She gained fame after posing topless (but with her arms crossed over her breasts) for a photograph that appeared on the cover of Stardust, a popular Indian film magazine in September, 1993. She was charged under India’s obscenity laws, and found herself under attack from both conservative religious groups, and women’s groups. The outspoken actress lashed out at protesters, calling them hypocrites.
Kulkarni was finally convicted in July 2000, and fined Rs 15,000. However, this caused yet another controversy because she appeared in court in a burqa to evade photographers, which led to death threats and protests from the local Islamic community.
Unfortunately for her, Kulkarni’s career was not a happy one. Her detractors claim that she could never fit into the class-conscious industry because of her inability to speak fluent English. However, the other view is that the actress’s brazen outspokenness antagonised her colleagues. Kulkarni, who spoke with a broad Marathi accent, was reportedly taunted as being a ‘vern’ (a derogatory term, short for vernacular) by some assumedly well-heeled actresses. Press interviews in which she attacked other actresses, and was attacked in return, worsened the matter further.
At the same time, she continued to be dogged by controversy. In 1997, she was reportedly paid a large amount to perform at a private function by a legislator from Bihar, who was later arrested after investigations into the Fodder Scam case. Kulkarni was interrogated, but she denied any knowledge of the legislator’s antecedents.