Kolkata: Pratima Mondal’s profile on Vigo, a social media app, opens to a list of videos featuring a 20-something woman wearing bright lip colour, a hint of pink blush on her cheeks and kohl-lined eyes.
Known as ‘Jasmine’ on the app, Pratima is a rising star with more than four lakh followers. The clips show her dancing, laughing, and even crying as she lip-syncs to popular numbers in the mobile-driven video app.
But these videos and her rising popularity aren’t why 21-year-old Pratima, from West Bengal’s Chinsurah town, has been in the news.
This influencer reportedly went missing on 2 January from Delhi, where she had gone for a performance.
Her husband, Prasenjit Mondal, lodged a missing complaint on 7 January, in which he said she left home with a friend on 31 December for a “Vigo assignment”. The complaint also said her phone had been switched off since 2 January and no one had seen her since.
The missing report made headlines and her followers soon made ardent appeals to police to “bring her back”.
But 10 days after the police complaint, Pratima resurfaced, telling a local channel via video link Thursday that she was “forced to flee because my husband and in-laws tortured me”.
In the call, made through her mother’s phone, she said she had not “disappeared”. An investigation into her husband’s call detail records, she said, would “prove” that she had been in touch with him. She also claimed she had been staying in Delhi with a friend.
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‘Help me get my daughter back’
Pratima also said she last spoke with her husband on 12 January, five days after he had lodged the complaint. The Vigo star, who appeared visibly distressed during the video call, went on to add that Prasenjit had “pushed her” into recording and uploading videos on Vigo because they brought good money.
The woman, who has a five-year-old daughter, has now appealed to the media and police to help her get her child back from her husband’s custody.
Speaking to ThePrint, a senior police officer, who did not wish to be named, said, “We are aware of the video call with Pratima and have summoned her husband to the police station. We will probe into the case further.”
When Pratima became Jasmine
Pratima and Prasenjit got married six years ago in 2014, when she was only 15. She gave birth to their daughter a year later.
Speaking to ThePrint, Prasenjit said she had studied until Class 8 but left school soon after she got married. “She has always been inclined towards singing and dancing. Around 10 months ago, she downloaded both Vigo and TikTok apps on her phone. In a few days, her videos started becoming extremely popular and soon she became eligible to earn money for posting content on the apps.”
Both TikTok and Vigo enable people to make money from their videos.
Pratima’s account history on Vigo suggests she uploaded at least six videos a day. Vigo is an app launched by Chinese company ByteDance, which also owns TikTok. It has around 20 million active users.
Both video apps have become hugely popular in smaller towns and among the “lower strata of society”. According to a report, one of the reasons behind this is the fact that these apps do not require writing text. It takes away the “fear of being judged for writing poor English, a big factor that prevents people from posting comments on….Facebook and Twitter”.
Pratima took the name ‘Jasmine’ because it had the “right amount of sensuality and progressiveness”, according to Prasenjit. “She earns anywhere between Rs 25,000 and Rs 30,000 monthly for uploading videos on Vigo.”
He also said she started getting invites from modelling agencies and event management firms to do shows. “I supported her since she was earning well. Pratima used to be called for meet-ups where users connect and meet future collaborators. She has travelled to Delhi, Patna and Bihar in the past four months for these meet-ups.”
Reacting to her accusations, Prasenjit said, “If I had tortured her… committed such a crime, would I have gone to police and filed a missing person’s report?”
Prasenjit runs a small lottery shop in Chinsurah and also dabbles in real estate.
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‘Pratima last uploaded video in January first week’
For her four lakh fans, Pratima’s disappearance was both a matter of shock and concern about her safety. After news of her alleged brush with domestic violence surfaced, some of her fans even shared footage of her video call on Vigo.
The last video Pratima uploaded on Vigo was in the first week of January, where she lip-syncs to the popular 1996 Bollywood song ‘Jhanjaria‘.
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