The Indian actress whose public allegations of sexual harassment by a Bollywood star is sparking a string of similar #MeToo claims has filed a formal complaint, police told AFP Sunday. Former Miss Universe contestant Tanushree Dutta first alleged in 2008 that multi-award-winning Nana Patekar behaved inappropriately towards her during the making of a romantic comedy the same year. No action was taken at the time against Patekar and she made no formal complaint. But emboldened by the global #MeToo campaign — where women have shared accounts of harassment or assault — Dutta repeated the allegations in a recent interview and on Saturday went to the police to officially report the 2008 sexual harrassment claims. “Dutta visited the police station last night and submitted a written complaint,” Shailesh Pasalwar, a Mumbai police inspector, told AFP. “We are investigating the case but right now, it is not an FIR (First Information Report, or a formal investigation) but a written complaint about harassment incident,” he added. She also alleged in the interview that filmmaker Vivek Agnihotri had behaved inappropriately towards her during the shooting of the 2005 movie “Chocolate: Deep Dark Secrets”.
The actress said in a statement last week that she had received legal notices from both Patekar and Agnihotri, who deny her accusations. Dutta said she had also received “violent threats” from the fringe, far-right nationalist group Maharashtra Navnirman Sena and has been hounded by a “smear campaign” on social media since reiterating her claims against the pair. “This is the age-old saga of survivors in our nation,” she said. 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 however begun to speak out about an issue almost never discussed in Indian media. In December, 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. Bollywood’s cliquey nature also made it difficult to go public, she said. In recent days, #MeToo claims have also begun to surface against men in other sectors, including several top Indian newspaper editors, comedians and writers including a top-selling English language author.