Shetty wins Big Brother

LONDON Mon Jan 29, 2007 9:58am GMT

1 of 8. Bollywood star Shilpa Shetty reacts after winning Celebrity Big Brother at the Elstree Studios on the outskirts of London January 28, 2007.

Credit: Reuters / Luke MacGregor

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LONDON (Reuters) - Bollywood actress Shilpa Shetty sought to put a racist bullying row behind her after winning the "Celebrity Big Brother" television show, a triumph tipped to elevate her career beyond India's silver screen.

Shetty said she did not think those accusing of tormenting her on the reality series meant to be racist even though their comments sparked an international uproar.

The Indian star won 63 percent of the public vote on Sunday night to storm to victory in what will be seen as a boost for racial equality in Britain and India.

She beat 13 other contestants, including shamed television personality Jade Goody and several other housemates whose treatment of Shetty generated thousands of complaints, dominated headlines and even prompted a sponsor of the show to pull out.

But the 31-year-old was quick to play down allegations that she had been the victim of racial abuse.

"Things happen and people make mistakes and we are all human beings and we are all fallible," said Shetty after emerging victorious from the specially-designed Big Brother House, where she had been cooped up for 26 days under 24-hour surveillance.

"I know one thing for sure, Jade really didn't mean to be racist," she said in an interview on Channel 4, which broadcast the controversial series.

"I really don't want to leave England putting anyone in trouble ... I just want to thank the whole of Great Britain for giving me this fantastic opportunity to make my country proud."


Her high-profile victory means Shetty, who had been overshadowed in Bollywood in recent years by up-and-coming film stars, is hot property -- at least outside India.

Newspapers said she would likely be flooded with work and had already been offered the lead role in a new BBC comedy.

But an Indian actor said that Shetty's renewed fame wasn't guaranteed to revive her film career, although she might win advertisement contracts and television shows.

"In Bollywood, whether or not you get films depends on how your last couple of films fared," said Deepak Tijori, who has worked with Shetty and has featured in the tamer Indian version of "Celebrity Big Brother".

"Shilpa is famous once again. But will that mean more films for her, I am not sure."

The actress's last film in 2006 -- her only one that year -- bombed at the box office and she has not had a hit movie in years. In the past couple of years she has appeared on TV shows and as judge of a singing talent hunt.

The fallout from the show may however spell the end of the road for Goody as well as two other celebrity housemates -- model Danielle Lloyd and singer Jo O'Meara -- who have been vilified in newspapers following their comments about Shetty.

The A-list Indian star was called a "dog" on the programme. A few of the housemates refused to learn her name, referred to her as "the Indian" and "Poppadom", and Lloyd said: "She should fuck off home. She can't even speak English."

Asked about her behaviour, Lloyd, who emerged earlier on Sunday evening from the set, said: "I feel terrible."

She added: "I never thought we were being racist at all."

Goody has also apologised for the upset caused and is said to be considering a fence-mending trip to India.

(Additional reporting by Krittivas Mukherjee)