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The good wife

For almost a decade, she was Shiney’s ‘shadowy’ wife. Today, after her headline-grabbing assertion that her husband was being “framed”and that “rape could be committed by a woman too”, she is as much a household name as her star husband who’s been accused of raping his maid. Roshmila Bhattacharya examines. All in a day's defence

india Updated: Jun 19, 2009 23:31 IST
Roshmila Bhattacharya

Anuapam Ahuja. The name is as unusual as the woman who bears it with laughing grace. “I’ve grown used to being mistaken for a man. At our wedding, guests were addressing me as Shiney and him as Anupam,” she says.

For almost a decade, she was Shiney’s ‘shadowy’ wife. Today, after her headline-grabbing assertion that her husband was being “framed”and that “rape could be committed by a woman too”, she is as much a household name as her star husband who’s been accused of raping his maid.

Twenty-four hours after her fiery press conference, Anupam looks drained after a long day in court that ended with Shiney being remanded to judicial custody till July 2. Yet, the lady who all these years ducked publicity because she wanted a “normal home and upbringing for her child”, is ready for another interview if it will help her husband.

So, who is Anupam Ahuja née Pande? A simple girl from a conservative, middle-class family who was born in Jamshedpur and schooled in Delhi’s Convent of Jesus and Mary and Miranda House. An economics graduate, she trained with Industrial Development Services and worked with multinational companies.

Fifteen years ago, she ran into Shiney Ahuja at the opening of Fireball, a night club in Delhi. Since the music was too loud, they stepped out to chat, exchanged phone numbers and then she whizzed off in her chauffeur-driven car as her curfew hour neared. He told himself he’d wait till the next evening to buzz her. She surprised him by calling herself, first thing in the morning, then blurting out that she had only done so to see if she remembered the number right. “He still teases me about that dumb statement,” she smiles.

He proposed at the end of the first week. She accepted. But they still waited three years to tie the knot till their elder siblings were settled .

Anupam knew about Shiney’s Bollywood dream and pushed him into auditioning for a Pepsi commercial. He was surprised when he landed it. She wasn’t. “It’s not just his looks, he’s talented too,” she says.

Soon after, Shiney came to Mumbai with that ad as a show reel and did the studio rounds. He eventually landed Sudhir Mishra’s Haazaron Khwaishen Aisi. Six months later, Anupam joined him in a one-bedroom apartment.

She found herself a job with Mitzi & Co. Then, a year later, she was offered a dream job as Director, Marketing, with an American company, Text 100, headquartered in New York. This time it was Shiney who pushed her into accepting the offer.

After a three-year long-distance marriage, she was back in Mumbai. He welcomed her home by painting one wall in their apartment a bright orange. “It was awful,” she laughs, but it reflected their happiness.

Haazaron Khwaishein Aisi won him critical acclaim and awards. Gangster earned him commercial success. Shiney was on a roll. Anupam was pregnant. Their daughter, Arshya, came into their lives two-and-a-half years ago.

Today, she runs around in borrowed clothes because her home is sealed, her husband is in Arthur Road jail, her daughter is with her grandparents in Delhi being told that ma has gone for “long office”and papa for “long office and long gym”, and holds on to one image to keep from stumbling. “The three of us together... Shiney with his arms around Arshya and me... it’s not a mirage, it’ll come true again.”

She insists that her husband is incapable of the crime he’s accused of. “He doesn’t smoke, drink or do drugs. He’s almost boring,” she argues. Remind her of his link-ups and run-ins with co-stars and she says dismissively, “We have been married and divorced several times in the press. Soha (Ali Khan) and he were supposed to been fighting on the Accident sets. I’ve heard them speak. It was pure speculation.”

She says Shiny is painfully shy and blunt. “He comes alive only in front of the camera and then, because he’s so passionate about cinema, comes across as too strong,” she says.

A devout follower of Sai Baba, Anupam has faith in God and the judiciary. Waving off the suggestion that maybe he wouldn’t be where he is today had he not been home alone, she says, “He was home alone for three years, nothing happened. What’s happening was destined. I believe in my man. And this incident will only bring us closer.”