Book Review: Shilpa - The Biography


By Joginder Tuteja, Bollywood Hungama News Network

- Did World War III break out in January 2007?
- Was there 'really' an issue which 'actually' brought the world together?
- Was staying with 13 odd housemates a challenge bigger than the worst of hostile situations?

Well, if author Julie Aspinall is to be believed then for Shilpa Shetty, it was nothing short of martyrdom to have survived in the most adverse of circumstances. No, Shilpa Shetty hasn't possibly made as much hue and cry about the difficulties she faced in 'Celebrity Big Brother 2007 (UK)' than Julie wants her readers to believe. And to make matters absolutely worse, most of her 275 odd page read concentrates on chronicling the events as they happened in the Big Brother House where a participant is not allowed to contact with the outside world. And to think of it, the book is titled 'Shilpa - The Biography'!

There is a limit to fooling the readers but Julie succeeds in doing much more than just taking them for a ride. Other than getting together an out and out desk-job which concludes mainly as a 'paper' being written than a 'true biography', she apparently doesn't have a contact with a single soul mentioned in the book. She doesn't seem to have talked to Shilpa or anyone else associated with the show or Bollywood. All she does is a thorough Google search, catch hold of some Big Brother clips, go through newspapers and voila, a book is ready to be made available on the stands. Gosh, how could the publishers agree!

The book (a shame to be called one!) seems to have got in place for just two purposes - a) Cash in on Shilpa's popularity post the Big Brother episode and b) Bounce the issue of racism all over again. Now it is the second purpose which is more disturbing since Julie brings up the 'R' word practically every 5th page, whether it is required or not. Shilpa is projected as being nothing short of being a martyr who wore a white dress and hat throughout and pardoned anyone and everyone who may have disturbed/disillusioned her at some point of time. Apart from the basic intent of the book which gives an evasive feel to the book, it is the content, narration and the flow which is an absolute downer. The book just doesn't appeal at all even though Julie tries to sensationalize all the episodes in spite of her repeated (though failed) attempts at coming up with spicy writing. She tells the story in a conversation format but there is no excitement or engagement that she is able to generate from her readers.

Majority of book is dedicated on how Shilpa 'survived' in the midst of so many 'evil people' around! Come on, if someone actually says that, he/she deserves to have a crash course on coming out of a cocoon and living a professional life. Bullying happens everywhere, in every profession, in every role that an individual plays. Ok, so in case of Shilpa she didn't have a way out for those 25 odd days that she was put up in the house but then that was a choice she made. And if Shilpa isn't crying from the rooftops about her 'so-called-harrowing' experiences then why does the author here seems to be overtly bothered about it and raking the issue again to tell the entire world? The way Julie goes about sensationalizing the entire turn of events makes one look the other way in disgust. The disgust by the way is not due to what happened to Shilpa but the way chapters unfold in this boring book, page after page.

Well, the author's research just doesn't end at taking a reader into the Big Brother house. She also goes through archives to know more about how Shilpa began her career more than a decade back and reached the stage where she is today. Well, since all the pages which followed were again courtesy Google, there isn't anything which a Bollywood follower or a Shilpa fan didn't know earlier. And if Julie's idea of spicing up her book is to include an age old comment from Shilpa - 'Akshay Kumar used me and conveniently dropped me after he found someone else' - then she needs to have had something better up her sleeves.

In fact numerous (picked up) Shilpa quotes which appear in the book are as bland/clichéd/predictable as they get. Picture a couple of these:

- "I think I am not someone who is against pre-marital sex but I am totally against someone who just has sex."

- Outer beauty is peripheral. I believe that it's the inner beauty that's most important. More than being called sexy, beautiful, glamorous, I would want to be remembered as a good human being. That's my take on beauty."

- And I'll never be allowed to go into my bedroom to be alone with a man. In fact I would never hold a boyfriend's hand in front of my dad."

Puhleeze, give us something better!

In fact, what brings some relief are quotes from people like Tanuja Chandra - "I don't think the issue demanded so much attention as to necessitate the intervention of big political personalities like Tony Blair. But the attention that Shilpa has got out of the show has certainly served the purpose of her participating in it." or Anil Dharker - "I think the racism stuff has been taken out of perspective. Shilpa has not gone to London to represent Indian in the United Nations. She is in a reality-TV show and that is it."

Yes, exactly my sentiments!

Towards the very end of the book, Julie goes on to even comment - "Ever since Diana's death in August, 1997, the world has been on the lookout for a beautiful, glamorous woman capable of showing great compassion, both to individuals and to a greater number of people in need. The world is badly in need of heroes and heroines, and if one, Diana, can be found in the unlikely reaches of the British aristocracy, then why should another not come from the Bollywood elite? He or she, who dares wins, and Shilpa has certainly dared a lot."

Now that's taking a little too far! In fact, why just little, a lot too far. And Shilpa's own publicist and spokesperson too would definitely agree. After he too would have never imagined that a PR drive could be taken so far!

Rating: *