| Shilpa at a promotional for the musical Miss Bollywood in London. (AP)
London, Nov. 21: Shilpa Shetty admitted in London last night that she hated the word “Bollywood”, which was perhaps a trifle ironic since she had summoned a news conference to promote the musical Miss Bollywood, in which she is playing the lead role.
“Bollywood is an intriguing word even though I hate it,” said Shilpa, who was in a combative mood. “It’s like calling French cinema Follywood.”
She would have preferred to have called the musical Maya after the name of her character, a dancer who fights to prevent the demolition of her dancing school to make way for the Olympic village in a story set in London five years from now.
“It wasn’t my idea,” she said as she acknowledged that the expression Bollywood, “which is synonymous with Hindi cinema”, was not recognised by mainstream British audiences.
She strongly rejected the notion that she had turned to doing musical theatre in Britain and other European cities because her career in Hindi cinema had stalled despite her victory earlier this year on Celebrity Big Brother.
“No! No! Don’t say that,” she responded to Swraj Paul’s daughter-in-law Nisha Paul, who had phrased her question about whether Shilpa’s career in Bollywood was over with commendable delicacy. “Gosh! Films are obviously my first love.”
After Miss Bollywood’s run in the UK ended, Shilpa said she would return to India in mid-December to finish a film but after that there was the prospect of taking the musical to Australia, Dubai and America.
She had accepted the role in Miss Bollywood after the UK promoter Farhath Hussain had come to her with the idea of doing a musical in which she would not be required to sing — she had turned down Chicago for this reason — but only dance.
Shilpa was not pleased with another questioner who asked: “Have you moved to theatre because you are not sure your films are going to do well or not'”
She gave her sweetest smile as she replied: “That is a question only to irk me. I did theatre because it gave me an opportunity to showcase Bollywood to the mainstream, which no other Indian actor has been able to do. I take huge pride in being able to say I have been able to do that.”
She confessed she had been “hurt” by harsh reviews. The Times had dismissed Miss Bollywood as an “ill-conceived, half-baked star vehicle”, while the Manchester Evening News had suggested the show “can feel like a panto”.
“We cannot make everybody happy,” she said. “If somebody is going to come and say, ‘this is a panto and not a musical’, or ‘oh, they should have bought better costumes’, I am sorry, we did not ask you for advice.”
She added firmly: “This is what we are giving you. You can’t come and tell us to do Bollywood like us. I have done Bollywood, this is what I have done all my life.”
She also lashed out against those who had spread stories on the Internet that she had been arrested at Mumbai airport, over the Richard Gere kissing controversy, as she was leaving to launch her musical in Germany in September.
“Most insecure people suffer with the crab mentality and when somebody is going up, they want to claw them down,” she complained. “We had to battle with a lot of negative publicity. Other rival dance troupes were setting out trying to do something with Bollywood and had an axe to grind. It has been an uphill task but now we have settled in. I am very happy to announce that the Royal Albert Hall is nearly sold out.”
What the British media is agreed on is that Shilpa has the best legs in Bollywood. Judging by her daring display of midriff for the photocall that preceded yesterday’s news conference, Miss Bollywood can also probably lay claim to having the best belly button in Britain, a photographer remarked.