Racism or not, Shilpa Shetty is making news in Britain
By Prasun Sonwalkar, IANS
Indian actress Shilpa Shetty may appear lost and out of depth as she prepares half-cooked chicken on the reality show "Big Brother", but desi voyeurs in Britain have flooded broadcasting authorities with complaints of racism by others in the house against her.
Britain's broadcasting watchdog Ofcom is investigating nearly 200 complaints about alleged racism against her even as strong opinions are being expressed on Asian radio stations and websites in her support. Asian radio station Sunrise received several calls on a phone-in on Sunday from viewers, complaining about racism against Shetty.
According to her fans and fawns, the long-legged Bollywood stunner is being targeted by some housemates because she is Indian and is being described in what can be called unparliamentary language.
Big Brother housemates Jade Goody, Danielle Lloyd and Jo O'Meara seem to have ganged up against Shetty in the past few days. Shetty has become the subject of snide and biting remarks because of her hauteur and background as the heartthrob of millions of Bollywood fans.
Channel Four, which broadcasts the popular reality show, has said that her treatment in the house is "girly rivalry" and that it would not tolerate bullying or racism.
Shetty's housemates have often referred to her as 'the Indian', and some have found it difficult to pronounce her name, poked fun at her accent and asked her if she lived in a shack.
An Ofcom spokeswoman said: "We have had approximately 200 complaints of racism. Quite a lot of websites have been discussing the issue and urging people to get in contact with us. We will look into each individual complaint."
Speaking to the BBC Asian Network, evicted housemate Carole Malone said she believes the incidents were motivated by jealousy.
"Shilpa is too good looking for her own good. She's an incredibly powerful and beautiful woman. She is a very strong woman and can handle it.
"I spoke to her about it when I was in the house. Shilpa feels that she represents the Indian/Asian community and doesn't want to let them or herself down by retaliating".
The Evening Standard reported that producers of the reality show held an emergency meeting on Monday to discuss whether comments made to Shetty could be construed as racism.
An unnamed source told the paper: "Shilpa was not called a 'paki'. If the producers thought that anything that was said was overtly racist, the contestant who made the remark would be out.
"Shilpa is no shrinking violet and is standing up for herself. But producers are very concerned about the situation and monitoring the housemates very closely regarding this issue."
A spokeswoman for Channel 4 said: "We do not tolerate bullying or racism in any form on Big Brother."
Former Big Brother contestant, Herjender 'Gos' Gosal said: "If people are too ignorant to learn a bit about other cultures, and make an effort to pronounce someone's name properly then that is racism. It's sickening to watch.
"Some of these so-called celebrities should know better and if I was treated like that during my time in the house I would not stand for it and demand the producers take action.
"Unfortunately conflict gets producers higher ratings, but it shouldn't be at the cost of offending the very community you are hoping to appeal to by putting a Bollywood star in the house in the first place."
Shetty's manager, Jazz Barton said: "Britain is a multi-racial society and this shouldn't be happening on a reality show like Big Brother. I've raised my concerns to the producers.
"Just because Shilpa is beautiful, articulate and intelligent, people feel threatened. When they took the mickey out of her accent, I thought that was unacceptable. She may have an Indian accent but her vocabulary is better than a lot of the other contestants.
"Shilpa has worked hard to get to where she has - not found fame from simply being on a reality show. I really hope the public show her support and vote to keep her in, because she is a decent person.
"I've spoken to Shilpa's mother who has heard from friends in the UK, that Shilpa is having a tough time of it, and is facing a lot of hostility - she is quite upset about it. I would like to see how Channel 4 are going to handle this.
"I applaud the people who have phoned Ofcom to complain - maybe it will make the producers take a strong stance on this."