When we first contacted former actress Mamta Kulkarni for an interview after she was named in a multi-crore drug racket in Mumbai, she sent a polite message saying she would talk to us only if we read her book, Autobiography of a Yogi. That, she said, was the only way we would know the real Mamta.

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Mamta Kulkarni and Vicky Goswami
Mamta Kulkarni and Vicky Goswami

On agreeing to do so, she helpfully emailed a copy of the 90-page book, written entirely in capital letters. It is full of anecdotes about how Kulkarni gained enlightenment, interspersed with selfie-like snapshots of her.

Mamta Kulkarni
Mamta Kulkarni

She writes about her transformation from sex bomb in movies like Karan Arjun and Ashiq Awara to a yogini. She details her discontentment with the world of Bollywood since 1995, and how she started leaning towards spirituality after she met her guru Shri Gagangiri Maharaj, whose ashram is in Khapoli.

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“I was No. 2 in Bollywood when I quit,” she told mid-day in an exclusive telephone conversation from Nairobi on Wednesday evening. “I just got tired of it. I started doing my penance. And then my mother died, and I shifted to Dubai.”

She speaks about several incidents that she says clearly showed her that she was meant for a life of spirituality: from the time when, during a shoot in Mauritius, she was chanting a mantra and she saw the sun rotate 360 degrees and charge at her; to the time when her mother was in the ICU and she placed vibhuti (holy ash) from her guru in her mouth and she miraculously came back from the brink; to the time a friend lured her to a five-star hotel for a drink and she fainted for 25 minutes after the first one only to realise it was her guru’s way of making sure she didn’t drink anymore.

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“I always used to ask myself this question: Why am I here?” she said. “It was not for Bollywood but to become a yogini. It was my Bollywood-crazy mother who made sure I became an actress. Even when I was a child, she would carry me in her arms to Chor Bazaar to buy old Hindi records.”

It was after her Bollywood stint that she fell in love with alleged druglord and co-accused, Vicky Goswami, and moved to Dubai. Some reports say the two were married but Goswami has refuted that claim saying Kulkarni was only a well-wisher who stood by him. Goswami was jailed in 1997, and served 10 years.

“I prayed for him to get out during my penance,” is all Mamta would say. “And his sentence got shortened! We are just friends now and I live alone in a rented apartment in Nairobi.”

She says meditation and yoga takes up all her time and that all she wants to do is spend life like her guru. She also maintains she is innocent. Earlier this week, she got a huge boost when one of the accused and the main witness, Jay Mukhi, who had earlier stated that Kulkarni had attended a meeting in Kenya with him, denied having ever met the actress.

Excerpts from the interview

>> ‘Cops have made this an ego issue’
If I say too much, the cops will get offended and then have a bigger ego tussle with me. Some of them are enjoying the publicity that comes with such a case, and are going all out to prosecute me. But in the end, they will find nothing. Jay Mukhi, the main witness, has retracted his statement. So, I am innocent.

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>> ‘Being with Vicky ruined my reputation’
I am detached to a point where I am with nobody now. Vicky met me in my years of penance but wooed me. He said ‘come with me and see the world’. And he did show me the world – he took me everywhere. But as I did further penance, I slowly kept getting more and more detached. Then one day, I wasn’t in the relationship anymore. It’s like staying in the house with a dog – you are with him. We stay apart now, but we are friends for our selfish reasons. But I know he is innocent and it’s just that his past is not letting him live in peace. And once you take on a man, everything comes with him. That’s why I am facing this. I will continue to face this. It’s like Sita Mata... When she came back from Ravan’s home, nobody believed her even when she was ready to take an agni pariskha. Just being around Ravan ruined her reputation, like mine has been ruined. If it happened to her, I am just a mortal.

>> 12-year penance
I have been doing tapasya since 1995. For 12 years, I did penance. I used to not eat for months on end. I would survive only on black tea. It got me over many things, like my mother’s death. I started going to ashrams because I didn’t want to be a film star anymore. I am still in a way doing penance — it’s become a way of life. God came to me, and all the stars have aligned to take me on this path of enlightenment. I have enough money and savings from my Bollywood movies and concerts that I never have to work again my life. God makes sure I am not distracted from my penance.

>> Where is the money?
They say it’s a Rs 2,000-crore racket. Why then do I live in a rented apartment in Nairobi? Why does my sister, Molina, live in a normal house in Mira Road? I barely have Rs 25 lakh in fixed deposits. All the properties I ever bought in India date back to 1994-95. Shouldn’t I have villas all over the world? Where is this money? We are in the clear. That’s what I tell my family. They (police) can’t do anything as we have nothing to hide.