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Full text
CNN Interviews Indian Actress Shilpa Shetty
Shetty Revealation about Public Kiss with Richard Gere
Indian Actress Shilpa Shetty

Indian actress Shilpa Shetty reveals why she is unrepentant about her public kiss with Richard Gere, what she learnt from her time in the Big Brother household, thoughts on her love life, film career and more in this weekend's Talk Asia with Satinder Bindra.

Below is the full transcript of the interview.

Note: This is a rush transcript. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

SB: Talk Asia's host, Satinder Bindra
SS: Shilpa Shetty


SB: A Bollywood actress at the centre of a storm. This is Talk Asia.

SB: She's grown up under the brightest of Bollywood lights. Since her debut at the age of 17, Shilpa Shetty has over 50 movies to her credit. But today, at 31, she is possibly the most internationally famous Bollywood actress of all time. Her rise into renown began when she appeared on the British reality show, Celebrity Big Brother. She was the target of racially charged insults, sparking a national debate in Britain about racism. It made her a star in the UK. But worldwide attention came because of this. Hollywood star, Richard Gere's extended embrace provoked a furious reaction in conservative India resulting in arrest warrants and demonstrations. I spoke with Shilpa Shetty in Mumbai about the kisses and controversies.

SB: Take us through those moments when Richard Gere had you in his arms. And then one kiss, and another, and another…

SS: Not again…Please aren't you fed up? At least I am. I am so sick and tired of this whole thing. Gosh, I didn't even know that he had kissed me two or three times. It was over and done with in a flash. It must have taken up, what, four seconds for the whole thing to be over and done with? But, with the way the media went on and on and on…pausing, replaying, looping it, slow motion, they dedicated some forty-five hours on prime time, breaking news, alright? And I realized, "Oh ok, this is pretty long!"

SB: But what went through your mind when that happened. I mean were you completely in shock? Take us through those moments again.

SS: We were actually there for a very important event. It was a very serious event, which we tried to make very entertaining because we were addressing a whole lot of truck drivers. And Richard, not being able to communicate with them, we were not even in proper Delhi, we were in the interiors, and Richard was trying so hard to try and converse with them and he thought India is movies, Bollywood, I hate the word Bollywood but whatever. And Bollywood is entertainment and song and dance, so he tried to do this whole thing from "Shall We Dance," you know, his latest movie and he bent me over and he kissed me and he went on his knees and, you know, he was trying to be really gallant. So he was just being kind and I was actually taken aback. I thought it was really sweet and for crying out loud, it was Richard Gere, you know?

SB: Were you more surprised with the kiss or the reaction that it brought from some in India, because not everyone though that…

SS: I'm so glad that you're saying some, because I completely agree with you. It is just some and I would describe the some as a lunatic fringe. And that is so not the sensibility of the majority of India. Yea, I was really surprised and I was very hurt.

SB: There were protests. They burned effigies of Richard Gere…They called you names….

SS: I mean, you know. Yea, it was so silly. I didn't understand why they had to make such a big deal about it. You have to see the bigger picture. I think it's very important to see why we were there and what the intent was…

SB: Explain that to the others. Why were you both there?

SS: We were there for a very important cause; a cause that matters to this country. We were there to spread the whole AIDS and HIV awareness campaign. But people just forgot that in one second and gave importance, and completely hijacked the whole issue of the AIDS awareness theme and digressed completely onto the case.

SB: It wasn't just protest, Shilpa. A court in Western India in the City of Jaipur in India actually charged you and Richard with committing an indecent act in public. Richard Gere was actually even issued an arrest warrant.

SS: And there was supposedly summons in my name which I haven't received yet. But…

SB: How would you respond to that?

SS: I would respond to it if I got the summons. I'm sure my lawyers would respond to it.

SB: You are talking in a very relaxed manner about it but face it, Shilpa, if found guilty, you could be sentenced to three months…

SS: Six years.

SB: Six years? You're sure about that?

SS: Six years in prison. I have a good sense of humor, don't I?

SB: But six years in prison for that?

SS: You see, I do have faith in the judiciary. And I really hope and pray to God that something like this isn't given too much importance. What upsets me the most is the fact that this has gone all around the world. And it makes my country look very bad. And that is what irks me. Because our country has moved ahead by leaps and bounds and you don't want to project this image of India. Because this isn't it.

SB: Has Richard called you?

SS: Yes, he did

SB: How many times? Have you been in touch with him since this incident?

SS: He was really worried. And, I'm not trying to defend him. I don't need to do that. The man is a wonderful man. I have a huge amount of respect and admiration for him. Not just because he's a fantastic actor, but also the fact that he's done so much for this country with this whole issue of AIDS and HIV for a very long time. So he was very apologetic and he said, "You know, I never intended it that way." And I know the difference between right and wrong. And this wasn't wrong. This wasn't done with the intent of hurting people.

