Bollywood Director Convicted of Rape, Faces Life in Prison

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Mahmood Farooqui

Mahmood Farooqui co-directed, with his wife Anusha Rizvi, the 2010 release 'Peepli Live,' which was India's foreign-language Oscar entry.

Indian filmmaker Mahmood Farooqui has been found guilty of raping an American research student last March at his Delhi home.

Farooqui, who co-directed with his wife, Anusha Rizvi, the 2010 release Peepli Live, faces between a minimum seven-year prison sentence and a maximum life term, according to the Indian Express.  The court is slated to hear arguments Tuesday before pronouncing its sentence.

The case first came to light when the victim, a student from Columbia University, filed a police complaint which led to Farooqui's arrest last June. He was later released on bail as the case went to trial in September.

The case is seen as a landmark as its verdict has been delivered under a 2013 amendment to the criminal law which included forced oral sex as a crime, the complainant's counsel Vrinda Grover told the Express. “This is perhaps one of the first cases of forced oral sex, which shows two things: that there was a crime for which we did not earlier have an offense named, now it has been recognized as rape. We’re also very happy to see that the court relied on very credible evidence that the woman gave.”

The brutal gang-rape of a young Delhi woman on a moving bus in New Delhi on Dec. 16, 2012. sparked nationwide protests. The outcry led to a call for action against crimes against women which included legal amendments and fast-tracking rape cases.

According to the Express, the 2012 incident also was referred to in the testimony of the American woman who told the court that she “did not resist” the rape because she feared she would also be killed like the Delhi gang-rape victim.


 

Farooqui was first introduced to the student, who is in her thirties, by Danish Hussain, a longtime friend of the director. Local reports added that in his testimony, Hussain said the victim immediately contacted him after she was assaulted by Farooqui.

Farooqui is expected to appeal the verdict, and the case could go to a higher court. “Our fight for justice is by no means over,” his wife told the Hindustan Times. “We will approach the High Court for justice that has been denied to us.”

Peepli Live, which premiered at Sundance in 2010, was a satirical take on a poor farmer's struggle to pay his loans, highlighting India's painful issue of farmer suicides. In its review, The Hollywood Reporter said, “Both funny and sobering, this film, produced by Bollywood icon Aamir Khan (the Oscar-nominated Lagaan), aims beyond Indian audiences.”

The film was put forward as India's entry for the foreign-language film Oscar in 2011.

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