Miss Universe Contestant Sued After Alleging Sexual Harrassment

MUMBAI (AFP) – An Indian actress who alleges she was sexually harassed on two film sets said Thursday she had received legal notices and threats of violence over her claims.

Former Miss Universe contestant Tanushree Dutta said she was sexually harassed by multi-award-winning Bollywood star Nana Patekar during the filming of the romantic comedy “Horn Ok Pleassss” in 2008. Dutta first made the allegations ten years ago after walking off the set.

She repeated the claim during a recent interview, also alleging that filmmaker Vivek Agnihotri had behaved inappropriately towards her during the shooting of the 2005 movie “Chocolate: Deep Dark Secrets”. Patekar and Agnihotri both deny the claims.

Dutta, 37, said in a statement released Thursday that said she had received legal notices from Patekar and Agnihotri. “This is the price you pay for speaking out against harassment, humiliation and injustice in India,” Dutta said.

Dutta claimed she had also received “violent threats” from the fringe, far-right Hindu nationalist group Maharashtra Navnirman Sena and was the victim of a “smear campaign” on social media. “This is the age old saga of survivors in our nation,” she said.

Agnihotri’s lawyer said Dutta’s allegations against the director were “absolutely false, frivolous and vexatious” and confirmed his client would sue the actress. “We have served a legal notice to initiate defamation action against her,” Nidhish Mehrotra said in a statement posted on Twitter by Agnihotri.

India has yet to witness its own version of the #MeToo movement that rocked Hollywood last year but Dutta has received the backing of several high-profile stars, including Priyanka Chopra, Farhan Akhtar and Sonam Kapoor.

Other actresses have begun to speak out about an issue almost never discussed in Indian media. In December, young star Swara Bhaskar said she had been harassed by an unnamed director early in her career. Bhaskar also referred to a “casting couch” culture where young women are expected to exchange sexual favours to secure film roles.

Some Indian actresses have said Bollywood needs to create an environment where victims can speak out without fear of being ostracised or trolled on social media. Bhaskar said the cliquey nature of Bollywood, where many of the leading stars and directors are either friends or related, made going public with allegations difficult.

Bollywood megastars Amitabh Bachchan and Salman Khan both refused to answer questions about Dutta’s allegations at recent press conferences.

Updated: April 2, 2024 — 4:04 am
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