How Shilpa lost her shine

SHILPA SHETTY was back in Mumbai this week where her 'house boy' served her tea, ran errands and held an umbrella to shade her from the sun when she ventured out of her family's six-bedroom apartment.

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Published: Sat 1 Sep 2007, 10:56 PM

Last updated: Sun 5 Apr 2015, 12:45 AM

shShilpa certainly needed pampering following a series of damaging allegations and revelations in recent days about her private and professional life.

'Having been the subject of unwarranted media speculation, I feel the need to express my absolute shock,' she said in a statement in which she denies having an affair with a married man, defends her management company now being sued over thousands of pounds allegedly owed to a creditor and claims she was not humiliatingly dumped by PR supremo Max Clifford.

It may also be, some critics suggest, the first time Shilpa, 32, has said anything for nothing. Only the other week, for example, when she was helping to promote India Now, London's three-month celebration of Indian culture, journalists who wished to speak to her were allegedly informed that their publications would have to pay for the privilege, and that the privilege was likely to cost in the region of £20,000 - a story later denied by the festival's organisers.

So too was a weekend report that Shilpa had been replaced in her first 'English role' - a romantic comedy set in Yorkshire - because of her high pay demands.

Either way, Shilpa's 800-word pronouncement portraying herself as the victim of an embittered female spouse and sensationalist press represent good value for money.

Behind her words, of course, is the story of a career which may be showing signs of stalling.

How ironic that the apparent decline in her fortunes, metaphorically at least, should coincide with the decision not to screen Celebrity Big Brother next year as part of a major shake-up on Channel 4. It was, said the network, part of a wide-ranging strategy of 'creative renewal'.

Her latest film, Life In A Metro, which was premiered in Leicester Square in May, has grossed just £249,212, outside India, according to Screen International (Shilpa's 'bored Bombay housewife' convinced one critic to conclude that the 'gap between her fame and her ability is bigger than Jade Goody's mouth'.)

Her autobiography will not be on sale any time soon (a publisher cannot be found, apparently) and her much-hyped musical, Miss Bollywood, will not be opening in the West End in October after.

If Shilpa's popularity is indeed beginning to wane, many blame her domineering mother and her agent, who should, says someone who knows him, 'have a market stall in Tooting'.

'I genuinely thought Shilpa could become the first Bollywood superstar, but those around her made it impossible for me to do my job,' said Max Clifford yesterday.

Could there be a worst time, then, for Shilpa to be accused of ruining another woman's marriage? Of all the unfavourable publicity, this is the most embarrassing and damaging. As she points out in her statement: 'My culture and upbringing does not permit me to break up marriages.'

Ordinarily, the claims made against her could be dismissed as nothing more than malicious gossip. Except that the person dishing the dirt is the 'estranged and embittered' wife herself, whose husband, British-based Indian businessman and film producer, Raj Kundra, is now Shilpa's almost constant companion.

This is not the first time, of course, that Shilpa has been accused of having an affair with a married man. She and Bollywood director Anubhav Sinha are said to have become close on the set of his thriller Dus in Canada in 2005.

When the director returned to India he left his wife Ratna, who later gave an interview to a Bombay newspaper under the headline 'Ratna Sinha erupts against her husband Anubhav and his "good friend" Shilpa Shetty'.

Then, as now, Shilpa denied any affair.

It is difficult to imagine Shilpa attracting such damaging publicity today if she still enjoyed the patronage and protection of Max Clifford.

Instead, Shilpa is now being handled by Farhath Hussain, who modestly describes himself on his website as the 'world's Number One promoter of Bollywood shows, a showbiz impresario extraordinaire'.

Mr Hussain, whose 'office' in Ilford, Essex - where for £400 a month, a receptionist can be hired to pass on calls and correspondence - has at least one major creditor. London law firm Carter Ruck (which gave Shilpa legal guidance) is seeking redress of about £10,000.

How did Shilpa, who is now worth millions, get involved with Farhath Hussain? In fact, Mr Hussain is said to be close to Shilpa's formidable mother

Sunanda, and therein perhaps lies the answer.

'She is 100 per cent running the whole show,' said someone close to the family. 'Shilpa has absolutely no say in anything. What Shilpa's mother says, goes. It doesn't matter what Shilpa's feelings are.'

This was apparent from the moment her daughter emerged from the Celebrity Big Brother house earlier this year, and signed a lucrative deal with a newspaper for her 'exclusive' story.

Shilpa and her mother were put up in a private rented mansion in Surrey. Mrs Shetty sat upstairs in the living room 'issuing orders', according to someone who was present. By Day Two of the 'buy-up', a housekeeper had to be hired to attend to her every whim.

'She wouldn't even pour herself a glass of water,' said the source. So what next for Shilpa? She has already met the Queen, and been feted by Tony Blair during a regal tour of the Commons. But as the rumours and accusations continue to swirl around her, it seems the unstoppable march of 'Saint Shilpa' is faltering to say the least.

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