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'We've many big names lined up for exposes'

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Last updated on: March 17, 2005 18:38 IST

Rajat SharmaShakti Kapoor changed from a reel-life villain to a real-life villain overnight when he was filmed soliciting sex from a journalist posing as an aspiring starlet.

The sting operation was aired on India TV on Sunday, March 13, and Kapoor has already faced much flak from the film industry.

India TV Editor-in-chief Rajat Sharma tells Subhash K Jha why he decided to expose Shakti.

It's being said you chose Shakti Kapoor to expose the existence of the casting couch in Bollywood because he is an easy target.

The casting couch existed for decades. We didn't. Ours is a fledgling channel.

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The film industry has refused to acknowledge it (the casting couch). They say, 'Girls come and offer themselves to producers.' Even now, the industry is not willing to face the truth about the casting couch. We have shown them the mirror. Now it is up to the industry to look at the image or break the mirror.

But the casting couch is a cliché. No one forces the newcomers. They do it willingly.

Maybe. And we are going to look into that. For us, Shakti Kapoor isn't the issue. We are aware of the relevance of the casting couch. We plan to expose them shortly. We've recorded many such encounters, and we will be using them by and by.

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The idea wasn't to make Shakti Kapoor a scapegoat. We just wanted to sound an alarm about the casting couch.

We are sorry if the expose has hurt his family. But it was Mr Kapoor's behaviour post the sting operation that was deeply offensive.

You know, he physically fought with our correspondents. Then he said sorry. He kept swearing at the girl. He threatened the producer and reporter. We decided to show what he was doing. And when he decided to hold a press conference, we were the only ones to telecast his lies.

Shakti KapoorWe at India TV completely dissociate ourselves from his delusional statements.

Our idea isn't to damn Bollywood. Lekin ek machli poori talaab ko ganda kar deti hai (but one fish dirties the entire pool).

The 'casting couch' is just a term. What concerns me is the exploitation of newcomers in the industry. Big stars like Aishwarya Rai, Preity Zinta and Rani Mukerji know how to handle themselves and have come up the hard way.

I am concerned about the thousands of girls from small towns who want to become Aishwarya Rai and don't know how to go about it.

Even the smallest of towns have beauty parlours promising to make girls Miss World and Miss Universe. They all feel if Priyanka Chopra from Bareilly can make it, why can't we?

These hapless girls are an easy target.

But stories like yours have shut the door to newcomers.

I don't agree. How can the film industry move forward without newcomers? I like what Hema Malini said about newcomers. She cautioned newcomers to never go unescorted to meet producers, never run away from home and to take the family into confidence. This was the note of caution we wanted to strike for female aspirants.

Two weeks ago you had done another sting operation showing a bunch of politicians fornicating in a hotel room with prostitutes. Is this to win TRPs for your fledgling channel?

Not at all! This kind of sleazy expose isn't our USP. What can we do if people notice them and not Swami Ramdev or Maneka Gandhi doing socially relevant programmes? We'd be very happy to have a viewership.

At the same time, when people say we are doing it for TRPs, I'm certainly not apologetic. If I don't work for the ratings of my channel, who will?

Everyone does exposes for TRPs. Everything on television is for that. India TV is not for my private viewing.

When we launched our channel, our slogan was Badle Bharat Ki Tasveer. We want to play a role in changing the face of India.

Whether it's a sadhu or star, we'll expose whoever is caught with their pants down.

The government says it wants to clamp down on explicit footage on news channels.

The government has been talking about this for long. But if viewers can watch Kanta laga and other sleazy videos, our exposes are relatively inoffensive.

But potbellied netas with prostitutes?

We were careful with the footage. What we showed wasn't even a fraction of what we shot. We have hours of footage. Sex in hotel rooms is a primary concern for us.

We've got to know that honeymooning couples in hill stations are shot secretly in hotels and then used for pornographic videos. Our reporters are working on the story.

What's your next level of expose on the film industry?

I can't reveal that on record. But we've recorded several exposes on the film industry.

We'll look at the casting couch from various angles including girls who throw themselves on producers.

In the fashion industry, we have those regular striptease sessions where male models are exploited by male fashion designers.

There is rampant sexual interaction in the entertainment business.

That's true. And we'll be exposing it.

India TV now has people's expectations to live up to. I know our exposes will caution our potential victims. But we have public support.

For the Shakti Kapoor story, we received 70,000 SMS messages in the first two days! Every minute there's an e-mail coming in.

The expose has made me more responsible towards the public. Our rival channels are already up to their old tricks, paying cable operators to blank out India TV. But we are fully geared up to face the challenge.

My biggest strength is my fearless team.

Do you feel sorry for Shakti Kapoor?

I would have been if he had been repentant.

I sympathise with his family. We didn't want to hurt his children.

But you can't make an omelet without breaking eggs. It's so sad.