Actor, producer and now a well-regarded health coach, Shilpa Shetty has been a part of the entertainment industry for more than two decades and might soon be making a comeback on the big screen. She speaks to Swati Singh about her early films, her long hiatus from acting, and her fitness mantra.
Q. Your acting career began with the massively successful film Baazigar, back in 1993. How did you get this role and how did that shape your career?
A. It was just by chance. I guess I was just destined to be an actor. I was 15, waiting for my SSC result, and I’d just got my portfolio done. Somebody happened to see it and I got a call from an agency. The rest is history.
Even before Baazigar had released, Ratan Jain, the producer of the film, signed me for a three-film deal. The first was Baazigar, the second was Main Khiladi Tu Anari  and the third was Dhadkan —all three turned out to be the biggest hits of my career.
Q. How do you look back on your time in Bollywood? You’ve now been around for more than two decades.
A. I look back with a lot of gratitude and I can’t believe I’ve nearly had a lifespan of 25 years in the film industry. That’s a long time and I just think that change is the only constant there. Back in the day, it [the industry] used to work only on personal relationships and was quite disorganised. But there was method to the madness. Over the years things have changed, with more corporate bodies coming in, and it has become far more organised.
Q. It has been quite a long time since you were last seen on the big screen. Do you miss that part of your life?
A. You miss it when you don’t get the love. I, fortunately, still get a lot of love, maybe because I still do a lot of work on the small screen, a lot of stuff on YouTube. My family is my priority, so acting did take a back seat out of choice. Schedules can be very erratic and that’s something I didn’t want as my child was growing up. Today he is six and I am reading scripts and I might decide to say yes or no, but that’s about it. This is my 25th year in the industry and I have not done a film for 8-9 years. People still have faith in me, through my work on the small screen or in the digital space. So I miss acting, but not the fact that I’m not on the big screen.
Q. If given a chance, what kind of script would you choose for your comeback project in Bollywood?
A. I think I have become too practical when it comes to scripts. My script sense has changed and that comes with time and experience.
It would have to be something I have not done before and the director has to be good, would have to offer me something that would tempt me. I am not interested in doing drama, there is enough drama happening in our lives. I want to do a funny film, a film that is entertaining and if possible, a film that can be shown to my son.
Q. Of all the roles you’ve done, which was the most challenging?
A. I think my most challenging part was the part of the protagonist in Phir Milenge, where I was playing the role of an HIV-positive woman. And Rishteywas complicated, too, as I had to practice a dialect. Also, Life in a Metro, in which I played the role of a wife who is unhappy in her marriage and nearly commits adultery—she still won sympathy from the audiences, and that was a great feat. Thanks to the director.
Q. You produced a film, entitled Dishkiyaoon,in 2014, but it did not do well at the box office. What do you want to say about that experience? Any other films you are planning to produce?
A. Something that looks good on paper doesn’t always translate well on the screen. We did our best as producers, and I believe we need to do good work. We have been doing TV shows and we are doing a lot of animation for kids. I am more interested in doing stuff for kids.
Q. You are a fitness idol to many. Do you follow a specific exercise regimen?
A. I’m a yogi. So, yoga is the reason I’m able to stay fit physically and mentally. That’s something I want to propagate. I want to play catalyst in terms of making more people aware of the benefits of yoga. So that is part of my regimen as well. And it’s not just about the pranayamsand asanas, but also about living the “yogi” life, about just keeping it simple. Other than that, I think after the age of 35 one loses muscle mass and bone density. So I do weight training and work on core-strengthening… Also important is the right food, discipline, a lifestyle modification and consistency in terms of fully maintaining my diet and making sure that I take out time to work out.
Q. For the last few years, you’ve been spearheading a health campaign of sorts, as a celebrity, but also as an author. Tell us about your 2015 book, The Great Indian Diet.
A. The Great Indian Diet came from my heart, not my mind. I knew Luke Coutinho [author and nutritionist] and was happy to collaborate with him on this book. I did it only to raise awareness and make people understand that it wasn’t hard to lose weight or to stay fit and well. I’m happy that people appreciated the book.
Q. Tell us about your association with Coach India for their new India-exclusive bag launch? What is your go-to accessory?
A. I had a great time launching the new India-exclusive bag by Coach. It’s a very versatile bag and I have really enjoyed using it. It makes a perfect gift for the festive season. It’s absolutely multi functional and the best part—both my mom and I can use it. It is gold, and it is versatile and it goes with all my outfits.
Q. Your new Amazon Prime Video exclusive,Hear Me Love Me, is now out. How did you decide to become a part of this show?
A. It’s a dating reality series and I really feel that the OTT platform caters to a different set of audiences. As you’re aware,Hear Me Love Meis meant for millennials. It’s built on a very different and unique concept. Hence, I decided to do the show.