Mumbai actress Chrisann Pereira has told of her joy at being reunited with loved ones on her return to India after drug smuggling charges against her were dropped by Sharjah Police.
Pereira spoke to The National about how crucial it was to be proven innocent and about the trauma of being accused of smuggling drugs.
She said she hopes to return to the UAE in the future, either for work or holiday.
“I’m elated to be home. It hasn’t sunk in completely,” she said.
“I’m looking forward to spending time with my family and friends and going back to live my life that was on hold for four months.”
The 27-year-old actress was duped into carrying drugs concealed in a trophy into the UAE in April by men posing as talent scouts who promised her a film audition in Dubai.
She was detained when police found two plastic bags weighing 41.7 grams that contained cannabis, hemp resin, hemp extract and poppy seeds.
Pereira was jailed in Sharjah for 25 days and then released on bail.
A Sharjah prosecution order in June cleared her of any wrongdoing, closed the criminal case against her and lifted the travel ban after reviewing documents and CCTV footage.
It took a few months for procedural formalities to be completed. She returned to India on Wednesday.
“The only thing I had on my side was the truth,” Pereira said.
“My biggest fear was that they [the authorities] wouldn’t believe me. I wasn’t spinning any stories.
“The trophy looked like an award. It was sealed and there was no indication to me there was something inside.”
When she arrived at Sharjah Airport on April 1, she became suspicious when there was no one to meet her and no hotel booked.
The actress approached the police to let them know she was carrying the trophy that had been given to her by the fake talent scouts.
“When I realised the job audition was a scam, I called my parents and mentioned the trophy. They warned me there may be something in it,” she said.
“That’s when I thought it could be dangerous to people around me.
“I felt very unsafe and went to the police to tell them that I didn’t own the trophy but yes, I had brought it from India.
“I thought if something is wrong, then the right institution to go to is the police – they will help me and protect me.
“I wouldn’t ever carry anything given by anybody ever again.”
Taking time off
Her parents, brother and friends were at Mumbai airport to welcome her on Wednesday night.
“At last the struggle has come to an end,” her mother Premila Pereira said.
“Every day was heavy on our hearts but now our child is home. We need her to heal and that will take time.”
Pereira has required counselling to support her through the mental strain of clearing her name.
“My psychiatrist in Dubai diagnosed me with PTSD [post-traumatic stress disorder],” she said.
“There was shock because I landed in a foreign country and then directly went to jail. I’m on medication and I’m taking therapy.”
She spoke of the days in jail, how retelling her story to inmates and praying with them every night gave her strength.
There were about 30 women from different nationalities in her cell. She spoke to the women from Bangladesh in Hindi and to the Nigerians in English.
“I prayed with the Nigerians at night and I told my story to all the inmates,” she said.
“The inmates reinstalled belief in me and this really helped.”
Pereira will take time off in Mumbai and then return to work in Bollywood.
The actress has starred in Hindi-language action thrillers such as Batla House and Sadak 2.
Later this year, Pereira will feature in a television show in which she plays a dancer.
Returning with a 'clean slate'
Pereira said she hopes to return to the UAE in the future.
“I didn’t want there to be a ban on my passport. I really like the UAE. I want to come to Dubai again for work, to visit or to go to any other country,” she said.
“If there was a travel ban, there would be questions and too much to explain.
“I wanted to come back with a clean slate.”
Pereira’s family in India filed a complaint with the Mumbai police against the men who tricked her into carrying the drugs.
The men were arrested in Mumbai under the Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances Act. Police documents from India were submitted as part of Pereira's acquittal plea in Sharjah.
She lived with family in Dubai when on bail and the past few months have not dissuaded her from returning.
“One hundred per cent I want to come back. Dubai is so posh, I love it,” she said.
“I have to thank my cousins who have grown up in Dubai, for showing me how amazing the UAE can be.”