I slept late last night. My mother called me to say, 'So ja beta, nahin toh Ruchi (the undercover journalist) aa jayegi!'"
|COMIC TIMING: Salman Khan at a press conference at Mehboob Studios yesterday, in support of Aman Verma|
More than a dozen film denizens met to address a press conference at Bandra's Mehboob Studio yesterday in support of actor Aman Verma, who was caught on TV channel India TV's tape, making advances at an undercover starlet.
While they endlessly garbled on the "attack on the film industry," "the need for solidarity", "the channel should be boycotted"…., Salman Khan spoke the last (stood out the most) and began his monologue parodying his father's line from Sholay.
While many had anticipated Khan to lose his cool, as he is prone to, especially when interacting with journalists, the actor remained calm and composed in defense of actor Verma, with the argument, "Aman is a 32-year-old bachelor, he's allowed to do whatever he wants. If he has a girlfriend, then it's his domestic matter.
If Shakti (Kapoor) has a wife, it's his domestic matter. I am glad that his parents have stuck by him. We live in a city where kids have to commit suicide if they fail the Board exams."
|The different moods of Aman Verma — with Salman Khan|
In his anglicised accent, the actor rattled off, "What did he do anyway? Did he rape her? Did he unzip himself? Remove his shirt…?"
Given Govinda's eternally bumbling blather on how big names in Bollywood get treated like animals, Khan came across unexpectedly studied and sensible. In a direct reference to "what's his name? (Suhaib) Ilyasi (the producer of the sting-operation)," Khan said, "He has a case going on against him in the courts.
And what kind of a man would send a lone girl to hang out inside a bolted door with the world's worst villain, which is Shakti Kapoor's screen image?
What kind of a man would send the girl to the 'worst son', that is Aman Verma's screen image from Baghban? And what kind of a job does the reporter do? If you get a job like that, how excited would you be to tell your parents that I've been hired by a news channel to seduce Shakti Kapoor? "
Verma, of course, ducked the question on how he had been through the casting couch himself — which he admitted to on India TV's hidden camera.
The television host's constant repartee was, "The tape is doctored. They didn't show you how the girl was dressed. The clip starts with me saying, 'Karisma Kapoor, yes.'
What they didn't show you was the girl asking me, 'Do I look like Karisma Kapoor?' And I merely said yes. The tape shows me saying sorry. But they never show me in the shot. It's not me at all. In any case, did I even get up from my seat?"
The meet ended abruptly when Verma was asked to come clean on why he insisted upon the decoy starlet staying over in the city at night, if he intended a platonic, professional tete-a-tete with her.
|Aman crumbling under the heat of the media glare |
The casting couch is a reality in show business, just as it is in all professions. This was the reasoning belted out at the press conference, which included producers Pehlaj Nihalani and Suneel Darshan, directors Raj Kanwar and Ravi Chopra, and actor Arbaaz Khan.
However, the show-stopper Salman repeatedly maintained, "In my 15 years (of being in the movie industry), I have never come across any such thing as the casting couch. I've only heard of it."
Is Shatrughan Sinha hushing up the sting operation?
The press meet in "aid" of Aman Verma yesterday also turned out to be a plea to "ban India TV," the channel that has aired tapes of actors Shakti Kapoor and Verma making suggestive remarks to an undercover reporter on hidden camera.
Since the footage has already been broadcast, the demand to shun the channel now relates to 13 other personalities who have been caught in a similar mode. The roster of who to expect next on the spy-cam footage has not been officially revealed by the channel.
But there is a move to ensure that the TV station desists from airing the remaining episodes of the supposed sting operation.
Pehlaj Nihalani, president, AMPTPP, a prominent producers' union, said yesterday, "Shatrughan Sinha has spoken to the channel on behalf of the film industry."
While Nihalani denied being one of the 13 who have been caught on camera, others who vehemently asked for a ban on the channel were producer Vashu Bhagnani and director Raj Kanwar.
"Suhaib Ilyasi (producer of the sting episodes) and Rajat Sharma (head, India TV) should be arrested," said Bhagnani.
Both Sharma and actor-politician Sinha were unavailable for comment.