Bollywood is still reeling from the shock. One of its own -- Shiney Ahuja, one of the industry's most critically acclaimed actors -- was arrested on Sunday, June 13 for allegedly raping his maid.
A black cloth pulled over his weeping face, roughed up by the cops, being led to the back of a police truck. While Bollywood (and the rest of the country) saw this disturbing image of the otherwise confident, bordering on arrogant movie star booked for alleged rape, they waited for more concrete information before they could pass judgments. At least most of them did.
The news over the next few days: The 17 or 18 year-old maid -- reports about her age vary -- told the police that she was bound, gagged and raped by the actor at his residence while his wife and daughter were out of the country. She even claims that Ahuja threatened to kill her if she talked of the incident. Investigations continue, but the girl's medical tests have confirmed rape. Sources reveal that while the actor has confessed to having sexual relations with his maid, he has denied charges of rape.
Bollywood has been known to support their own during hard times, but as reports convicting Shiney Ahuja pour in, it is clear that the film industry is not rooting for him. Veteran filmmaker Mahesh Bhatt, responsible for one of Ahuja's most successful films (Gangster), told a news channel that he was especially shocked because he worked closely with the actor. "It is a shameful act and it must be condemned," he said. Film writers and analysts also paint a bleak future, saying that even if the charges against the actor are dropped, it will be difficult for him to resurrect his career in Bollywood.
Ahuja's wife Anupam, however, continues to support him, during this trying time. "I am proud to be his wife...I know my man and I stand by him," she told several media publications.
And while the accused and his family will wait for the law to take its course, some media reports are filling the gap between now and judgment day with alternate predictions. True to Bollywood style, numerologists and astrologists have sprung into action, and are busy predicting Ahuja's fate based on planetary positions. One particular numerologist to the stars said, "Shiney Ahuja's name adds up to No. 7(34), which represents Neptune. This number is often associated with legal hassles, injustice in matters of law, defamation."
And while Ahuja waits in jail -- the police will seek his further custody on June 18 -- four films that the actor had signed lie incomplete. The film trade, however will not suffer big losses as the actor has not more than 10 to 12 crores riding on him, according to an Indian national daily.
Under Section 376 of the Indian Penal Code, the actor can be punished with imprisonment for seven to ten years.
Shiney Ahuja made a bright and critically acclaimed entry into Bollywood as Vikram Malhotra, the suave shyster in Sudhir Mishra's 2003 release, Hazaaron Khwahishein Aisi. Five years later, it seems like his exit will be a dark one.
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