MUMBAI, India (Reuters) — Bollywood was up in arms on Wednesday over what it called the racist bullying of Indian film star Shilpa Shetty on British TV show “Celebrity Big Brother”, and dozens of her fans protested in the east of the country.
More than 10,000 British viewers of the show have complained that Shetty, 31, had been subjected to racist abuse, prompting an investigation into the charges by British media watchdog Ofcom.
Contestants have made fun of the A-list Bollywood actress’s name, her eating habits and her Indian background.
She was called a “dog” and reduced to tears in the “Big Brother” house, a complex of rooms and a garden where participants are locked in for the duration of the show.
“What is happening on Big Brother is just holding the mirror to the Western society,” leading Bollywood film maker Mahesh Bhatt told Reuters. “This is the real, discriminating face of the West you can see on the streets of London or New York.”
Dozens of Shetty’s admirers took to the streets in the eastern Indian city of Patna to protest against what they said was her humiliation, burning straw effigies of her housemates.
“Shilpa is very popular in Bihar, and her song and dance numbers in the movies have won our hearts,” Ravindra Yadav, a protestor, told local television, referring to the state of which Patna is the capital.
Talk of the show has dominated India’s celebrity-obsessed media, with images of a tearful Shetty featuring on television reports and the front pages of newspapers.
India’s Information and Broadcasting Minister Priyaranjan Dasmunsi appealed to Shetty to appear before the Indian High Commission in London and give the facts.
“She should understand that if there has been some racism shown against her in the show, it is not only an attack on women but also on the skin and the country,” Dasmunsi told reporters.
Britain’s prime-minister-in-waiting Gordon Brown, on a visit to India, told reporters he had heard about viewers’ complaints.
“I want Britain to be seen as a country of fairness and tolerance … and anything that detracts from that, I condemn.”
Despite the widespread condemnation, Shetty’s sister, Shamita played down the controversy, telling the NDTV channel “there are bounds to be fights” on the show.
Shetty’s mother, Sunanda, was also quoted as saying her daughter was tough and she would be able to handle the situation.
The Big Brother outburst has even spilled into the British parliament’s lower house, and U.K. police are investigating two e-mails sent to the show’s broadcaster, Channel 4, containing “unspecified threats against a number of the housemates”.
“Celebrity Big Brother”, where unpopular contestants are voted off each week by viewers until there is a winner, is not available to viewers in India, which has its own tamer version called “Bigg Boss”.
However, some in Bollywood felt that the controversy had been generated to ensure more eyeballs for the show.
“Think (about if) all this controversy could benefit the show and enhance its popularity,” said director Sujay Ghosh.
The show’s housemates are unaware of the furore outside. Filmed by hidden cameras, their antics can be watched 24 hours a day, and the highlights are played every evening.
well controversy is what such shows are for i think.. though i neva watched bb but it cant be different from our Indian version.. well long live indians.. atleast this outrage shows that there is unity is there even if the reason is a beautiful girl