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April 4, 1997


Everything's a hoot for her. Shilpa Shetty has this problem being serious. And it shows. But just let the conversation drift close to her career or her family, and she's as solemn as a cortege.

She is quick to admit she has shown all the histrionic ability of a hot water bag till now, but then, she points out, she is young and has time to show off her tricks. Still, it is odd that despite her drop-dead looks and the kind of curves that would make Euclid rewrite the rules of geometry, she still isn't getting ahead.And it's star positioning we are discussing, not acting. But Shilpa isn't worried; she is confident that she will make it -- eventually. A tad complacent, don't you think?

She says she would like to continue acting for another six years at least, if audience can stand her that long. Excerpts from a tete-a-tete with Sharmila Taliculam.

Why have you been keeping a low-profile lately?

I was never high-profile. But yes, I am not in the news really.

Last year, you didn't have any releases.

I don't know. It just happened. The shooting schedules went haywire. My co-stars were busy, so their dates could not be co-ordinated with mine. Also, there were some health problems, first with them and then with me. So the shooting got extended and the films that were supposed to release last year got postponed to this year. Then again, I don't do more than five films a year. But wait and watch, this year there are quite a few.

Why do you do a limited number of films?

I don't want to do a lot of films. It's not that I am uncomfortable doing them, but I want to have fun while working. I am serious about what I am doing, but I hate tensions of any kind. I am satisfied with the amount of work I have. I won't say they are the best, but they are not the worst either.

But could this not result in a case of out of sight, out of mind?

No, I don't think so. You just need one good film to come back and make a impression. If you are good, you are good, but if you are bad, you are bad. You have 10,000 films and you are bad in every film, then it's not going to keep you in the minds of anybody. Aamir does only one film a year, and look at him. I have not yet reached Aamir's standard, got a long way to go. But I like a comfortable life and prefer to be like this.

I feel I am growing every day as an artiste and don't want to hurry up with my work. I don't want to do crazy shifts. Like shoot at 7 am, then at 2 pm and then at 6 pm. I would rather do one shift which gets over at six in the evening and then relax.

How many shifts do you do now?

Fortunately, only one. Which gets over by a decent time. Unless, there is a film to be completed, or there is a set standing or some such problem, I stick to this routine.

Most of your films have you dancing and generally having fun. None of your films require you to emote. Have you consciously kept away from such roles?

No, not at all. I think people want to see me in glamorous roles. But I am doing films where I am performing emotional scenes. I don't want to be typecast. Everybody should know me as an all rounder. It will take me sometime to do that. I will change over very soon.

To what?

To being taken more seriously as an actress.

So you feel you are not being taken seriously as an actress?

It's not like that. No one who has seen my films has said I am a bad actress. Yes, I am glamorous. But that also includes the fact that I am an actress. I would like to be known as a good actress first and then glamorous. Unfortunately, I have yet to get roles which will prove this to the people. The potential in the roles that I have got until now has not been tapped properly. I tried my best with whatever I have had. In Aao Pyar Karen, I had a very good role with a lot of drama and emotion, but it flopped. So my acting wasn't noticed.

Baazigar is the only film that helped your cause. What happened to the rest?

My role was good (in Baazigar) but it wasn't the only film which I benefited from. All my films were good and I benefited from every one of them. Even Main Khiladi Tu Anari. I benefited from the song.

Are you planning your career so that you get better roles?

I have not thought of planning at all. I will work hard, the rest I will leave to God. You plan something, and everything goes wrong. What do you do then? You can't plan anything here. Expect the unexpected is what I believe. Because when your expectations are not met, it's disappointing.

And have you been disappointed many times?

Yes, I have. You plan to have about three releases in one year and then there are problems like date problems, people not turning up at the scheduled time and there are no releases. It's like, "Oh shucks! I am out of the news". So when things have to happen, they just happen. Nobody can do anything about it. Not even planning.

Why don't you do more films so that you strike a balance somewhere?

If they are good films, then I don't mind accepting them. I won't sign any Tom, Dick or Harry's film. It's not that I am not getting offers. I get at least 25 offers a day. But I am not happy with them. So out of 20 good films, I prefer to do about eight.

How long will this continue?

I don't know. Nothing's planned. But I love this place. I love working here. I intend to be here at least for another six or seven years depending upon how I go on. The day I feel I don't want to be here, I will be out. I want to be proud of myself and have the industry feel the same of me. That's my only aim.

Did you always want to be an actress?

Never. I didn't even think on those lines. It was very unexpected. Funny to say this, but I have never considered myself to be beautiful. I didn't have the face to be an actress. The metamorphosis of Shilpa Shetty was slow and steady. See my first film and see me today. There's a vast difference. I have changed so much. Physically, mentally. At that point of time, I was a college-going girl and never thought that I could ever be in films.There's name, fame, glamour. It's only when you enter this industry, you realise that there's hard work too.

