicity? It just shows the caliber of these people. They are all about media and publicity.
Kareena has said that you fled the scene when the brawl happened?
Ha ha. Right. Everything happened so suddenly I couldn't even move from where we were. When it happened we called security. The ladies with that person (Saif) have said I didn't intervene. I am sorry we have not been brought up to deal with public brawls.
Kareena also wonders how a man with a broken nose can talk for ten hours?
Because my husband talks through his mouth, not his nose. Also, my dear, it's for justice and we're going to go all the way with this. Now the matter is in the hands of the lawyers. I want justice to be done, no matter what it takes. Saif has gone on television to apologize. That isn't the same as apologizing to my father and husband. He claims to be apologetic and yet the ladies are slandering me.
Apparently eyewitnesses say Saif threw the first punch?
I am glad there are honest people out there. The Taj hotel is a magnificent place and it's a favourite of my husband and me. That hasn't changed.
A visual byte shows Saif in a torn green shirt.
I remember he was wearing a light neutral colour. I am not sure. What really baffles is, why did he run away?
Apparently he was hurt on the eye?
No one hit him.
Do you fear ostracization from the film industry?
Not at all. I did what I had to after the incident without caring. We went to the hospital. From there we went to the police station. I didn't sit and plot and plan my action. I was just looking at my father and my husband and their hurt and stunned faces. There was no time to think.
You don't fear a Bollywood boycott?
I've my integrity. If I didn't, the course of my career in Bollywood would have been different. I don't need money from Bollywood to support myself or my family. I come from a very wealthy family. I don't do films for money. I do it because I've a strong creative streak. I actually come from a medical background. So they can bar me from Bollywood. You think I care? But I won't sell my soul to get little films after what they did to my family. I'm willing never to work in this industry. But I won't allow what was done to my father and husband to go unpunished.
Have you had any support from Bollywood?
In copious amounts. You'd be surprised at how many people from the industry have come forward in our support and have offered to support me all the way. Please go ahead and quote on everything. This is my first last interview on the issue.
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