Pratyusha Banerjee, 24, was found hanging at her home on Friday, allegedly due to a troubled relationship; Cops are hunting for her producer-actor boyfriend Rahul Raj Singh, who is said to be missing with her phone
Popular television actress Pratyusha Banerjee, who shot to fame for her character Anandi in the daily soap, Balika Vadhu, was on Friday found dead at her suburban residence in a suspected case of suicide.
Actor-producer Rahul Raj Singh and Pratyusha Banerjee in happier times
The 24-year-old was found hanging from the ceiling at her home in Goregaon, the police said. No suicide note was found from the flat, they said, adding that the exact cause of the death, which occurred around 3.30 pm, will be known only after the autopsy.
Pratyusha Banerjee became a household name with her role as Anandi in Balika Vadhu. Pic/Nimesh Dave
Police sources said Banerjee had been dating Singh, who, they said, did not return home last night. The couple had an acrimonious exchange in the morning on WhatsApp, following which Banerjee told Singh around 12.30 pm that she was going to kill herself.
The police said Singh rushed home, only to find her hanging from the ceiling. He lowered her with the help of a neighbour’s cook and called her uncle, who lives in Mumbai.
Deepak Fatangare, inspector of Bangur Nagar police station, said, “It is a case of suicide by hanging.”
Banerjee’s father Shankar told mid-day on the phone from Ranchi: “We won’t spare Rahul. My daughter was a good, happy soul, but he used to torture her. I can’t believe she could take such an extreme step. He forced her to end her life. Rahul may have run away, but once I reach Mumbai, I will hunt him down and he will have to pay heavily for this. He ruined my daughter’s life.”
We are Familyyyyy!!! ..?????... Mummy n sweetheart????
Late on Friday, the police entered the couple’s home with a duplicate key. No suicide note was found. The police said they will investigate if she had left a note and whether Singh could have taken it with him.
My sweethearttttttt... I love youuuu... @rahul.r.singh.378
The couple had moved into the Goregaon flat three months ago. Earlier, she was staying in Kandivli with her mother. However, her mother went back to Ranchi a few months ago and Banerjee decided to move in with Rahul.
The police said the couple used to frequently fight in a drunken state. They said Singh would physically assault her, at times even in public, but she was steadfastly in love with him. When the police reached the hospital, Singh met them and narrated the series of events. He went out on the pretext of answering a call and then allegedly ran away. He took Banerjee’s phone with him. Police are concerned that when they nab Singh and get hold of the phone, he would have either deleted all data or disposed it of.
“In case we get it, we can send it to forensics to retrieve call records and messages, but it will take time,” said an officer.
Sources close to Banerjee have revealed that Singh was involved with another woman, who is said to be part of the industry. “She used to constantly send messages to Banerjee and harass her. This led to bitter fights between the couple.”
Most of her co-stars alleged that there was something fishy about Singh’s behaviour. “Why else would he run away?” asked an actor who did not wish to be named.
At the time of going to press, mid-day learnt that Singh was trying to hire an advocate, with Banerjee’s family, friends and co-stars blaming him. Sources said he still has Banerjee’s phone with him.
Banerjee was 18 when in 2010 she was selected to play the grown-up Anandi, a child bride from Rajasthan in Balika Vadhu, till then played by child star Avika Gor. After exiting the soap, Banerjee also appeared in reality shows Bigg Boss 7 and Jhalak Dikhla Jaa. She was last seen in Hum Hain Naa.
In Bigg Boss 7, she was close to housemate and actress Kamya Punjabi. On the show, she hated when contestants teased her for being the youngest member in the group.
Banerjee’s mother, who was in Ranchi when the news was broken to her, has rushed to Kolkata and will take an early morning flight to Mumbai. “She is expected to fly back around 10 am with the body for the last rites in Kolkata,” said a source.
Ajaz Khan, who was a co-contestant on Bigg Boss, said, “I recently met her on Holi. She seemed like a completely different person. I had never seen her like that. I don’t think she committed suicide.” Ajaz was seen screaming on the hospital premises, saying that Singh should be booked for murder.
Balika Vadhu co-star Shashank Vyas, who played her husband, said, “My head is spinning. I can’t believe it.”
Banerjee’s friends who thronged the hospital said there were financial issues, too, between the couple. Dolly Bindra, a fellow actor who had helped Banerjee with another police case two months ago, claimed that she could hardly believe that a woman who fought valiantly with police officials could commit suicide. “It was a complaint filed by one of the banks for non-payment of dues. Crying foul over the issue, Banerjee sought my help and stood strong against the police until some of them were suspended. I cannot believe that a woman so strong could do this,” said Bindra.
Pratyusha Banerjee was an actor from a small town who made it big in the glitzy, glamorous world. She was born in Jamshedpur in Jharkhand, and later moved to Kolkata before shifting base to Mumbai to try her luck in the television industry.
She became a household name with her role as Anandi in Balika Vadhu (2010-13). She was a contestant in Jhalak Dikhla Jaa season 5, and in Bigg Boss 7. She did brief roles in serials like KumKum Bhagya and Sasural Simar Ka. Her last appearance was in Power Couple with Rahul Raj Singh.
Television industry reacts
Surekha Sikri, co star in Balika Vadhu
She was a very sensitive person but at such age girls are emotional. She used to talk to everyone and wouldn’t sit alone. She had her entire life ahead of her and it is sad that she took such a step. God bless her.
Naved Jaferi, co star in Power Couple
It is shocking news. We all shot for the show recently. During the shoot, they appeared to be a happy couple. I last met them during the show’s finale shoot in Feb. They would talk about getting married.
Tanisha Mukerji, Bigg Boss contestant
She was so young. Why would anyone resort to such a drastic step? She was the baby of the Bigg Boss house. She was lively and it is so unfortunate. She loved to eat paan and hang out with her gang of pals.
VJ Andy, Bigg Boss contestant
I was shocked. It is not something you want to hear. When we were in Bigg Boss, we would sit for hours on the bench in the garden. She told me she was getting married and now I hear this.
Ajaz Khan, Bigg Boss contestant
I recently met her on Holi. She seemed like a completely different person. I had never seen Pratyusha like that. I don’t think she could have committed suicide.
Goa it issss!!!! Love u babyyyyyyyy... @rahul.r.singh.378
Banerjee’s last WhatsApp status message read, “Mar ke bhi munh na tujhse modna” (even after death, won’t turn my face away from you) with a winking kiss emoticon.
On Friday, they said Singh kept calling her, but she did not respond. When her uncle arrived at the scene, they rushed Banerjee to Kokilaben Hospital, where doctors declared her dead at 6.30 pm. The Bangur Nagar police were later informed.
Look who gave me a surprise on the set tdy.. Night shift ... Sleepy me. @rahul.r.singh.378