Allegations that Shilpa Shetty is a home-breaker rocked India recently when an article appeared in the Mail on Sunday and the tabloid The News of the World on Sunday 22 July.
While the story died a natural death in the UK and the quotes were put down to a woman scorned who was seeking to blame anyone in the failure of her marriage, India's news channels were ablaze and curious with the story trying to get the full picture. Shilpa had just returned from a 21 day trip to London which was consistently delayed due to an increasing amount of commitments in the UK which included her appearance on prime time TV shows, launching the India Now initiative, meeting the Mayor of London and receiving an honourary doctorate. She returned to India excited about all that had happened and raring to begin rehearsals for the musical titled Miss Bollywood which aims to showcase the rhythm, vibe and soul of Indian cinema on an international stage. She was greeted with questions about the story which had just broken in the UK linking her to Raj Kundra and which contained an interview with his estranged ex wife who accused Shilpa of being the reason their marriage broke up.
When contacted, Shilpa said in response to the media storm that was brewing:
"I've just come back from a very productive trip to the UK where I launched the India Now initiative which promotes Indian culture in London, aims to strengthen the ties between the countries and celebrates our contribution to London's multiculturalism. I also met the Mayor of London, laid some groundwork for the musical and was honoured with a doctorate by Leeds University. My perfume was released and reached the top 3 perfumes in the UK."
"Apart from this I've done some press and TV appearances in between business meetings and had a fantastic and positive trip, which leads me to only say I am disappointed yet again that when I go overseas and promote my country, my heritage and am seen as an ambassador of sorts for Indians abroad that our own press focus on speculations and rumours trying to turn a high trip into a low point fuelled by gossip. I'm not going to react to any false accusations, simply say I'm disappointed that of all the good I'm trying to do only negative things are being reported and fabricated."
"Lets not give the world a reason to point its fingers at our press and say India eats its own, and instead be proud of what every Indian is achieving wherever they are in the world because we are all ambassadors of our country. I love home and I've missed it after a much prolonged but worthwhile trip. I hope I don't have to come back to such negativity every time I go overseas and shout about how great my country is."
Yesterday, Raj Kundra, the perfume licensor at the centre of the allegations refuted his ex-wife's claims and set the record straight in his own press statement and apology to Shilpa's family, which said, "I would like to make a statement following the recent barrage of misinformation provided to press from my ex-wife, Kavita Kundra.
My wife and I separated nine months ago and filed for divorce four months ago; we had agreed a mutual divorce. The reasons for the divorce are too personal for me to discuss and it would bring down my ex wife and I do not wish to stoop down to her level as it's very degrading. At this time I had no association with Shilpa Shetty whatsoever.
I was introduced to Shilpa three months ago by her manager Mr Farhath Hussain with a proposal to launch a perfume with her. This began my professional association with her. My wife has made an accusation that Shilpa was the reason my marriage broke up which is untrue as I had no association with Shilpa at the time of our separation. My association with Shilpa is purely professional and over the past few months we have become good friends."
Reports followed of Shilpa's publicist Max Clifford dumping her in some newspapers and of her agent Farhath Hussain having financial problems in another. Today, in the last few minutes, Shilpa Shetty made the following statement:
"After having been the subject of unwarranted media speculation in the past 48 hours, I feel the need to express my absolute shock at the way there is negative publicity generating in the papers and television media from someone called Kavita Kundra, who seems to be latching onto my name with baseless allegations against me of ruining her marriage."
"For someone I have never met or heard of to make such a public attempt to tarnish my name is inexcusable, uncalled for and I would like to respond and make a clarification ONCE and for all:
I do know who Raj Kundra is as he was introduced to me three months ago regarding the perfume as he is a business associate of Farhat Hussain, who is handling some of my work. I met with Raj in the capacity of the perfume deal and we have had discussions and meetings regarding finalising the perfume S2 which released in stores earlier this month."
"As I have had an active involvement in every aspect of the perfume we have had numerous interactions which culminated in a perfume launch for the press and another for the public which involved visiting perfume stores in the UK around the launch to promote the new fragrance. As a result of this we would obviously have been seen together in stores when the perfume was being launched."
"Raj has handled the perfume launch very well, worked hard on it and is not only a part of my team, but we are also now friends, which by no angle is a crime in any part of the world. If I was linked to every friend I had I would have no friends left. From what I have read and heard in all press including radio, television and even on the news (as if there aren't more important actual news stories to report) Kavita Kundra has accused me of being the reason her marriage fell apart to which Raj issued a statement and public apology for the way his ex-wife was attacking me."
"My understanding is that Raj and Kavita's marriage was over a year ago and they have filed for divorce and have been living separately for over a year. I met Raj Kundra 3 months ago in a business capacity, so where the question of me breaking up her marriage arises. This is impossible as I have known him for 12 weeks. I am disgusted by her reported comments and completely refute the allegation."
"On another note, some Indian TV media also reported a statement from a man who supposedly knew Raj and Kavita who claimed to have introduced them who categorically stated their marriage was over due to other reasons, and the reason he cited was her cheating on her husband."
"I feel for her if she is going through some frustrations in life but refuse to STAND for her using my name to vent these frustrations or to gain her marriage or break up any mileage, as my culture and upbringing does not permit me to break marriages and I am the least interested in knowing or hearing anymore about her. If she continues to TARNISH my name out of any insecurity or otherwise, I will consider taking legal action as I see no reason why my name is being dragged into this mess."
"As for the reports about me being "dumped" by Max Clifford, I just want to say I have respect for Max and all he has achieved and while we worked together recently, it was good while we were together and as Max himself has stated our 6 month term was over and we parted ways mutually so there is no question of being dumped! When a contract ends, it ends, it's not one party disowning the other."
"I am not a resident of London and had to come back to India to complete pending assignments which included METRO and APNE both of which have been publicly and critically acclaimed. I have been very busy working hard 15-18 hours a day which may have not made me as accessible as I needed to be after winning Celebrity Big Brother, but I could not leave my producers or anyone I had made a commitment to, or let them down just because I won a reality show in the UK."
"As far as my agent Farhat Hussain is concerned and the report of him not paying up his bills, I am led to believe there were some discrepancies which are being sorted out. As a result of all these recent potshots at me and attempted maligning of my image, it is very evident there is some vested interest from people who are seriously trying to damage my image but my conscience is clear and those who have taken this very hectic journey with me recently know how hard I have worked. My family and friends know me and know the truth and my well wishers are the reason I keep going despite having to answer wild accusations from irresponsible quarters which exhausts me. And with that comes a plea to the press to not give rumours the importance they are given because the world is too fragile for there to be so many hurtful untruths."
"I really have nothing more to say except I work hard every day to make my family and supporters proud, and I know the people will continue to have faith in me as they know the person I am. Thank you."
With a story that dominated the airwaves for the past few days, the final word has come from Shilpa herself sending a clear signal that anyone wishing to make allegations against her should not be given importance without an investigation of the facts. Her perfume is riding high in the UK occupying the number 3 position and with talk of her being invited to visit the White House later this year, it seems Shilpa's journey is far from over.
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