>Bollywood Star Caught Up in Casting Couch Scandal

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A leading Bollywood actor was embroiled in a sex scandal last night after being filmed apparently offering to promote the career of an aspiring actress if she slept with him.

An Indian television station broadcast footage of Shakti Kapoor, famous for playing movie villains, in a Mumbai hotel room propositioning an undercover reporter who was posing as the actress. Kapoor was also filmed naming Bollywood stars who he claimed had slept their way to success.

In the video clip, the actor said: “I want to make love to you … and if you want to come in this line [of business] you have to do what I am telling [you] to do.”

Kapoor has accused the television channel behind the sting of setting him up and denied any wrongdoing.

Bollywood, the Mumbai-based Hindu film industry, reacted to the scandal with a mix of faux outrage and weary resignation. While some demanded a boycott of Kapoor, others suggested his behaviour was commonplace in the Indian film industry.

Kapoor certainly seems to think so – in the video clip he names three leading actresses and claims they have had sex with top producers and directors to clinch roles. “So you have to do it just once,” he told the undercover reporter.

Mahesh Bhatt, a producer, described sex for screen-time as “Bollywood’s best-known secret” and suggested Kapoor should be fined for his actions.

“The rot is within us,” he said. “The casting couch is a reality. It is a power thing, to which vulnerable girls who want to join the industry fall prey.”

But Kapoor, who has performed in more than 300 films and is best known for his portrayal of villains, insisted he had neither solicited sex nor made allegations against other celebrities.

He said the video had been tampered with by India television and threatened to sue the channel.

“The tapes have been doctored,” he said after the first clips were broadcast. “I never touched her.”

The woman had pestered him for months for a film role and he only went to the hotel to meet her when she threatened to commit suicide, he said.

Despite his denial, India’s Film and Television Producers’ Guild urged its members to boycott Kapoor.

“Kapoor has been completely irresponsible in his behaviour and utterances and must publicly apologise to all those whom he has insulted and slandered,” it said in a statement.

“The guild is advising its members not to engage Shakti Kapoor in any work in any of their productions.”

Preity Zinta, a leading actress who was one of those named by Kapoor, said: “The comment is made in very poor taste. He is truly a real-life villain and deserves to be banned from our film industry.”

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