Tuesday , March 21 2023

"I'm mistaken for sex symbol in Bollywood"


Sunny Leone poses while promoting India's online gaming platform, 11Wickets.com in Mumbai, India on March 12, 2019.Copyright
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The Kalera are trying to get to Bollywood actress Sunny Leone

A man who was besieged by calls after a Bollywood movie accidentally released his phone number says he is exhausted and frustrated by the constant attention.

In the movie, Arjun Patiala, actress Sunny Leone reads the phone number of the character she plays – who happens to belong to 26-year-old Puniti Agarwal.

Mr Agarwal told the BBC that he had received more than 100 calls a day since the film's release on July 26.

"I don't even dream anymore," he says. "The phone continues to ring until four in the morning."

The calls are disrupting his life to such an extent that he takes legal action to try to edit the movie so that his phone number is exhausted.

Leone is a former American porn star who has since invaded Bollywood. She has played in erotic thrillers and adult comedies and is often portrayed as a sex symbol.

So it is perhaps not surprising that men from all over India – and even from around the world – are calling Mr Agarwal because they think this is really her number.

And Mr. Agarwal is tired of him. "They [the film’s producers] he should at least call to see if he is a real number, "he told BBC Hindi Bhumika Rai.

Arjun Patiala's director, Rohit Jugraj Chauhan, declined comment.

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Mr Agarwal receives more than 100 calls a day

In the week since the movie hit the screens, Mr. Agarwal is unable to work, sleep, or even eat his meal in peace.

But giving up a phone number he has had for years is not an option, he says. "It's related to my business and many old friends have this number."

He received his first call on the day the movie was released. The caller asked to speak with Leone and would not believe Mr. Agarwal when he told him he had dialed the wrong number. Annoyed Mr Agarwal eventually shut down.

"The first two, three, even 10 calls, I thought someone was playing to me. And I thought he might be my friend."

But the calls kept coming – and everyone asked him the same question: "Can I speak to Sunny Leone?"

He became aware of what was really going on after many of the callers mentioned the movie. "So I was watching the movie and my number was really there," says Mr Agarwal. "Not the caller's fault. They really got my number!"

Courtesy of T-series / Maddock Films

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Arjun Patiala is a romantic comedy for a small town cop

He says he tried to register a complaint with police, but police were unable to assist as the callers did not commit a crime. Instead, they suggested that he go to court. Since then, Mr Agarwal has been petitioning to have his number removed from the film.

He doesn't want to judge the producers, but says he just wants to make sure his phone number won't be promoted further – for example, when a movie becomes available on streaming networks. He also says he wants to prevent this from happening to anyone else.

"The mornings are quiet until about 8:30," he says. Then the calls start.

The phone then rings every two to three minutes for the rest of the day, making it impossible to concentrate on everything it does.

Most of the calls are from the northern Indian states of Punjab or Haryana, as the lead actor of the movie Dilitit Dosanj is popular in the region. Mr Agarwal also received calls from Italy, Dubai, Pakistan and Australia.

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However, his most persistent caller is from New Zealand. When Mr Agarwal did not answer the phone, the caller started communicating it to WhatsApp, harassing him to accept a video call. When Mr Agarwal refused, the man sent his pictures and requested that they be shown to Leone and that the photographs of her should be sent to him.

So far, all but two of the callers have been men. Women wanted to talk to every actor, not Leone. "When I said I couldn't help her, one of the women asked me to talk to her for a while. I said it wouldn't be possible and I closed," he says, laughing.

But calls can quickly darken – and there is regular verbal abuse. "It starts politely. But when I say I don't know her, they start abusing me. They say they know where I live and will come to teach me a lesson."

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Media caption"May people see me develop over the years"

He says the whole incident has become so absurd that his friends, colleagues and neighbors are now teasing him – they call him "Sunny Leone of Delhi" and sing her hit songs when they see him.

"It's become a joke and it's good, but it shouldn't happen again," he says. "I try to make him laugh, but he gets out of control."

He hopes the calls will stop soon. In the meantime, he decided to keep the calls short. "I'm just telling them she's gone to bathe and can't talk right now."

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