Bollywood superstar Deepika Padukone has been summoned for questioning as part of an escalating drugs probe into the death of actor Sushant Singh Rajput, Indian police said on Wednesday.
Narcotics Control Bureau (NCB) deputy director K.P.S. Malhotra told AFP that the agency has also asked actresses Sara Ali Khan, Shraddha Kapoor and Rakul Preet Singh to appear before it.
Indo-Asian News Service reported that the NCB has also summoned fashion designer Simone Khambatta for questioning.
Deepika is the daughter of Indian badminton icon Prakash Padukone and is married to Bollywood actor Ranveer Singh.
The 34-year-old, currently filming a movie in Goa, has been in the news since NCB sources reportedly told a news agency that her WhatsApp conversations allegedly discussing drugs are being investigated.
Sources told NDTV that the NCB has in its possession chats between Deepika and Shraddha from 2017 involving drugs.
These chats were found on the mobile phone of Sushant's former talent agent Jaya Saha, who has been questioned by the NCB.
In chat transcripts accessed by NDTV, two persons have a conversation about procuring "hash".
The conversation is alleged to be between Deepika and her business manager Karishma Prakash.
The chat, which is on a group, took place on Oct 28, 2017 at around 10pm.
Sara is the daughter of noted actor Saif Ali Khan and Amrita Singh, while Shradhha is the daughter of veteran actor Shakti Kapoor.
Rakul is an actress and model who works mainly in the Telugu and Tamil film industries.
She has also appeared in a few Hindi and Kannada movies.
Sara's and Rakul's names reportedly came up during the questioning of actress Rhea Chakraborty, Sushant's girlfriend.
She was arrested on Sept 9 on charges of procuring drugs for him.
However, Rhea's lawyer Satish Maneshinde told CNN-News18 on Thursday that Rhea has not named anybody in her statement regarding the drug links in Bollywood.
"If NCB or anybody is making a statement that she has leaked, it's totally false," said the lawyer.
"There is no thread of evidence that suggests that Rhea has named anybody (or said anything) apart from what Sushant Singh Rajput had consumed all his life when she was with him.
"Being in the household of Sushant Singh Rajput cannot be termed (being part of) a syndicate. She has not dealt with anybody in her life and there is no allegation that she dealt with anybody else."
Sushant was found dead on June 14 in his Mumbai apartment - with the police saying he took his own life.
A star with many hit movies to his name, the 34-year-old's suicide initially triggered a debate over mental health in the multi-billion-dollar industry.
But his family disputed reports that he suffered from depression and accused Rhea, 28, of stealing his money and harassing him.
She has strongly denied the allegations.
Sushant's death has sparked a media storm in India.
Calls have mounted for a wider probe into Bollywood's "drugs mafia", with television channels speculating that Rhea supposedly drove Sushant to suicide by purchasing cannabis for him.
India's top anti-crime agency, the Central Bureau of Investigation, has been probing his death since last month. The NCB is looking into his consumption of cannabis.
Earlier this week, TV channel TimesNow broadcast sections of a WhatsApp conversation about procuring hash, alleging that the two people chatting were Deepika and her manager.
The police have already detained others in connection with the case including Rhea's brother Showik and Sushant's house manager Samuel Miranda.
The NCB has also summoned Sushant's former manager Shruti Modi for questioning.
On Wednesday, NCB officers continued questioning Jaya for the third successive day.
Its officers are also questioning Madhu Mantena Varma, a noted producer who made blockbusters such as Udta Punjab and Ghajini.
The investigation has grabbed headlines for months and some celebrities including actresses Vidya Balan and Sonam Kapoor have accused TV channels of carrying out a "witch hunt" against Rhea.
AFP, Indo-Asian New Service