O, Sister!

first_imgTake a dozen or so celebrities. Add 37 cameras. Mix them in one house. And leave for 35 days. What you have is the recipe for Celebrity Big Brother.This year’s contestants were a C-list collection of wannabees (Danielle Lloyd, Jade Goody), have-beens (Ken Russell, Jermaine Jackson, Leo Sayer, Jo O’ Meara, Ian ‘H’ Watkins, Dirk Benedict), and nobodies (Carole Malone, Donny Tourette, Cleo Rocos, Jack Tweed, Jackiey Budden). The exception was Bollywood star Shilpa Shetty, arguably more famous than the rest of the housemates put together, who reportedly received $680,000 to participate. Yet to the British public, she entered the house unknown and unrecognized.It appeared that Channel 4, the British network behind Big Brother, had a flop on its hands. That was until simmering tensions bubbling under the surface began to heat up. It started with Jackiey Budden, in the house with daughter Jade Goody, not being able to pronounce Shilpa’s name. Budden repeatedly hreferred to the actor as “Shipla” or “Shipa,” before graduating to “the Indian.” British viewers observed how Budden’s treatment of Shetty drove the actor to tears on a number of occasions. Budden questioned the actor, who is reputably worth $30 million, if she lived in a shack.After Shilpa prepared a dish of roast chicken for the group, Jo O’ Meara, former member of pop band S Club 7, hrefused to eat it, “I don’t trust that chicken. I want to eat it but I’m scared,” she complained, claiming it was undercooked. The singer went on to say Indians were thin because they were always ill as a result of undercooking their food. Jo later did impressions of Shetty’s accent and protested the actor had touched housemates’ food with her hands.Danielle Lloyd, briefly a former Miss Great Britain, hreferred to Shilpa as a “dog.” After an argument between Jade and Shilpa, onlooker Danielle interjected that Shilpa should “just f**k off home,” adding that she was unable to speak proper English. However, it was serial reality TV contestant Goody, who appeared to torment the actor more than any other housemate. In conversations with O’ Meara and Lloyd, Goody was heard hreferring to Shetty as “Shilpa F***awallah” and “Shilpa Poppadom.” The former dental nurse also stated of the Hindi film star “‘She makes me feel sick, she makes my skin crawl.”Many of the rows in the Big Brother house centered around the kitchen. On Day 14, an argument developed over who had used the last stock cube. Jade launched into a verbal tirade against Shilpa, “I f***ing hate liars. You’re not some princess in f***ing Neverland. You’re a normal housemate like everybody else. Go back to the slums and find out what real life is about lady.”The racially charged incidents inside the house began making headlines around the world, as the initially under-performing show rapidly developed into a major diplomatic crisis. As the racism debate heightened, in India, chancellor of the exchequer Gordon Brown found himself fielding questions about Big Brother, sidetracking his original agenda on bilateral trade. By Jan. 20, the number of officials complaints against the network hit 40,000, the highest ever against a television program in the UK.In her introductory video before she entered the Big Brother House, Shilpa Shetty claimed, “I’m an Indian film actress and lucky enough to be one of the most well-known film actors in Indian cinema.”Not quite, Shilpa. Yes, Ms Shetty is a genuine Indian film actress. You would be hard pressed however, to find many people who pre-Celebrity Big Brother, would agree that she is “one of the most well-known film actors in Indian cinema.” Globally, we all know Ashwariya Rai. Rani Mukherjee and Preity Zinta may also get nods of recognition. But Shilpa? Although Shilpa has been acting in Bollywood for almost 14 years, and has released close to 50 movies, in only a handful of films has she achieved commercial success. Her 1993 debut Baazigar (Magician) was well received, but in the movie all we really saw was the heroine dancing around a bit, before she is killed off. She gained critical recognition in 2004’s, Phir Milenge (We’ll Meet Again), in which she played the role of a person living with HIV. The film, with its controversial storyline, won her several awards, but did not perform well on its release. After delivering just one movie last year, the flop Shaadi Karke Phas Gaya Yaar, Shilpa has Apne with Sunny and Bobby Deol and Anurag Basu’s Metro to look forward to in 2007.Whilst not the most talented or well-known actor in the industry, karate expert and yoga queen Shilpa has earned the title the “body” of Bollywood. BB viewers watching Shilpa’s keep fit regime in the house know that this ex-model works hard. Though there is speculation that her famous body has been achieved with the help of plastic surgery. With a mass of public support, originally from Britain’s 2 million South Asian population and now by a sympathetic British audience, Shilpa is now favorite to win the competition. Her popularity was evident on Jan. 20, when she won an eviction night vote, after being nominated alongside her tormenter Jade. The result was seen as a stand against intolerance, as 82 percent of voters evicted Jade from the house.The eviction was not without controversy, however, as viewers complained the show broke its own rules of isolating the contestants from the outside world by informing Goody before the eviction about the ongoing race row. After one hour in the Diary Room talking to the producers (of which only 10 minutes were transmitted), Jade uncharacteristically greeted Shilpa with a hug and apologized for anything she may have said, which was perceived by the actor as being racist. In turn Shilpa backpeddled on her complaints on the show that she was a victim of racism. Since emerging from the house, Jade, horrified by the storm she had generated, has been serially apologizing to the media.An unprecedented global audience has sat up and taken notice of the first Bollywood actress to appear on Celebrity Big Brother. While Shilpa may not be one of the most well-known film actors in Indian cinema, she can now certainly claim to be one of the world’s most well known reality TV stars.    Related Itemslast_img

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