SB: But ultimately it has left you facing the music. And there's still some very angry people out there. A minority, but it's still out there.

SS: I think it's dying down.

SB: How do you feel about that though?

SS: Well, if I have hurt anybody…Firstly, how am I at fault?! I don't understand how anybody can blame me, because I was there. I was caught unawares. The next thing I knew, Richard had bent me over and kissed me on my cheek and he was saying thank you. And then he made me stand up straight and he went on his knees and he was saying thank you so much for doing this. What do you want me to do? Push the man away and say, "How dare you?"

SB: But that's what some people wanted you to do. They said you should have pushed him away because that reflected poorly on India.

SS: Would that reflect our country's culture? Are we brought up to become rude people? No, I'm sorry. That's not my culture.

SB: Are you scared?

SS: Not at all. Do I look scared?!

SB: No you don't. But may be deep down…

SS: You're pretty scared looking at this reaction.

SB: You're an actress…

SS: I'm not really that great an actress, really.

SB: You called your critics, quote, the "lunatic fringe." That's going to get them even more upset.

SS: Doesn't matter to me. I am someone who is going to be honest and I'm going to tell the truth and that's the way I've been and I'm not going to change that for anybody or anything.

SB: When we come back, we're going to go inside the Big Brother house with Shilpa Shetty.

SS: I had no idea what I was getting into because I had never seen Big Brother.


SB: So, Shilpa why did you agree to be in Big Brother, what was in it for you?

SS: I wasn't thinking, I must have been crazy to say yes, really, I mean in hindsight.

SB: No no no, you were paid a lot of money come on.

SS: Yeah I'm not denying that why would I be apologetic about that, I'm an actor and for me it was a professional job. But for an actor to just be herself was easy, you know, they weren't telling me to do a movie, so I said how difficult is that? They were offering me great money. It was just a three-week thing and I was like, what the heck? They just expect me to be myself. And I think it's a huge honour also for the fact being that no other Indian has ever been on it. And I said I'm not going to last out for the whole three weeks, I'll just be there for one or two weeks max and I'll come back and re-start shooting.

SB: And take away what 250,000 pounds I hear was the figure.

SS: I can't tell you that

SB: But close to it am I?

SS: Yeah it was good money considering it was just two weeks in my head, okay? And I went there and I had no idea what I was getting into because I'd never seen Big Brother the UK version. And the first of Jan, I was out of the country. Second, I entered the Big Brother house. They altered the contract. Channel 4 is very, very strict, they never do that, but they did it for us.

SB: Why, why did they alter the contract what did you want?

SS: Because I wanted to put in clauses that would safeguard my interests, the fact being that I didn't want to do things that were un-Indian.

SB: Like?

SS: Like if they had asked me to kiss somebody for a task I wouldn't do it. So I wanted to state those points in the contract. If they had asked me to jump into the jacuzzi with a bikini I wouldn't do it, so I just wanted to put everything down in black and white and they agreed. So I was like okay this seems like cake walk and I went in there and I had no idea that it would be such a culture shock for me.

SB: What do you mean culture shock?

SS: I was quite prepared for it. I thought you know maybe they won't understand my accent and I didn't want to put on an accent and speak and come across as a complete wannabe. We can do it if we want to but, no, I'm very proud of my Indian accent and I said what the heck this is me, accept me. So I thought okay there may be slight teething problems in the beginning but slowly and steadily something started to brew and there were lot of insecurities and all of that and my god the worst was the food, the problems with the food, there was no food, can you imagine? We were fighting for food it was horrible it was the lowest point in my life.

SB: On the outside the general perception was that some of your colleagues they really mistreated you.

SS: There is no denying that I was bullied, for sure, but I've said this a zillion times, I really don't agree that it was contrived racism. Really, it wasn't racist.

SB: You know nobody would agree with that because not referring to you by your name calling you Shilpa poppadum, calling you quote "the Indian," saying that many people in India lived in slums…

SS: I am Indian! I'm very proud to be Indian! Why would I take that as an offense?

SB: But if you had stopped ten people on the streets, while this was going on, nine of them would say you faced racism. And, it was out loud, it was open, it was blatant, it was painful for them.

SS: Yes, it was and, with due respect to all of them, it somewhere touched a raw nerve and all those people who were put through it at some point in their life may have felt it more. I think in someway Big Brother worked as a catalyst in bringing about this whole debate on racism and I thought it was a very important thing to have happened. So, I'm someone who looks at it very, very positively. As far as I'm concerned I think it's my prerogative to say that it wasn't racism. And I would say it was very ignorant people.

SB: So, you're best of friends with Jade Goody is that what you're saying?

SS: No.

SB: She was what many people would…she was your tormentor wasn't she? Would you have a cup of tea with her?

