Shamita Shetty made her Hindi cinema debut with the Yash Raj blockbuster, Mohabbatein. A few more films later, she decided to take a breather from Bollywood to pursue a full-time career in interior design. Now, having recently done a string of reality shows, a web series and an international film, she is making a comeback to the world of entertainment, her first calling. She speaks to Rishita Roy Chowdhury.
Q. Did you always aspire to become a part of the Hindi film industry?
A. I never aspired to be an actor. I was an awkward child. Very shy, a complete introvert. I always thought I would join my father’s business. But at that time, I was doing fashion designing and an internship with Manish Malhotra. He would always tell me that I was in the wrong profession and that I should be an actor. So acting happened for me gradually, because my sister also was a part of the industry by then. We knew everyone. Manish recommended me for Aditya Chopra’s film, Mohabbatein, and I went for the screen test. I got the part. That’s where my journey in the industry began.
Q. You acted in a few films and then decided to take a break. Was that a conscious decision?
A. I wasn’t happy with the kind of work that was being offered to me in the film industry. It was not a conscious break that I took, to be honest. I truly believe that if you are doing anything in your life, you should be happy doing it. It’s your precious time that you are devoting to something.
Having started off with the best, i.e. Yash Raj Films, I didn’t just want to settle for average projects because I wanted to be seen in the industry. Unfortunately, the way the film industry works is, “out of sight is out of mind”. That’s probably what I went through. I started saying “no” so much that people probably thought that I was not interested in doing films. Actually, I was looking for something better to come my way. For a creative person, it’s very frustrating to sit at home and not be able to express their creativity.
Q. In the middle of your film career, you studied interior design and went on to take it up professionally. Were you always this passionate about design?
A. Interior design just came into my life, and it was like a breath of fresh air. At the time when I wasn’t doing any other work, I did the interiors of a nightclub, Royalty, in Mumbai. My brother-in-law was its part owner. I did not have any technical knowledge about designing, but I realised how much I loved the process and I wanted to know more and develop a proper understanding of the subject. That’s also why I decided to take a break [from films]. Then I went to London for a course. I worked with an architect for a year, did internships. After that, I started my own company, Golden Leaf Interiors, and this worked out very well for me. I had the opportunity to watch something grow from scratch. It gave me a lot of satisfaction. So I thought why not give myself another career option. I really believe that when you are a part of the industry, you can’t really rely on just the industry. That’s exactly what I acted on.
Q. After your stint as an interior designer, you made a return to showbiz with the reality showJhalak Dikhhla Jaa 8 in 2015. What drew you back to the entertainment industry?
A. Honestly, I didn’t think I would get back to films because the gap had been so long. But I always yearned to be a part of cinema. I always felt that I hadn’t explored my talent enough. ThenJhalak Dikhla Ja came into my life. They had offered me that show three years in a row, and I thought maybe it was time for me to just do it because I love dancing. This got me back into the entertainment field, which has always been my first passion. This is something that will keep pulling me back regardless of what I am doing in my life.
So the next phase of my journey began in the film industry. I started getting offers again. All I had to do was tell people that I am interested in doing films. Eventually, things fell into place.
Q. Are you planning to do more reality shows?
A. I feel I have done so many of them that I don’t think anything else is left. FromBigg Boss to Jhalak Dikhlha Jaa and Khatron Ke Khiladi this year… I never planned on doing any of them; they just happened. The offers just came and I decided to do them at that point of time because I felt ready for them. I don’t know about the future. I have never been one to plan for the future. With everything that has happened in my life, I have realised that things happen when they happen. You just have to go with the flow.
Q. The last couple of years have witnessed great advances made in online entertainment. You have also been a part of a web series. As an actor, what are your views on the Internet’s impact on India’s entertainment industry?
A. The web has given actors like the scope to do diverse work. Times have changed and it’s not about the actor anymore. Now it’s all about the script. That is your hero. And this makes this a great time for actors. Things are slowly happening and I would love to do a lot more in the web space, as I think one can do some really interesting work there and can experiment with some very different subjects. Also, there is not much censorship online. Stories can be narrated in a better way and can feature interesting characters. I want to be a part of this scene.
Q. Tell us about your upcoming international film,The Tenant, which is expected to release by the end of this year.
A. It has been directed by the award-winning filmmaker Sushrut Jain. I can’t delve into the details of my character in the film, but the story brings out the hypocrisy of the society we live in. It touches upon a very real topic and provides an insightful take on some of the issues that are of relevance to us today. I am really excited about this film.