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Judge clears scenes that made Manisha blush

Mumbai, Aug. 30: The “nude-scenes” feud is over.

As actress Manisha Koirala sulks and director Shashilal Nair exults, judge F.I. Rebello has decided that their controversial film Ek Chhoti Si Love Story can go as it is.

After Rebello sat through a special screening on Thursday evening, Bombay High Court cleared the hotly-debated film for release, rejecting Manisha’s contention that it contained “highly objectionable nude scenes” that were inserted without her consent.

Manisha and Nair had long been waging a war of words, helped adequately by the media on both sides, regarding some scenes in the movie performed by a double.

The actress has been maintaining that Nair breached her trust by including nude scenes, filmed with the help of a body double, without telling her. When Nair refused to delete the scenes — Manisha claimed it would mar her reputation forever if she was seen doing such a role — the actress filed a case, praying that the shots be deleted from the final version. Her motion was rejected with costs, though her suit against Nair for breach of trust and foul play is pending in court.

Rebello, who had earlier said he could pronounce a verdict on the release of the film only after viewing it himself, observed that the controversial scenes were an “integral part of the film” and that they were neither vulgar nor projected Manisha in bad light.

But apart from Manisha and Nair, both of whom would certainly benefit from the free publicity, a third person at the very heart of the controversy — silent and invisible till now — hopes there would be something in it for her and her cancer stricken mother.

Jessica, the body double who was paid Rs 25,000 for the three-day shoot, says she did the nude scenes as she desperately needed money to pay for her mother’s treatment.

She now hopes this publicity will help her graduate from doing rape scenes in movies to more meaningful, respectable roles.

The pretty 22-year-old, a part-time model who has done bit roles in TV serials like Kusum and Sanjog, and a rape scene in Bipasha Basu starrer Footpath, says it is not something she would have willingly done had it not been for “the adverse circumstances” that have engulfed her.

Nair says he is happy with the court’s verdict as it has helped set the record right. Dismissing rumours that it was an elaborate publicity stunt, Nair says: “The film has in fact suffered from bad publicity after Manisha went to the court. More important, there has been no breach of contract.”

“I have to take care of my sick mother and look after the education of my younger brother,” Jessica — her screen name which she prefers even in real life — says sitting in her cluttered Kandivali flat. “Things have been tough after the death of my father, but I will quit (films) as soon as my elder brother sets up his fledgling business.”

Jessica, a college dropout, was paid Rs 10,000 more by Nair for her court statement attesting that she acted as Manisha’s body double in Ek Chhoti Si Love Story.

Backing Nair’s contention, his lawyer Janak Dwarkadas said that Manisha had been giving “contradictory statements and suppressing facts from the court” and that the entire unit, including the actress, had been told about the story. “She not only knew about it but had agreed to do the shoot free of cost after hearing the script,” he says.

Ek Chhoti Si Love Story is about a voyeuristic teenager who spies on Manisha’s character and her private life in the film. He then develops an infatuation for her after seeing her in the buff a couple of times.

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