||Shilpa steals show in
London, February 7
Bollywood actress Shilpa Shetty, revelling in her newfound fame after winning the British reality television show, ''Celebrity Big Brother'', personally thanked Prime Minister Tony Blair for his support following a racist-bullying row at a six-minute meeting held here today.
The winner, who was tormented by a few fellow contestants on the live programme, said Blair had been ''very, very sweet'' and gave her a portrait of the parliament signed by himself and his wife, Cherie.
The glamorous actress, wearing a white sari, caused a media storm in the parliament as scores of Indian and British journalists pursued her, to the distress of parliamentary officials who enforce strict rules on visitors.
''He said I carried myself with utmost dignity and that he was sorry for what I went through in the (Big Brother) house,'' Shetty said to 80-odd reporters who had gathered outside the parliament.
A planned news conference inside the building was shelved by parliamentary gatekeepers citing security concerns.
Earlier, Shetty watched Blair perform in the weekly session of the prime minister's question time, during which Blair condemned racism in all its forms in response to a lawmaker's question. Shetty emerged victorious from the Big Brother House last month after being subjected for weeks to disparaging remarks from some fellow contestants that sparked international uproar. She told reporters that parliamentarians were much more polite than her fellow contestants.
''I expected the session to be boring, but I actually quite enjoyed it,'' she said of her visit, that included meetings with other ministers, lunch with lawmakers and several photo calls.Shetty confirmed she will be publishing a book of her Big Brother experiences but denied rumours on entering Indian politics.
''I've never been politically inclined. Nobody has spoken to me about joining any party,'' she added.
Asked about her feelings towards her Big Brother tormenters, who have been vilified in the British press, she said she bore no grudges. ''I have forgiven them and have moved on. I request the media also to move on. I don't want them to suffer,'' she said.Blair's spokesman later said he had been pleased to meet Shetty, pointing out that her triumph had underlined the fact that there is no room for racism in Britain.
05.01.2007. Rajesh Chopra. LiveIndia.com New delhi.
Shilpa Shetty in Big Brother's House
She has reportedly been paid £3,00,000
LONDON:'Graceful', 'beautiful' and 'lovely Indian lady' were the words repeatedly used to describe Shilpa Shetty as she became the first Bollywood actress to enter the now famous portals of the Big Brother house – the mother of all reality shows. 'India unbound' entered British drawing rooms (on Wednesday night) via the comely figure of Shilpa Shetty, as the actress bravely became a contestant in the addictive if often asinine reality soap opera 'Celebrity Big Brother' on prime time UK terrestrial television.
Shetty, who started the 25-day marathon fight to be favourite contestant of the millions who tune in every day and vote, explained the reason she agreed to participate as follows: being an ambassador for Bollywood and Asian people and junking the myth they are not endearingly fun.
This is the first time a Hindi film star or indeed, an Indian straight from India is on a British television show that routinely draws several million viewers night after night and is guaranteed to be a 'water-cooler talking point' in offices up and down the land.
Shetty's agent, Jasvir 'Jazz' Barton told Liveindia on Thursday that the actress began the Celebrity Big Brother contest as she meant to be going on - looking suitably jhatak-matak in a glamorous pink-and-green Tarun Tahliani creation of a sari and with a firm resolve to be "dignified" during a show that sometimes rejoices in contestants plumbing the depths of depravity for the entertainment of the general public.
Shetty is one of 11 contestants on the show. They include a former Miss Great Britain who was deposed for her sexual antics with a judge; the little-known brother of pop star Michael Jackson; so-called "pop totty" such as former British band members and a 79-year-old film director.
Just as with the recently-launched Indian version, 'Big Boss', the housemates are meant to live under relentless 24/7 public scrutiny, in a time-free zone, whilst getting up the worst shenanigans they can. Members of the public vote to evict the celebrities one by one from the house.
Barton said it was likely Shetty would cook a "curry" for her housemates and would probably appear in "a mix of Asian and Western clothing" just to highlight her origins "and culture".
Channel 4 television, which has made loads money and racked up headlines and column inches with four previous instalments of a show that is sometimes derisively described as the last chance saloon for has-beens and wannabes, told this paper, "Celebrity Big Brother is all about the dynamics of the housemates as a whole, so we always aim to get the most interesting and varied group of people possible. We are delighted to have Shilpa in our line-up. Shilpa is part of a varied and eclectic bunch of celebrities who, in the confines of the house, will undoubtedly entertain and surprise us. The unpredictability of the mix of this year's celebrity housemates makes it the line-up our most exciting yet." Shilpa has reportedly been paid £300,000 to live in the fish bowl where cameras watch and telecast live every movement made by the celebrities for just under a month, but Big Brother has not confirmed the amount and it is believed that this year the highest fee paid has been no more than £65,000.
Channel 4 proudly added that audience ratings for the opening show of the series peaked at eight million viewers, an increase on last year's launch night, which drew 7.6 m viewers. The soaring audience figures make Celebrity Big Brother one of Britain's most popular television programmes ever. Shetty is seen to be the "surprise" element of a show that relies on variety and the oddball quotient to spark viewer interest.
Barton said Shetty viewed the show as a "huge opportunity...a blank template for the UK market...a challenge to become a name in a country where only British Asians know her despite the fact that she is a huge star in India".
But Shetty, who entered the Celebrity Big Brother house late on Wednesday to the customary boos, jeers and catcalls from members of the public gathered outside, appears to be faring very badly in the betting stakes of who would win the show or, in characteristic 'Big Brother' reckoning, who would be the first to kiss a housemate.
Even though the show is sometimes
called the low route for B and C-list celebrities to hit Obscureville,
it can end with the winner landing a recording contract and millions of
pounds. Shetty's aide, Barton, an East African Indian from Kenya who grew
up in Britain and describes herself as a fan of Bollywood, said the actress's
presence on the show would do Indians proud by simply being available to
British audiences for nearly a month.
Shetty, who will be watched, her actions judged and any gaffes splashed all over Britain's vicious unforgiving tabloid media, is thought to have set herself up for a rough ride by agreeing to join Celebrity Big Brother.
But if she had butterflies in her tummy at the prospect of laying on a revealing, sometimes risqué televisual feast for a jaded Britain, Shetty showed no sign of it on her first foray into the UK's public consciousness. Her chief worry, she confessed publicly was getting through January without the usual entourage, which cooks, cleans, washes her clothes and generally keeps her in the Bollywood style to which she is accustomed.
Meanwhile, in an acid sample of the sort of comment she can expect, Shetty was described as follows on at least one popular Celebrity Big Brother internet chat forum: "Shilpa Shetty - Who the hell is Shilpa Shetty? You wouldn't be asking that if you lived in India, because Shilpa Shetty is the most famous Indian that has ever walked the face of the earth. We know this because Shilpa Shetty told us about 80 times that nobody in India is more famous than she is, and the look in her eye said she knows people who'd kill you if you thought otherwise. All this plus she owns a dog called Champagne. Could Shilpa be the most deluded person on this year's Celebrity Big Brother? There's every chance. She got booed on the way into the Celebrity Big Brother house, which proves that even though nobody knows her, they don't seem to like her all that much either. Current Celebrity Big Brother betting odds - 16/1. Bookmakers who are expected to make millions over the next month from betting on the programme have given Shilpa 10/1 chance of winning the programme, which is normally done by a popular vote.
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