MUMBAI, India (Reuters) — Bollywood was up in arms on Wednesday over what it called the racist bullying of Indian film star Shilpa Shetty on British TV show “Celebrity Big Brother“, and dozens of her fans protested in the east of the country.
More than 10,000 British viewers of the show have complained that Shetty, 31, had been subjected to racist abuse, prompting an investigation into the charges by British media watchdog Ofcom.
Contestants have made fun of the A-list Bollywood actress’s name, her eating habits and her Indian background.
She was called a “dog” and reduced to tears in the “Big Brother” house, a complex of rooms and a garden where participants are locked in for the duration of the show.
“What is happening on Big Brother is just holding the mirror to the Western society,” leading Bollywood film maker Mahesh Bhatt told Reuters. “This is the real, discriminating face of the West you can see on the streets of London or New York.”
Dozens of Shetty’s admirers took to the streets in the eastern Indian city of Patna to protest against what they said was her humiliation, burning straw effigies of her housemates.
“Shilpa is very popular in Bihar, and her song and dance numbers in the movies have won our hearts,” Ravindra Yadav, a protestor, told local television, referring to the state of which Patna is the capital.
Talk of the show has dominated India’s celebrity-obsessed media, with images of a tearful Shetty featuring on television reports and the front pages of newspapers.
India’s Information and Broadcasting Minister Priyaranjan Dasmunsi appealed to Shetty to appear before the Indian High Commission in London and give the facts.
“She should understand that if there has been some racism shown against her in the show, it is not only an attack on women but also on the skin and the country,” Dasmunsi told reporters.
Bollywood, Mumbai, India, Big Brother, Shilpa Shetty