Ridiculed in India, Shilpa Shetty is the new darling of UK south Asians

New Delhi, Jan 20 | Updated: Jan 21 2007, 07:43am hrs
The south Asian community in the UK, it seems, has fallen hook, line and sinker for Shilpa Shetty. And if observers of Channel 4s Celebrity Big Brother (CBB), the most complained about show in the history of television, are to be believed, she now also has all of Britain on her side.

Jade Goody, Shilpas tormentor, was voted out of the house on Friday night by an overwhelming 82% of the votes polled. The impact Shilpa has made through CBB is an achievement not only for south Asians, but also for everyone who believes in a harmonious multi-cultural society, says Achala Sharma, head, BBC Hindi service. She has pushed the serious issue of racism to the forefront.

Hammad Chaudhry, marketing director of London-based HKC Entertainment, says on telephone from London: I dont understand why Shilpa is being ridiculed back in India. The TV channels and newspapers there are saying she is doing all this for money and publicity, but British Asians, cutting across nationalities, are proud of the class and dignity with which she has conducted herself.

British Asians whove been on CBB in the past have been downright embarrassing, says Chaudhry. But Shilpas been a credit to the community. India should be proud of her. British papers, the Pakistani showbiz entrepreneur points out, are calling this row a class vs trash clash. Undeniable brownie points for Bollywood there!

Shilpa has indeed become a rallying point for all viewers opposed to racial discrimination. One British blogger writes on globalvoicesonline.org: Shilpa is such a beautiful woman Jade is such a cow. Another says on the same site: I feel it is a clash of personalities and class more than race Jade Goody is an ignorant, low-class person. She is the exact opposite of Shilpa, who can speak five languages, is classy, well-mannered and beautiful.

Chaudhry, whose family has distributed films like Mughal-e-Azam, Taj Mahal and Bride & Prejudice in Pakistan, agrees, as does BBCs Sharma, whos been in the UK for 19 years. Shilpa is being bullied because her housemates are jealous of her, says Chaudhry. Shes been dignified and intelligent. Im not a fan of the show, but my interest in it has risen because of what Shilpa has achieved, says Sharma.

Chaudhry says Shilpa has emerged as a symbol for all south Asians in Britain. Theyve all faced racial taunts here at some point or the other, says Chaudhry. Shilpa has shown them how to tackle the situation.

Chaudhry puts a new spin on the unfolding CBB saga. After 9/11, an uneasy silence gripped the south Asian community. Ditto after July 7. But this time we know we are right. Even the whites are standing up for Shilpa. Doesnt that explain the groundswell of support that she has garnered