Bollywood has little time for Shakti Kapoor...

By Subhash K. Jha, IANS

imageMumbai, March 14 (IANS) "Who but an out-of-attention TV channel would take Shakti Kapoor seriously? This wasn't a sting operation. It was a stink operation," laughed a young actor after Shakti was caught on camera propositioning a woman wanting to become an actress.

The Bollywood villain is in the news for all the wrong reasons. In what looks like a showbiz version of the Tehelka exposés, Rajat Sharma's India TV channel decided to take its TRPs ahead by planting a young female journalist as a moll in Shakti Kapoor's libidinous existence.

Apparently the girl was on the job for months.

"Therefore, when Kapoor says he was framed he isn't totally of line. He was lured into the lair, so to speak. We clearly get to hear in the videotape that the so-called victim of the casting couch and Kapoor had been in touch for sometime. We clearly get to hear him suggest that he massage her if he's tired, and vice versa. So what did she expect when she met him alone in the hotel room?" reasons a star who had a run-in with Shakti some time ago.

Adds a flabbergasted director: "Everyone knows what Shakti Kapoor is all about. He's a bit of a cruel joke in the industry. Which girl in her right mind would go to Shakti Kapoor for help for her career? And if she did, did she really expect it to be an innocent business meeting? Such incidents bring a bad name to our film industry. No one denies the existence of the casting couch.

"And if the channel wants people to be shocked by the mention of sexual favours then they live in a bubble. Girls do offer favours in return for roles. But no producer director or actor forces them. Even Shakti is clearly not forcing himself on the girl. He's propositioning her. That is technically not a crime."

A leading lady is less lenient. "Shakti Kapoor has just sealed his death warrant in the film industry. By talking so loosely about prominent actresses, not to mention a respected and deceased producer like Yash Johar, just to convince the girl in the video to sleep with him, he has antagonised the whole industry."

The feeling of disgust against Shakti is all prevalent.

Whereas there was a great deal of sympathy for Madhur Bhandarkar when he was accused of rape last year, and earlier this year when journalist Komal Nahata was accused of misbehaving with a maid in a hotel in Dubai, there seems to be little patience or sympathy for Shakti. One senior actress describes as a "perennial lech.. .what has happened to him is just what he deserves. Unfortunately his conduct will now be seen as a barometer of Bollywood's sexual mores."

Most opinions in Bollywood do not favour Shakti Kapoor. But they don't seem to empathise with the news channel either. The industry by and large feels India TV manipulated the whole episode to boost their TRP ratings.

"No harm in that. But at what cost? And should the lechery of one man be seen as representative of the way Bollywood functions?" argues an actress.