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Indian actor Nikita Thukral’s film ban over alleged affair lifted

Female star had been banned for three years by producers after allegations she had had an affair with married co-star

When a rising star of Indian cinema is rumoured to have had an affair with her married co-star, who is himself then arrested and accused of beating his wife, most people might have expected it would be the man who faced public criticism.

But in the all-male world of cinema production it was Nikita Thukral, 30, who found her career stalled in its tracks.

Last week the actor was banned for three years by the Kannada Film Producers’ Association for her alleged relationship, which she denies, with Darshan, regarded as one of cinema’s most bankable idols.

In a business where PR professionals publicise real or imaginary affairs between co-stars to promote the next blockbuster, the puritanical zeal displayed by the producers over Thukral’s alleged liaison with Darshan – who uses only one name – definitely read like a bad script. But what was particularly galling to many was the fact that the ban came shortly after Darshan was charged with beating his wife, Vijaylakshmi. The producers seemed to be asking a woman to pay for a man’s misdemeanours.

Kannada cinema is part of the thriving south Indian film industry, which also makes films in Tamil, Telugu and Malayalam languages.

As women’s rights activists protested, TV anchor Sagarika Ghose asked in her Face the Nation programme: “Is a woman always targeted in an extramarital affair?” The ban on Thukral, she asserted, was “a violation of the right to livelihood, the right to gender justice, and even a violation of human rights”.

Assailed from all sides – even Kannada film celebrities expressed surprise and displeasure – the producers finally backed down and withdrew the ban on Thursday. “We admit now that the ban was foolish,” said a contrite Muniratna Naidu of the producers’ association in Bangalore. “We’ve wronged an actress who is good and kindhearted.”

Thukral, a Punjabi from Mumbai who has found success in south Indian cinema, said she was “very happy and very relieved … the right decision has been taken by lifting the ban”. She maintains that she and Darshan are “just friends”, and rumours of an affair were triggered by a highly realistic wedding scene shot for a film.

But while it has been a happy ending for Thukral, the situation is far from satisfactory for Darshan’s wife. After accusing her husband of attacking her, trying to tear her earlobe, burning her with a cigarette and threatening her with a gun, she withdrew her complaint to the police, reportedly after meeting with the film producers. She now says that her injuries were the result of a fall in the bathroom.

Bangalore police reportedly told the Times of India that this was the fourth attack by Darshan in as many months. The actor remains in custody, though he has been moved to a hospital ward, apparently due to the sudden onset of “jaundice and asthma”.

Vijaylakshmi is a qualified engineer, and had moved out of her husband’s house with her three-year-old son a month ago when the latest attack allegedly took place. © 2011 Guardian News and Media Limited or its affiliated companies. All rights reserved. | Use of this content is subject to our Terms & Conditions | More Feeds