Taking to the web

Another feather

Shilpa Shetty

It’s been 25 years since she made her first appearance in a brief role she did in the blockbuster Baazigar. And, Shilpa Shetty has been a multi-facted survivor in a field that has become increasingly competitive since then. Truth be told, she never had as big a hit again, though she made her presence felt in films like Main Khiladi Tu Anari, Jaanwar, Dhadkan, Dus, Apne, Life In A…Metro and above all in Phir Milenge, a film that dealt with the issue of AIDS.

After 2007’s Apne, she only did cameos, in Shah Rukh Khan’s Om Shanti Om, in Karan Johar’s Dostana, and in her own misfired production Dishkiyaaoon in 2014. She also did a few regional films and a stage show with Mani Ratnam.

After winning UK’s Celebrity Big Brother (the original on which Bigg Boss is based) 11 years ago, she married tycoon Raj Kundra in 2009, with whom she owns an Indian Premier League (IPL) cricket team, Rajasthan Royals. She soon became a global figure, She began endorsing noble causes like PETA, writing books and making DVDs on health, nutrition and yoga, judging television shows and so on.

There is also a documentary based on her life, it’s called The Real Shilpa Shetty, which was produced and directed by Mariam Knowles after she won the reality show Big Brother.

Shilpa now adds another feather to her cap — she turns host of a reality show on the web, Hear Me. Love Me. Cheerfully, she reprimands us for not having watched any episode of her show. Righteously, we say that we have watched the promo, and she makes a mock-grumpy face and settles on the settee.

So it begins

She looks just a week or so older than in Baazigar, we tell her, and she bristles. “I am going to take that personally,” she remonstrates, looking at us with dagger eyes. “That’s not something to tell a lady. I am looking younger than in that film. As it is, you have not watched my show yet, and you are commenting on how I am looking older — that’s not fair.”

And that’s Shilpa all over — bubbly, zingy and warm-natured. On a serious note, she says that the digital medium is important and powerful, especially because the youth appreciates the wide variety they get to choose from, and which they can watch at their convenience. “That is why someone who enjoys reality television will love a reality dating show. And that is why I chose that for my first foray into this world, rather than doing a web series.”

Still, does she think she was signed because she looks younger than in her first film? Coolly, she replies, “The show is produced by Fremantle, with whom I have worked in the past. Being a host is not easy. I think that for me, it is easier to play myself than do characters. You have to be real, think on the spur of the moment and keep saying interesting things.”

We persist and ask her the secret of her fitness. ‘‘Age is just a mental thing,” she replies. “You start to age only when you begin to lack enthusiasm. I enjoy, give my 100% and live for every moment. That keeps me alive, keeps me young and going and wanting to do better. I am very proud of my age and will be even more as time goes on. I want to feel young and keep enjoying even when I am 60.”

Why has she not done films now for so long? “Frankly, the roles I got were not interesting, or very different from what I did in the past. An artiste wants to entertain, and someone like me loves doing different things like in Jhalak Dikkhlaa Jaa, Super Dancer, or this web show. Also, for many years, my priority was my son. My thinking is purely middle-class and I am always very clear about what I should do at every point in life. I was not prepared to spend 30 days shooting and missing my child (Viaan). The work I was doing was almost always when he was away at school. Now he is six, and I am reading a few interesting scripts.”

Coming to this show, as a middle-class Indian she says she is, how does she look at blind dating, which is what the show is about? “It was always there, so only those caught in a time-warp can be in denial of it. Our show is safer than the many dating apps, where you know nothing about the boy. Here, we have done the basic research and offer a girl three choices. Dating is not about wanting to marry, though some people do end up finding that special someone.”

With 11 years into marriage to her special someone, how does she feel about expectations from a spouse, matching attributes and differences of opinions?

“Interesting question, that,” she replies. “I am too practical, and sadly, all are not like me. Raj suits me, and while the world may not perceive me — or him — that way, no one’s perfect. He may not have every quality I may have dreamt of, but has many more I never thought of. I think what one should be clear is about what one cannot live without. Like Raj was clear that he wanted to marry me, and he decided to buy a house here, and begin a business from here and travel from Mumbai instead of from London, when I was clear that I would not want to move out of Mumbai. This soul connection is something that no third person can know, and we must always go by our gut instinct as it is 99.9% correct.”

Date recall

She goes on, “Yes, certain basics should match: like when I was sent on my first blind date 17 years ago by my friend, let me tell you that it did not end well at all, because nothing matched, starting with the height.” She chuckles, “But again, we can’t have the same opinion about everything. And, I am happy Raj and I have differences of opinion on many things — imagine, life would be so boring if we agreed on everything.”

She feels, in this context, that there is an impatience in the younger generation that they would do well to control. “It is always better to be a little old-school in this matter, and that’s my advice to all. You must wait for a connection to happen. Today, they are used to too many things that are ‘Insta’ and instant, from food to people. I think you should let a man do his job and chase you — these basics will never get dated,” she smiles. “This generation’s life is out in the open because of the social media. We were more guarded. They have too much knowledge, too many options, and thus heightened fear and, finally, confusion. Perhaps, they must take a leaf from us and learn from our mistakes.’’

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Taking to the web

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