Model-turned-actor Rajeev Pillai had been living a dream. The qualified dentist who quit his job at a premiere hospital in Kerala to pursue his dream of modelling and acting, was making all the right moves.
After a successful stint in modelling, where he walked the ramp for some of the biggest Fashion Weeks in the country, Rajeev shifted his focus to films. With the initial years of struggle behind him, Rajeev just recently bagged Gurudakshina, his first Bollywood venture as a lead actor. what’s more, he had even managed to get cricketer Sreesanth on board to do a cameo in his film. But things took an unexpected turn when Sreesanth got arrested on charges of spot-fixing. And since then, he’s been living a nightmare, by his own admission. The actor, who is one of the last people to have met Sreesanth on the day of his arrest, says he’s tired of the controversies that he’s embroiled in.
Calling this one of the worst periods in his life, a visibly stressed out Rajeev says, “Every day is like a nightmare now. I am a victim of circumstances, and even though I have had nothing to do with the entire fiasco, the media is giving me no respite. Each call I get from an unknown number makes me panic. I am a simple guy looking to make a mark for myself as an actor whom everyone loves; I don’t deserve to go through this stress.” Excerpts from an interview.
What exactly transpired that evening?
It’s been three weeks and it still feels like a bad dream that won’t end. Unfortunately, I was at the wrong place at the wrong time. I went to meet Sreesanth that evening only because he was supposed to do a guest appearance in my Bollywood film Gurudakshina. The director of the film wanted to meet up with him to discuss the same, and that was the whole intention of going there. After the meeting, I went for a party thrown by the celebrity management company that also manages Sreesanth, apart from some A-listers of Bollywood. It was when we were on our way to meet the owner of this company that the cops descended on Sreesanth.
What was your reaction…?
I am an ordinary boy with a simple, middle-class upbringing, so stuff like this is unimaginable in my family. I was shocked and confused at the same time because I had no inkling as to what was happening. I kept thinking it is because he was at the party or something… But once the police officials started mentioning Jiju’s name and said that he had to be called over immediately, I knew something was fishy.
Did you know Jiju very well?
Everyone who knows Sreesanth gets to meet Jiju, because the two would always hang out together. In fact, sometimes Sreesanth would use Jiju’s phone to call people… So, I too was introduced to him as Sreesanth’s friend.
So, what was your relationship with Sreesanth?
He was a good friend. In fact, we are family friends and I am closer to his elder brother Deepu. It’s through him that I met Sreesanth. I always liked him for the kind of player he is. I got to know him well when I was part of Kerala Strikers in CCL. We even worked out together whenever he came to Kochi. I always felt he is a very good human being. I have seen him help a lot of people. He always seemed god-fearing and was a good son to his parents. That’s the Sreesanth I know.
The cricketing world knows you as his cousin though…
(Sigh) That’s what Sreesanth tweeted â€” that I am his cousin. But I do know that this first came up after Sreesanth addressed me as his brother after my winning 75-not out against Mumbai Heroes at the CCL match. I didn’t know back then that he told the media that I am his cousin. As soon as he made that statement, I got about 150 calls on my phone. I didn’t know why people were calling me. Finally, it was my brother who told me that Sreesanth just told everyone on TV that we are cousins.
Why would he do that if you weren’t related?
I don’t know, but I guess that’s how he is â€” all heart. He calls everyone bhai, introduces all his close friends as his brother… So, I didn’t think it was odd at all. In fact, I felt nice. Imagine an international cricketer calling an ordinary boy his brother!