"The video is fabricated. I am not the person in it. In fact, at that time I was in a room that I was sharing with another female devotee in the Dhyanapeetham ashram!"
Those were yesteryear actress Ranjitha's words in her first media appearance following a controversial sex tape leak with India's self-styled godman Paramahamsa Swami Nithyananda.
Ranjitha (born as Sri Valli) is an actress who has appeared in Tamil, Telugu and Malayalam films. She was first introduced by director Bharathiraja in the film Nadodi Thendral.
In 2010, she was deeply embroiled in a sex scandal after one of India's leading TV channels leaked a video showing the actress canoodling in a room with Swami Nithyananda.
The revelation shook the legions of people who followed Swami Nithyananda, who has ashrams around the world. The video created a furore in Bidadi, Bangalore where his main ashram, called Dhyanapeetham, was located.
Both the guru and disciple denied the legitimacy of the video, claiming it had been fabricated.
At that time, Ranjitha was acting in the film Raavanan directed by Maniratnam and had to stop shooting to leave the country and stay in the US until the uproar cooled down.
In her first press meet after the controversy, she strongly denied the allegations of her affair with Nithyananda and even went on to seek protection for her and her family as she was being threatened by 'bigger powerful people, powerful political groups, and missionaries'.
Find the videos of her press meet here:
Even at the height of the scandal, she was a firm believer and follower of Nithyananda. "I am still a devotee. I do not know if I am putting things in the right perspective. He is an enlightened master who does not need somebody to make him happy," she said in an interview.
In 2017, the controversy resurfaced when a Delhi-based Forensic Sciences Laboratory revealed that it was indeed Ranjitha and Nithyananda in the leaked footage. However, the godman continues to claim that 'US-based experts had analysed the video and concluded that it was fake and morphed'.
It's been almost a decade since the dark times and Ranjitha seems to have moved on. She's now a full-time resident of the ashram and a sannyasin under Swami Nithyananda. She has been given a new name, Ma Nithyananda Mayi.
She even owns a Youtube channel in which she shares videos and streams live videos to educate people about the path she has taken on in her life. She wears saffron robes in her videos, a customary female uniform of the Dhyanapeetham ashram. In this video, she talks about her journey as a sannyasin and her life at the ashram:
A source close to her revealed that she plans to spend the rest of her life in the ashram.