"I've forgiven Jade. Anyone who knows me knows I forgive and forget easily."
Shilpa Shetty has forgiven Jade Goody, her housemate in the British TV reality show 'Celebrity Big Brother', for her offensive behaviour but hasn't yet gotten over author and scriptwriter Farrukh Dhondy's stinging criticism.
The London-based Dhondy termed the remarks against Shetty, which triggered a debate on racism in Britain, as unreal and untrue. He labelled the whole episode as a 'drama and gimmick' to boost the show's ratings.
'I've forgiven Jade. Anyone who knows me knows I forgive and forget easily. Farrukh Dhondy has made a statement that I'm a fake. How dare he? How dare he take away from the fact that I'm representing my country in Britain? A lot of Indians in Britain are very irked by his criticism of me,' Shilpa told IANS in an interview.
The actress, who went on to win the show, accepts that she changed her stance on her housemates' racist behaviour because she didn't want to hurt the sentiments of the viewers.
'You know, if you saw the footage I clearly said, 'It was racist'. But then Big Brother asked me if Jade Goody's attitude towards me was racist. That's when I realised the gravity of the situation.
'I realised the entire Asian community would be hurt if I used that word. And I had no idea my words were creating a furore across the world. So, I revised my earlier opinion.'
Shilpa says her entire experience has made her more socially and politically conscious.
How are you holding up as India's new representative abroad?
I'm doing okay. I met Prime Minister Tony Blair. I went there to thank him on my country's behalf. It was an embarrassing situation for him. He had to answer questions on racism.
Was chicken curry served?
Oh yeah! 'Chicken Curry Rules' has become a slogan in Britain... I got to know that old people from the British Asian community, who never watched 'Big Brother', started watching the show to see me.... Would you believe, I haven't seen the entire series of 'Big Brother'.
Do you really believe you were a victim of racism in there?
Initially, it was hard for me to tell. In India none of us goes through racist behaviour. All of us are Indian. Once I was in the house lots of things were happening. People who followed the whole series were irked by what they saw. These are British Asians who have been subjected to this kind of discrimination for years and this was the first time they saw someone they knew and liked standing up against the bullying and racial discrimination they experienced in everyday life. For me, to be treated like that, was very painful to see.
When I made a statement from in there saying, 'Is this the new Britain' the Brits didn't want Britain to be epitomised by those three girls in there (who bullied me).
Do you feel you were racially discriminated against?
You know, if you saw the footage I clearly said, 'It was racist'. I never did anything in the house to hurt them, or to make them feel I was unfriendly. They had this attitude towards me, and I didn't know where it was coming from. This kind of attitude happens among women who are insecure or jealous. But I was never subjected to this kind of a thing.
Was it a girlie thing carried too far?
There was groupism and a divide. So coming back to your question about whether the situation in there was racist, I said it was. I don't like to hold grudges. When I went to the dining room, 'Big Brother' asked me if Jade Goody's attitude towards me was racist. That's when I realised the gravity of the situation.
I realised the entire Asian community would be hurt if I used that word. And I had no idea my words were creating a furore across the world. So, I revised my earlier opinion, and told all the Indians, Pakistanis and Bangladeshis, who were listening, that yes it was mean, rude, obnoxious and arrogant behaviour. But it wasn't racist behaviour.
Have you forgiven Jade?
Jade did apologise. And I've forgiven her. Anyone, who knows me, knows I forgive and forget easily. Farrukh Dhondy has made a statement that I'm a fake. How dare he? How dare he take away from the fact that I'm representing my country in Britain. A lot of Indians in Britain are very irked by his criticism of me.
So, would you invite Jade for your wedding whenever it happens?
(Laughs) Jade is just an acquaintance, someone I met as part of my experience at 'Big Brother'. She's neither a friend nor an enemy. We were forced to know one another, and I've moved on.
I believe her house has been stoned. She has received death threats. During a police investigation, I was told Jade and the others who behaved badly with me have been treated like criminal offenders. Do I feel sorry for Jade? Of course! I wouldn't wish this on anyone. She's a mother of two. I don't wish bad for anyone. And at the end of the day this was just a game show.
Have you become more socially and politically conscious?
Definitely. When I went to Leicester, I couldn't get out of the car. It wasn't mock-hysteria. There was a feeling of pride in every Indian there. It made me cry.
But, believe me I wanted to speak to the Indian press at the first given opportunity. At the House of Commons I walked across to the Indian press corps, though the British press resented it. But they had me for a week-and-half. My own country and cinema will always mean more to me. Yes, I feel I haven't really got my due as an actress in Hindi cinema.
So, why don't you stand for the elections as an Indian MP in Britain?
No way! You know I'm totally apolitical.