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UK feminist defends Shilpa, show races on

MPs, Asians and UK's feminist diva Germaine Greer have raised voices against racisal abuse in the reality TV show.

india Updated: Jan 17, 2007 16:10 IST
Indo-Asian news Service
Indo-Asian news Service

Indian actress Shilpa Shetty has been catapulted to fame in Britain with MPs, thousands of Asians and even feminist diva Germaine Greer defending her against alleged racism on the "Celebrity Big Brother" reality show.

With conflict and controversy known to drive ratings, television strategists could not have dreamt up a better script. Bookmakers have made Shilpa the favourite to win, while thousands of Asians and non-Asians who never watched the show now tune in every night to see what the uproar is all about.

The show has a group of celebrities cooped up together, with no access to the outside world - no TV, no newspapers and no phones. But viewers are complaining that Shilpa has had to suffer racist remarks from other participants.

On the BBC Asian Network, presenter Anita Rani has launched a 'Save Shilpa' campaign: "Let's do it. Let's unite and save the Bollywood princess. We have to get the real Asian network working in full force and spread the word..."

The network said it had received more calls and e-mails on the issue than any other recent topic.

MP Keith Vaz, who is of Indian origin, tabled an early day motion in the House of Commons on the issue, Greer penned a characteristically mocking piece for The Guardian, defending Shilpa and ridiculing Britons for the way Asians are treated in this country.

Greer wrote: "That is not surprising. This is a racist country; to the vast majority of couch potatoes out there, Shilpa is a 'Paki bird'... Separation breeds division, as we are always told when the subject is religious schools in Ulster, but there is almost no inter-penetration of English and Indian cultures in Britain."

Greer says that not many seem to have understood that Shilpa is "a very good actress. Everyone hates her because she wants them to. She also knows that if she infuriates people enough, their innate racism will spew forth.

"Endemol (the show's producers) must be over the moon because racism has raised its ugly head. Every time someone sends in a complaint to Ofcom about racism in the Big Brother house, the profile of the show is raised and Shilpa earns a bit more of her huge fee. Shilpa's enjoying herself. Ladbroke's are quoting her 10/3 favourite."

Meanwhile, the show appears set to overtake "Jerry Springer, The Opera" as the most-complained show in television regulator Ofcom's history. The Shilpa show on "Big Brother" has already provoked nearly 8,000 complaints while Channel 4, on which the show is being broadcast, has also received thousands of complaints.

Vaz's early day motion in the House of Commons read: "This house views with concern the comments made about 'Big Brother' contestant Shilpa Shetty by other housemates; believes that 'Big Brother' has a role to play in preventing racist behaviour in the 'Big Brother' house; regrets that these comments have been made; and calls on the programme to take urgent action to remind housemates that racist behaviour is unacceptable."

Noted actress Meera Syal told the BBC Asian Network: "I certainly wouldn't have taken as much as Shilpa has taken. There is a very thin line between what is entertainment and a vile spectacle and I think we are in that area now.

"What this treatment of Shilpa has done is remind a lot of Asian people in Britain of the type of uncomfortable treatment they've received themselves over the years."

First Published: Jan 17, 2007 16:10 IST