THE DIRTY PICTURE
India Today|August 09, 2021
BUSINESSMAN RAJ KUNDRA’S ARREST IN AN ALLEGED PORN RACKET HAS BROUGHT INTO FOCUS INDIA’S LAWS ON PORNOGRAPHY, REIGNITING THE DEBATE OVER DEFINITIONS OF OBSCENITY AND EROTICA
KIRAN D. TARE

On February 4, the Mumbai Police landed at a secluded bungalow in Madh Island, located on the northern tip of the island city, to find two persons being filmed in intimate poses. The actors and the five-member crew were arrested on the spot. The police was acting on a tip-off, part of its investigation into complaints filed by six aspiring actresses against filmmakers who were allegedly pressuring them to perform in ‘pornographic movies’. The police found that the videos shot in the bungalow, made up of six small rooms, a kitchen and a garden, were being uploaded on paid websites and mobile applications like HotShots, HotHit and Nueflix.

Six months later, millionaire businessman Raj Kundra, husband of Bollywood actor Shilpa Shetty, who has stakes in several companies and even the Indian Premier League (IPL) franchise, Rajasthan Royals, was arrested. The crime branch of the Mumbai Police arrested Kundra on July 19 for his alleged links with the UK-based Kenrin Production House that owns ‘HotShots’, a paid streaming app which, as per its description on the app store, promised “private content from hot photoshoots, short movies and experience of the lifestyle of celebrities from all over the world”. The app has been taken off app stores since. Kenrin is owned by Kundra’s business partner and brother-in-law Pradeep Bakshi, and HotShots was developed by Kundra’s company Armsprime Media.

Apart from Kundra, 10 more people have been arrested on charges of luring young women to perform in these videos with promises of big roles in Bollywood. Other charges relate to the electronic transmission of the alleged ‘pornographic content’ and profiting from the illegal business. Kundra and the others have been booked under sections 420 (cheating), 34 (common intention), 292 and 293 (related to obscene and indecent advertisements and displays) of the Indian Penal Code (IPC), besides sections of the Information Technology Act, 2000, and the Indecent Representation of Women (Prohibition) Act.

Kundra also stands accused of using the office of Viaan Industries, owned by him and named after his son, to electronically transmit mature content to Kenrin. In a statement to the police on July 22, Viaan Industries CEO Ryan Thorpe said that he had been asked to delete several video clips stored on the company’s server after the female actors’ complaints became public in February.

As per Milind Bharambe, joint commissioner of police (crime), Kundra’s links with Bakshi and Umesh Kamat, Kundra’s former assistant and another accused in the case, are well-known. Bharambe says that Kamat worked as a representative of Kenrin in India, which allegedly commissioned adult films under contract from several agents. It also allegedly facilitated the funding. He adds that Kamat and model-actor Gehana Vasisth were allegedly among those producing the videos and digitally transmitting them to Kenrin.

‘Erotica, not porn’

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