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Indian TV Channel Finds Little Appetite for the Naked Truth

"These are the basic facts of life. This is what people do in the industry," a shocked Varma tells the camera. "In a way, I am trying to scare her off." Later he is shown breaking down and falling at the feet of the producer.

The next day, some of Bollywood's biggest stars and filmmakers turned up to support Varma and accused the channel of resorting to cheap gimmicks to boost ratings.


Filmed with a hidden camera, Indian actor Shakti Kapoor reportedly propositioned a journalist who posed as an aspiring movie actress. (Courtesy Of India TV)

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"He is a 32-year-old bachelor, and if lured by a girl, obviously he will get trapped," Salman Khan, a leading male star, said in Varma's defense. "In my 15-year film career, I have never heard of anything such as a casting couch."

Another star suggested that maybe Varma had wanted to marry the undercover journalist.

"Bollywood's widest-known family secret is out in the public glare now," said Mahesh Bhatt, a filmmaker. "Instead of beating the messenger, the industry must lock eyes with the truth. But unfortunately it is like selling mirrors in the land of the blind."

The first of the sex sting series showed blurred images of three Hindu holy men from a sect in the state of Gujarat, said to be having sex with female devotees who had come to them for advice on problems of infertility. The channel claimed that the women were put in a trance by the men before the act.

The Ministry of Information and Broadcasting has criticized the channel for showing blurry images of politicians from the state of Bihar having sex with call girls, who were allegedly sent by businessmen in return for political favors. The ministry said the footage "offended good taste and decency" and "was obscene and likely to corrupt public morality and was not suited for unrestricted public exhibition."

Sharma said he did not worry about the opinions of fellow journalists. He said his mission was to warn the thousands of young women from small towns across India who arrive in Bombay with Bollywood dreams.

Sharma said he had been getting some grateful messages from the wives of movie stars and filmmakers. "I have got several text messages on my cell phone saying things like 'Thanks to India TV, my husband comes home on time now,' " he said.


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