Under-fire Bollywood star prays for new film

MUMBAI — Bollywood's top actress was snapped praying in a temple on Friday ahead of the release of her new film as a storm continued to rage over her attendance at a recent student protest.

The presence of Deepika Padukone, 34, at the demonstration in New Delhi on Tuesday broke with the unspoken tradition of Bollywood stars remaining for the most part apolitical.

It unleashed a furor on social media with detractors accusing the actress of a publicity stunt to promote her latest role as an acid attack survivor, while others applauded her courage.

On Thursday Smriti Irani, a former model and TV actress who is now a minister in Prime Minister Narendra Modi's cabinet, accused her of being unpatriotic.

Padukone was "standing with people who celebrate every time a CRPF jawan is killed", Irani said, referring to an Indian paramilitary soldier.

Members of Modi's Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) have called for a boycott of her film "Chhapaak" ("Splash"), which came out on Friday.

They have urged moviegoers to watch "Tanhaji", a swashbuckling historical epic about a Hindu general, instead.

Padukone was attending a protest after an attack blamed on a group close to the BJP at a Delhi university last Sunday injured 34 students while police allegedly stood by.

The incident followed several weeks of protests nationwide against a new citizenship law during which police have been accused of using excessive force, with at least 25 people killed.

Media reports said that Modi's government has also shelved a promotional video featuring Padukone in which she speaks about the need to give acid attack survivors equal opportunities.

Meanwhile two Indian states and one union territory run by the main opposition Congress party have cut government taxes on tickets for Padukone's film.

— Agence France-Presse

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