Rahul Bhatt does not step out of home these days, and watches his face on the TV all day.
In the city that is home to Bollywood, that sounds like an average day of a reclusive movie star. But it is not quite the kind of fame that the 27-year-old aspiring actor, son of filmmaker Mahesh Bhatt, wanted.
<b1>Rahul and his fitness trainer friend Vilas Pandurang Varak (31) helped police and intelligence officials with key leads about their some-time friend David Coleman Headley, under arrest in the United States for his alleged links with the terror group Lashkar-e-Tayyeba and suspected plans to carry out terrorist attacks in India.
Authorities have not said Rahul is a suspect, but want to know about his friendship with Headley, a US citizen of Pakistani origin whose former name is Daood Gilani.
“As a friend, I feel betrayed by Headley,” the tall, muscular Bhatt told Hindustan Times in his first interview after the controversy broke. “He seemed like a regular, friendly guy… and I feel betrayed by the media for making up this image of me.”
Bhatt said he first met Headley at a bodybuilding competition in early 2007 where both were among the spectators.
He said they went out for lunches and movies with Varak, who has already been questioned by the National Investigation Agency (NIA).
Headley was passionate about fitness, and military Special Forces. He told Bhatt and Varak about the Delta Force of the US military and the top-secret force called Special Activities Division of the CIA that carries out covert political action and paramilitary operations.
“He claimed to have done a stint with the US army,” said Bhatt. “I always wondered whether he was a CIA agent and used to jokingly call him Agent Headley.”
“I don’t go out, it’s weighing on my mind. I don’t have many friends — but most acquaintances have not called,” Bhatt said. “But I am not frightened. My conscience is clear. My slate is clean. The media hoopla is just ridiculous.”
Bhatt, expected to be questioned by the NIA soon, said he was pained that his name had still not been officially cleared in the investigation.
“I did my duty as a citizen, I’m happy to helped the police,” he said. “But it’s tragic, what has followed.”