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There are times when an artiste’s real-life experiences lend themselves to their work on the reel. Anupria Goenka, who plays a key role in the Bobby Deol-led Aashram on MX Player, had an untoward experience when she was in her late teens at the hands of a godman that her family believed in. The incident left the actress, who was just out of class 12 then, scarred for life. “My father was someone who believed in spiritual leaders and godmen. My father would be lost in service to these people. Some of them were genuine helping people in their quest for spirituality, but some of them were not. Blind faith is harmful and can affect a family’s well-being,” she says.

Recalling her encounter with a fake godman, Anupria shares further, “An incident occured when I had just completed school and joined my family’s business. It was a difficult phase as there were financial and emotional issues cropping up. My elder sister was facing a crisis in her personal life, and had to be flown down from the USA to India for treatment. In the middle of all this, my other sister discovered a spiritual leader who had a reputation for looking into the past and predicting the future with more precision. People would say unpe Devi ki maya hai. Like a whole lot of other people in my hometown, we also approached him. Initially, it looked like his counselling was helping us. He seemed to be a reasonable and practical man and my respect for him grew in the way he handled my troubled sister’s case. He became a confidante and someone whose feet I’d touch respectfully. However, during some solo sessions, he started making advances and dropping hints that he wanted to get physical. Eventually, my sister noticed that visiting him had begun to frustrate me. He came home once to meet my sister and me. My parents were home, so decided to counsel us in a secluded room in the house. I kept a watch when he was with my sister. When I went in, he made physical advances which I didn’t give in to. I was in a shock that instead of slapping him, I started requesting him that I wasn’t comfortable. He then tried having his way by telling my parents that something was wrong with me, mujhpe kisika saya hai. He told them to take me to a Shani temple every Saturday and did some mantar on me. Thankfully, I could save myself, but not without the scars. I couldn’t tell my family about his wrongdoings immediately because my sister was healing. I didn’t want to mess it up. I told my family eventually and they stood by me.”

Talking about being affected by the episode, Anupria, who has previously worked in films like War and Padmaavat, adds, “I share this today, because so many of us have dealt with it in some way. Many protective, progressive and wise families fall for this sort of assistance. Sometimes, it also happens that families don’t believe their girls going through such experiences. I got off unharmed in many ways, but there are women who fall prey and are taken advantage of. Sadly, they can’t decipher that they are being used and that there is nothing godly about such inhuman things.”

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By vinayak