It's by chance that I was modelling and I got this offer. I accepted it and I loved it. I was warned that this profession was not a nice one to be in, but believe me, that's not true at all. It's just the way you are. You are good or bad here or in any other profession. Frankly, I wasn't serious about my career during Baazigar. But afterwards, I liked it when people recognised me and mobbed me on the roads, saw a photograph in the magazine. I hate the yellow journalism that goes with it though. So it sort of grew on me and now I am very serious about acting.

How did Baazigar come about?

I was signed for Gaata Rahen Mera Dil. There was a person called Amrit Patel who recommended me to Abbasbhai and Mastaanbhai. I met them at Venus and the first thing they asked me was how many films I was doing. I told them and they asked me not to do too many films as this was their first film as directors. That was that. I was signed and the rest is history.

Do you feel the pressure of working on so many characters at the same time?

The pressure's not that. When you work so hard at a role and you are not appreciated, that's pressure. While you are enacting a character, you are enjoying it. Because it is enjoyable to do so many characters. That's what you are here for and paid for. But appreciation matters. When that is not forthcoming, you start feeling very frustrated and helpless.

You are working towards being a serious actress and then you are accepted as just the opposite, then I become very hyper. What more can I do to convince the audience? I don't know.

How do you cope with these pressures?

It dies down. Automatically. I feel pressurised for two days, nobody pays attention and it disappears. My mother knows that so well. I show how I feel. People ignore me and I am like "well, no attention here" so I forget about it. It's nice actually, because then I start working harder. You learn to cope with such things.

Why do you say that you are not pretty? You say this all the time.

I have a personality, people tell me that, but I am not conventionally beautiful. You don't have to be beautiful to be an actress. It's the presence that is important. You can be the most beautiful person on this earth, but if the audience doesn't like you, that's it. Fortunately, the audience likes me and finds my screen presence good, so I am still here. In Baazigar, people empathised with the character.

It was thrilling to see myself on the screen and knowing that people expected me to get up after being thrown down. I had gone to see the film in the theatre and people seeing sitting in front of me said, "Abhi uthengi" (She will get up now). I was delighted to know that they liked me.

You spoke of yellow journalism. How did you cope with that?

Just let it be. I am quite used to it. Professional hazards. Frankly, I am surprised if somebody writes good about me. I start worrying because I know the next time it's going to be bad. It used to hurt and upset me in the beginning. It still upsets me if my parents are unnecessarily dragged into this yellow journalism.

I don't think it's in good taste. The only time I really regretted getting into this industry is when these few articles maligning my parents were published. It was not true at all. I am a very straightforward and a frank person. So I ignore such things.

Why do you imitate Sridevi so much? You make a lot of faces just like she does.

You think so? Believe me, it's not intentional. Even if I do, I don't think I am a patch on her. I can't even come close to her. She is a very senior artiste and I respect her a lot. Where making faces is concerned, then I do it even when I am not acting. It's very natural for me to do so. In Baazigar, in the song Kitabe bahut si padhi hongi tumne, I made a lot of faces and that was because Sarojji asked me to do so or she wouldn't okay the shot. But I consider it a compliment that my facial expressions are compared to Sridevi. I am a great fan of hers.

Do you prepare a lot for a role? Or do you just go to the sets, read the script and act?

See, where dancing is concerned, preparation is not necessary. I do work on my clothes, and the looks according to the role. But if it is a role which require a lot of emotion, then preparation is necessary. Dialogues, I go on the sets and prepare.

How ambitious are you? Don't you want to be Heroine No 1?

What is No 1? One Friday your film is a hit and you are on the top. But the next week there's a flop, you are down again. You don't know who's on the top and who's not. I would love it if somebody says, "She's good, man!" I just want that much. I don't want to be No 1 or 2. It doesn't matter. I want to be known as a good actress.

When do you plan to marry?

As I said earlier, I don't plan anything and that included marriage. But the day I find somebody who I like, I will definitely marry and settle down. It's not likely to happen right now because my priorities are different today. I have to reach a position first and then I will move on.

Do you have friends from the industry?

All my costars are my friends. It's just that we don't keep in touch with each other. Everybody is so busy with their lives that it's a bit difficult. I share a very good rapport with everyone and when I am shooting with somebody, I am quite friendly with them. But after the shoot is over, we go our ways. It's a mutual relationship. Here you just can't call up anybody and say that you want to chat. It's not done. Outside the industry, I have just one friend and she has shifted to Bangalore. That's it. It's just my family and me otherwise. You can't have many friends here.


It's a different line, and people are different. You have to think a lot before making your set of friends.

Is it because they are your professional rivals?

No, that is not the reason. I am not all that ambitious and I don't believe in this rivalry. I am not half of what the press has made me out to be. All the girls I worked with, I am good friends with all of them. Meaning that when we are on the sets, we are very cordial to each other. We don't yak and chatter all the time, or I go and play pranks or pull their hair. I would never do something like that. We are more professional. We may not be the best of friends, but we are not enemies either. I don't socialise, so once the film is over, we are out of touch.

So why do you think the press has been targeting you?

I don't know. I just choose to ignore these things. How much more can they write these things? After a point of time they will get bored. I think they already are. Maybe that's why I haven't been in the news.