In what seems to be a Bollywood sequel to Dostoyevsky’s Crime and Punishment, an intense story of a tragic love triangle has emerged. The individuals involved were attractive, intelligent, and on the path to bright careers.
Maria Monica Susairaj is an up and coming actress from Karnataka, India where she had already starred in 3 movies. In 2008, at the age of 27, Susairaj decided to move to Mumbai to try her luck in Bollywood movies. She left behind her long-time boyfriend, a Navy Lieutenant named Emile Jerome Mathew, who was then 25 years old. Though they maintained a long distance relationship, Mathew grew increasingly suspicious of Susairaj. Specifically, suspicious of the nature of Susairaj’s relationship with a small time TV executive named Neeraj Grover, also then 25. Susairaj and Grover met through a mutual friend in Mumbai and hit it off from the start. They began to meet every day from April 29, 2008 to the fateful day on May 7, 2008.
In 2007, Susairaj had discovered a six month long affair between Mathew and a Bangalore-based woman. After Susairaj confronted her boyfriend, he promised to end it. In true Bollywood-style turn of events, Susairaj and Grover began an intimate relationship in 2008. They met at coffee shops and spent nights at each other’s apartments. Grover had moved to Mumbai from Kanpur, Uttar Pradesh for his chance at stardom. He spoke to his parents twice a day and was popular with the ladies. Grover had promised Susairaj a part in an upcoming television show and had already told his friends that he was in love with her. Susairaj knew this and claimed the attraction was one-sided, pointing out that she planned to marry Mathew.
On May 6, 2008, Susairaj asked Grover for help setting up her new apartment. As they were doing so, Mathew called and overheard Grover ask loudly, “Is that your boyfriend?” The next two times that Mathew called Susairaj’s cell phone, it was switched off. Mathew then called Grover’s cell phone and spoke to Susairaj, he told her to make sure not to let him spend the night. On account of his suspicions, Mathew took a 3:45 AM flight to Mumbai and arrived at Susairaj’s door at 7:30 AM on May 7. When Susairaj opened the door, Mathew looked at her calmly and walked into the bedroom with her close behind him.
“Mathew walked into her bedroom and found Grover there. He woke him up and the two fought bitterly before Mathew got a knife from the kitchen and stabbed him in the chest. He then attacked him several times till he was dead. The whole thing was over in 10 to 15 minutes. Mathew then slapped Susairaj once or twice, after which they had sex. They then decided on the best way to get rid of Grover’s body,” said Rakesh Maria, then Crime Branch Joint Commissioner of Mumbai.
Susairaj made a trip to the nearby mall and bought a large knife, plastic bags, air freshener and drapes to replace the ones that had been bloodied in the struggle. Upon returning to the apartment, they dragged the body into the bathroom and chopped Grover’s body into pieces and packed it into the plastic bags. They packed away their bloody clothes along with it. Susairaj then arranged for a car and helped Mathew carry the bags to the car, which the doorman witnessed. They stopped to pick up some gasoline and drove around Mumbai for 3 hours, finally finding a desolate area to burn the remnants of Grover’s body.
On May 9, Mathew returned to the Kochi Naval Base where he had been previously stationed. On May 10, Susairaj went with three of Grover’s friend to file a missing person report with the police. It wouldn’t be until May 21 that Rakesh Maria’s investigation would lead to the arrest of Susairaj and Mathew followed by a three-year long court case.
On July 1, 2011 the final verdict was revealed. Emile Jerome Mathew was convicted of murder in a crime of passion and guilty of destruction of evidence resulting in a sentence of 10 years. Maria Monica Susairaj was found guilty of destruction of evidence and sentenced to 3 years, which she had already served at the duration of the case. She walked free on July 2nd.
The stunned masses of India are only left to question. Was justice served? What would drive two individuals from upstanding backgrounds such as theirs to commit such horrendous acts? Who is truly to blame?
The upcoming book Death in Mumbai by Meenal Baghel (excerpt) follows the families and individuals involved and the court cases, raises other questions on a much broader spectrum. Questions relating to sexual equality, the role of “casual sex” in Indian society, and the generation gap are explored. All the individuals came from middle class, achieving families but the parents never understood their children and the kinds of lives they lived. In a recent interview Baghel says (about Susairaj), “She really wanted to marry Emile. He wasn’t committing to her. It’s a fact. So, she came to Mumbai. She got acquainted to Neeraj and that led to his murder.” Baghel goes so far as to call this a “Crime of Youth.”
On August 19, Ram Gopal Verma released the movie Not A Love Story. It follows the storyline of this incident but the official statement from the director is that the movie is not based on the true crime. The announcement was made after the Grover family expressed their disapproval towards the making of a movie about the death of their son.
The movie focuses on the love and passion shared between the partners in crime and skims over the emotions of the families involved. It gives an uncomfortable interpretation and makes an attempt to almost justify the murderers’ actions. It portrays the female character as a victim of circumstance. Only the passion is held responsible for the crime. The final message of the movie states, “The prosecution wants them killed. Their lawyers want them to kill each other. They want to be killed together.”