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Paparazzi pay for star trek

A British photographer was manhandled and threatened by one of the couple?s personal security guards on Saturday outside the Le Meridien Hotel, reports Udita Jhunjhunwala.

india Updated: Oct 08, 2006 04:19 IST

A mighty heart with a rough hand. That is how the media will remember Hollywood star couple Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt’s Indian safari.

A British photographer was manhandled and threatened by one of the couple’s personal security guards on Saturday outside the Le Meridien Hotel, where the Pitt-Jolie brood is holed up since their arrival two days ago.

Hordes of lensmen and reporters had been waiting for that perfect shot and page three bytes. Pune was on a high. But the story that emerged from the star-chase was one of humiliation.

A burly bodyguard caught Sam Relph of Barcroft Media by the neck when he tried to take pictures of the couple.

On Saturday afternoon, the media, camping on the hotel premises, spotted production head Andrew Eaton, local line producer Kailash Surendranath and the bodyguard in the lobby.

They were leaving the hotel, along with the couple. The flashbulbs popped as lensmen jostled for shots. Suddenly, the bodyguard whirled around and wagged a finger at Relph — ordering him to stop taking pictures. But Relph continued to click.

The guard caught Relph in a stranglehold, choking him. “He said if I took his pictures, he would kill me,” Relph recounted. “I couldn’t breathe. He had his fingers on my windpipe and he knew what he was doing.” Relph is undecided about going to the police. “At the moment, I don’t know,” he said.

Saturday’s attack was an isolated event — the couple’s bodyguard had been taking his job a shade too seriously. Arul Horizon of Indian Express and Uday Jhala from NDTV also had a brush with the security.

“The same man told me not to take pictures. He was abusive and threatened me with pointed fingers,” Horizon said. Jhala, who was using the elevator to leave the premises, was accosted by two bodyguards — the one who roughed up Relph and a tall blonde man.

Jhala, a reporter, did not have a camera. “They threatened to send me to the hospital if I came anywhere near their clients. They used expletives, even though I insisted I did not have a camera.”

Both Relph and the couple’s bodyguards are staying at Le Meridien. The hotel’s general manager Jaswant Narang said, “I am not aware of it.”

Television channels aired footage of the bodyguard grabbing Relph by the neck and speaking sharply to him, before pushing him away.

Shooting for A Mighty Heart begins on Monday. Jolie and Pitt — better known as Brangelina — spent part of the day in a series of production meetings on the fifth floor of the hotel. “On Friday, the couple went around the city on a rickshaw. We are not aware if they were apprised of the incident,” the hotel management said.

First Published: Oct 08, 2006 04:19 IST