Will the real Borat please stand up?


LONDON -- Turkish Internet celebrity Mahir Cagri is in London to press his case that he is the inspiration for the spoof Kazakh journalist, the creation of British comedian Sacha Baron Cohen whose Borat movie is taking the world's box office by storm.

The 44-year-old's Web site, with its "I Kiss You!!!!!" greeting, made him an unlikely Internet hero seven years ago.

Web surfers were hooked by Cagri's larger-than-life persona, cheesy holiday snaps and prominent nose and mustache.

"I like to take foto-camera (amimals, towns, nice nude models and peoples)," his site explains in less than perfect English, giving his personal details as: "My tall 1.84 cm (6.2 feet) My weight 78 kg. My eyes green. I live alone!"

In an interview on Thursday, Cagri appeared and sounded uncannily like the fictitious Borat, the mustachioed man from Kazakhstan who offended people there by saying that they kept women in cages and drank fermented horse urine.

Interviewers could be forgiven for thinking they were being led into the kind of comic set-up that Cohen engineers.

After seeing the Borat film, Cagri now worries people who watch it might think he is like the on-screen character, who mocks Kazakhstan, indulges in naked wrestling and makes jokes at the expense of Jews on a raucous trip across the United States.

"If you (see) this, what you think about me?" he told Reuters in broken English. "Mahir is a very bad comedian, Mahir is a homosexual, Mahir may be say the bad things about Jewish people? This is very bad."

Cagri set up his Internet page (www.ikissyou.org) in the late 1990s to make new friends and possibly find a partner.

At first he was taken aback by the sensation caused by the page, featuring photographs of him in skimpy swimwear on a beach, surrounded by young women and playing table tennis.

Computer billionaire Bill Gates was reportedly among his fans, and he embarked on a world tour on the strength of his sudden popularity appearing on chat shows and in commercials.

"I am a normal man. I never dreamed I would be famous, I would go to America. Suddenly I am famous. All people know me. All famous people know me too."

Now he is seeking publicity in the wake of Cohen, whose Borat film opened at the top of the U.S. charts earlier this month, taking an impressive $26.4 million in its first weekend.

"The world's media writes that Borat imitates and copies Mahir. He copies me, and he imitates me in a bad way," he said, adding that he is even considering legal action against Cohen.

Cohen was not immediately available for comment, but has said Borat was influenced by a doctor he met in southern Russia.

Cagri plans to make his own movie to show the "real Mahir".

Meanwhile, as his Web site says, he is open to offers.

"Who is want to come TURKEY I can invitate ... She can stay my home."