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Kiss over, gasp begins
- Kareena-Shahid pictures ignite denial and debate

Calcutta, Dec. 16: Published pictures of film star Kareena Kapoor and aspiring star Shahid Kapur kissing in a public place have set tongues working feverishly across the country.

Both actors have contested the authenticity of the pictures, Kareena even sending a legal notice to Mid Day, the Mumbai afternoon paper that printed the pictures in its edition yesterday.

Kareena and her fiance Shahid have accused Mid Day of doctoring the pictures, a charge that the paper's editor, Meenal Baghel, has denied.

Mid Day said the pictures were captured stills from a video shot on a camera phone and videos cannot be morphed.

In a legal notice to the paper, Kareena demanded that it either apologise or face a Rs 20-crore lawsuit. She charged Mid Day with fabricating the photographs 'in order to create cheap publicity for the newspaper'.

Baghel refuted the charge. She said: 'Kareena didn't know it was a video. She insists that we have doctored the images. But a mobile-phone video cannot be doctored and we haven't done that.'

STAR News was running the video today, which shows the couple engaged in a passionate bout of kissing.

Is it possible to doctor such a video' Award-winning editor Arjun Gourisaria, based in Calcutta, said though difficult, it is possible to doctor a mobile-phone video footage.

'Whenever you transfer any video on to the computer, you can morph it. Technically it is highly possible. However, to morph human faces and that, too, in a smooching posture is not only extremely time consuming, but very tough as well,' he said.

In Bollywood, the incident has thrown up other debates. Said celebrity columnist Shobhaa De: 'To me, it's not just about Shahid and Kareena ' it is a much larger issue that we are dealing with. It is about the intrusion into one's privacy. The age of paparazzi has finally arrived in India.'

While there may be a debate about whether this marks the arrival of paparazzi journalism ' only the other day there was a controversy over Priyanka Gandhi Vadra's young son's pictures in a publication ' there is no doubt that this is a first for Bollywood.

If, of course, the pictures are authentic.

In her notice, Kareena said Rain, the Juhu restaurant where the video clip was purportedly shot by someone sitting at the next table, has sent her a letter saying neither she nor Shahid has visited the place in the past three months.

Mid Day said the clip showed the two were at Rain, showering acts of love on each other. 'There is no question of the paper doing anything illegal,' it added.

Officials at the Rain bar and restaurant refused comment.

A second issue Kareena has raised relates to obscenity. The notice says the publishing of the pictures amounted to purveying obscene material.

In its reply, the paper said: 'We do not agree that the photographs are obscene.'

The development comes within days of Kareena proclaiming her feelings for Shahid on the chat show Koffee with Karan. 'He is the only man who brings a smile to my face,' she said.

An unknown voice responded to a call on Shahid's cellphone, saying that 'he was out of the country' (he usually has international roaming).

There is also speculation in Bollywood if the incident was a deliberate ploy to lift the careers of the two. 'An incident like this can never ever help an actress even as negative publicity. In fact, it has done Kareena's career a whole a lot of harm,' said Shobhaa De.

Bollywood trade analyst Taran Adarsh believes otherwise. 'I don't think something so personal can affect Shahid or Kareena's next releases (Dil Maange More and Bewafaa). The films would stand on their own merits. But, yes, such a media blow-up was unnecessary.'

If the legal notice Kareena has sent is taken to its logical conclusion to the courts, once the authenticity of the video is proven, the film star could bring a charge of invasion of privacy.

In India, there is no specific privacy law, but penal provisions for violations of privacy are incorporated in the Indian Penal Code in sections (499, 500 and 501) dealing with defamation.

The focus in law is not on where the 'intrusion' took place ' whether in a public or private place ' but on whether the act caused mental agony or loss of reputation.

The maximum punishment is six years' imprisonment and the court will decide the extent of damages to be paid.

Finally, there is no escape from the camera phone and its power to enter areas which no other recording device can penetrate. First the school sex scandal, now this.

As Hollywood star George Clooney said in an interview: 'I've literally gone out to dinner and a girl comes over to the table and says, 'Can I have a kiss' She leans over, gives me a kiss, I go back to the house, and the photograph is on the TV. It's hysterical.'

In the piece of video in question in the Mid Day versus Kareena case, the word hysterical applies to quite something else.

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