Bollywood actress Swara Bhasker has hit back at a torrent of online abuse over a masturbation scene in a film dubbed India’s answer to “Sex and the City” that is proving a hit worldwide.

“Veere Di Wedding”, meaning “Friend’s Wedding” in English, has caused a stir on social media for its portrayal of female sexuality — a taboo subject in patriarchal, socially conservative India.

The Hindi-language movie has raked in $7.8 million in India since its June 1 release, according to Box Office India, and is in the top 10 in Britain, Australia and New Zealand.

The film, also starring Kareena Kapoor, Sonam Kapoor and Shikha Talsania and which was produced by a woman, centres on four female friends and their attitudes towards sex, love and marriage.

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Many critics have praised the film as a powerful statement about female empowerment but others have accused it of having a shallow plotline.

In one scene the husband of the character played by Bhasker walks in on his wife masturbating with a vibrator.

Bhasker has received a flood of negative comments online — including vicious personal attacks — but has defended the film and her role in it.

“In a culture that largely silences or ignores or shames female sexuality showing a girl gratifying herself in a film in a non-judgemental way is empowering,” Bhasker wrote in one tweet.