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Last Updated: Wednesday, 17 January 2007, 14:58 GMT
Mixed Indian reaction to race row
By Monica Chadha
BBC News, Mumbai

Shilpa Shetty
Shilpa Shetty may benefit from the row, say critics
The alleged racism experienced by Bollywood actress Shilpa Shetty on the Big Brother reality TV show in the UK has not gone unnoticed in India.

The issue has attracted considerable press coverage and comment, even though the programme is not shown in India.

The country's two leading papers gave the story front-page coverage.

News channels also showed clips of the allegedly racist remarks made against the actress by other celebrity housemates appearing in the show.

They referred to her as "the Indian", made fun of her accent and accused her of wanting to be more light-skinned.

One inhabitant of the Big Brother house said that Indians were so thin because they ate undercooked food, which made them ill.

The comments provoked a small protest in the northern town of Patna and prompted the country's junior foreign minister to comment on the issue.

"Surely such racist slurs have no place in civilised society?" Anand Sharma asked.

The harsh truth is that this sort of thing does happen elsewhere
Rohan Sippy
Indian film director

"India has throughout firmly rejected all forms of discrimination and racism.''

In contrast, the reaction from the Indian film industry has been lukewarm.

Here the underlying sentiment seems to be that racism exists everywhere, and this particular incident is just a reflection of that.

"It is an extremely unfortunate incident to have happened," film director Rohan Sippy said.

"But the harsh truth is that this sort of thing does happen elsewhere. For instance, ex-Seinfeld actor Michael Richards was in the news last year for his racial outburst during a show in the United States. So it is all around," he said.

'Obscene money'

Film actor Anupam Kher said that, as an Indian, he was "disgusted" by what has happened.

"It is like we're going back 100 years. I think that if you want to get back at someone, then you should use your skill in your language and not racial slurs," he said.

It has made her a talking point for the time being, but that's about it
Mayank Shekhar
Indian film critic

Shilpa Shetty is a popular actress in Bollywood who has had a couple of hits such as Dus (Ten), but her most acclaimed performance has been in the film that was inspired by Hollywood hit Philadelphia and in which she played someone with HIV.

Film-maker Prahlad Kakkar, who has worked with top Bollywood stars and various other celebrities, said that people in the Big Brother show got "down and dirty and used everything at their disposal to gain an advantage over others".

He said that she was paid "obscene amounts of money" to participate in the show and must have known what she was getting into when she agreed to appear.

"I think we are over-reacting to this whole racism issue. It is everywhere and this is a competitive show and has a format where everyone says anything about everyone else," Mr Kakkar said.

Film critic and columnist, Mayank Shekhar said that the incident showed the "underbelly of racism" that still exists in Europe and North America.

Jade Goody
Jade Goody, a late arrival in the house, repeatedly argued with Shetty

"I am not surprised at this. Big Brother is a show where people are stuck in a room and after a point, their true character is bound to come through," he said.

Mr Shekhar said the publicity would certainly not give a fillip to her career that is not doing too well at the moment.

"She did not have much work here and was therefore able to commit herself to this show for three months. It has made her a talking point for the time being, but that's about it," he said.


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