SS: I forgive her. I really did. I'm someone who tends to forgive and that's the way I am. And some people find it very hard to digest. How I was able to do that. Now I can't explain it, this is the way I've always been. Anybody who knows me would understand that, okay, this is really not a put on, this is really Shilpa.

SB: You stuck it out, you won

SS: And, I never, I was really not aiming to win. I was just happy that I lasted out till the end… And then I stuck on and I won and when I won I couldn't believe it I was like, because I never won anything in my life!

SB: I saw the look on your face when you won, you walked out and there were fireworks and your eyes were big as saucers. They were literally that big.

SS: It was the happiest moment in my life.

SB: Why?

SS: To have actually…I think it was a huge victory, firstly, as an Indian to have won something abroad. And I think that was the first time ever and every Asian felt extremely proud. And to be able to do that just gave me a huge sense of pride. And to receive all that love, you know, it's a reality show and to win because other people want you to win is a big achievement, so that for me was a huge compliment.

SB: You felt the love, but it ended up being very sweet for you financially as well, tell us about that.

SS: The financial aspect? Yes, it has definitely worked in my favour and it's not like I wasn't making good money being in the Indian film industry.

SB: But, much more now, face it you're cashing in on the publicity, you're opening a chain of curry restaurants…

SS: Yes, there's that. There's my perfume launch on the 15th of June, I'm very excited first Indian to be…

SB: Laughing all the way to the bank.

SS: You make it sound quite terrible, I'd sound very pompous to be saying that! But, yes, at this age, to be making some money is a good feeling…I hate you…

SB: When we come back, Shilpa Shetty talks about growing up in Bollywood, the importance of family, and why, after so much success, she's still single.


SB: Shilpa you've done more than fifty Bollywood films, how did you get started? How did you get into the industry?

SS: I started out very young. I was seventeen and a half and I was more interested in modeling and I got my portfolio done and I got rejected as a model and the next thing I knew, there was this producer who was flipping through my photographs at an ad agency and I happened to be there for a screen test. Yeah, and that's where it all began. My first film was released when I was eighteen, Baazigar.

SB: So, you've had a lot of highs in your career…

SS: Yes, and a lot of lows as well…

SB: Talk to us about those lows.

SS: I've been through my fair share of highs and lows. Yes, I've been written off, and it amazes me and it amuses me also when I'm written off by the press cause then I tell them that's just the lull before the storm. And every time I've been down, I've been down, never out. So, its just makes me work a lot harder. And it's not really normal for an Indian film actress to last out for fifteen years. I've been in the industry for fifteen years and with God's grace I think I've done very well for myself at the cost of sounding very immodest right now.

SB: You're 31 years old. You still live with your parents.

SS: Yes, but that's a very common thing in India. I do have the choice of living separately. I could, but I wouldn't. So I have my own selfish reasons. I could never live alone. I love, I adore my parents and I think I'm very blessed.

SB: Have you been successful in relationships? For instance, are you dating someone now? Are you thinking about…

SS: No…not right now. I'm single. Yea…

SB: No boyfriend?

SS: No…I don't have time. I would love to have a boyfriend though. I don't want to sound boring. But, the last four months has been pretty tough. I have been single for some time. Sadly.

SB: What are you looking for? An arranged marriage? Are you looking to date someone?

SS: I want a happy marriage and whatever it takes to achieve that. But I think the main prerequisite would have to be respect. He would have to respect me and vice-versa. And, that would be more important than being in love. I think respect really goes a long way. And he would have to keep me happy. And he'd have to be very, very, secure. It's very difficult, I think, to be with an actress and a celebrity because it's a huge package. But even while I say all of that, I must say that I'm really low-maintenance. Other than the diamonds and all of that, yea… Otherwise, I'm really low maintenance.

SB: Oh, so you're saying that…

SS: Oh, that's it. I'm not going to get a single guy!

SB: So, you're saying this person would also have to buy you diamonds.

SS: Of course! What do you mean?

SB: That's asking for a lot…

SS: What?! Are you nuts? Are you married? And if you are, and if you haven't bought your wife a diamond, please go pronto and buy one! No, I mean…

SB: Shilpa, you talk a lot about, you know, taking pride in being Indian. How important is that to you? What does it mean to you?

SS: The last thing I said to people when I entered the house was, "I just want every Indian to be proud of me." And I'm glad that I could, you know, stick by that testimony, really, because it was so important. Because when people talk about me, they talk about an Indian person, you know. That defines me first. I think the most important value is respecting elders and especially my parents. And I think that's something that I value the most and that is something that our culture can really boast of, because it's very different in the West. People are very disconnected. We do respect, but here in India, we're all very connected to our roots and that is something that I'm very proud of.

SB: Thank you very much, Shilpa. That's it for Talk Asia this week. I'm Satinder Bindra in Mumbai. We'll be back again next week.

The above article is from CNN.






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