Oh, oh. There were the mandatory denials. But now she doesn’t blush a violent shade of red when the name of her London friend is mentioned. Evidently, Raj Kundra has separated from his wife. So, cooler than the proverbial cucumber, here’s Shilpa Shetty in a talkfest with Roshmila Bhattacharya.
Let’s start with your first home film production.
(Laughs) Let’s not. It’s my first baby and I’m worried nazar na lag jaaye. I’m collaborating with a big production house. We’re in the middle of scripting.. we start shooting in November. Manish Jha of Matrubhoomi will direct it. He directed my yoga DVD too.
Ah, so it’s an off mainstream film?
No, it’s a pukka commercial Hindi film, an action comedy with two heroes and two heroines. I’ll be in it but the rest of the cast is still to be finalised.
Will your sister, Shamita, be a part of the project too?
No, Shamita will be in the second SD Global Production’s film that’s also being scripted. Shamita’s been biding her time.
You seem to have bowed out of Bollywood too?
(Sighs) After the Big Brother win I had shifted base to UK for about four months. I was travelling all the time. I had to turn down several offers. Even Sunny Deol’s The Man was pushed back to the end of the year. Thank God, I had two good releases, Life.. in a Metro and Apne. And this year I have The Man, Dostana and my home production. So I’m not completely out of the picture. Also, I did a musical during the sabbatical.
How different was Miss Bollywood from a star concert?
<b1>Very different, for starters I played Maya and not Shilpa. Also, it wasn’t just song-and-dance. It had a story.. dialogue. It was almost like doing a movie. We travelled with it to 16 European cities and had the grand finale at London’s Albert Hall.
Hasn’t it inspired Lucky Morani’s City of Dreams?
I wouldn’t know, I haven’t seen it.
Your yoga DVDs are supposed to be flying off the shelves.
(Laughs) Yeah, the feedback’s been really positive. A friend called to say that her six-year-nephew insists on trying out the asanas. I tried yoga several years ago for a pain in the neck. It worked and even now when I’m into weight training, I do yoga every alternate day. It targets not just the body but the mind and soul too.
Several actresses are into yoga to slim down to size-zero.
<b2>Well, I’m not a size-zero. I don’t think anyone in the film industry is. It’s all media hype. I wouldn’t recommend it. I’m genetically blessed and happy to be a size-six or even a size-eight.
Seems you have ‘international’ plans now.
Designer line.. restaurant chain.. cook book.. an autobiography.. I could have done all of that if I had shifted base to London. But I love my India too much to do that. I wanted to be back home.. back in Bollywood.
In The Man you are believed to be playing yourself.
I play a film star but not Shilpa Shetty. She’s a violinist like Vanessa Mae. (Laughs) It took me three months to learn how to hold a violin. Sunny and I make a good team. Right from Himmat to Apne, our success ratio has been high.
Will you be doing the Metro sequel?
Anurag (Basu) spoke to me about it. But right now I think he’s really busy with Kites.
Meanwhile in Dostana, we’ll get to see a steamy Shilpa in a swimsuit?
Not in a swimsuit, no. (Laughs) But just Shilpa with John (Abraham) and Abhishek (Bachchan) should be steamy enough. For the last three years I’ve been doing a lot of serious stuff.. Phir Milenge, Metro, Apne. I’ve missed the song-and-dance routine. That’s my USP.
Are you off to London this month to accept yet another award?
Yes.. the Global Cultural Diversity Award. Jackie Chan received it last year. The biggest surprise was the doctorate by the Leeds University. I was the youngest recipient after Yash Chopra, Amitabh Bachchan and Shabana Azmi for promoting cultural tolerance. The Big Brother win not only proved that India is a progressive nation but also that actors are not illiterate and uncouth.
It’s said that during this London visit, you will be at 10 Downing Street?
Yes, I may get to meet the British Prime Minister Gordon Brown unless there are security issues. I met the Queen earlier at a Commonwealth Forum where I was talking about racism and AIDS awareness.
How do you look back at the brouhaha over the Richard Gere AIDS do in Mumbai?
That was unfortunate. We should be indebted to Richard for the work he’s been doing in our country. But at least, the kiss got people talking about AIDS. And Richard took it in his stride. At the Toronto Film Festival last year, he insisted I present him the Premio Donosti Award for activism.
What about commenting on your rumoured affair with the London-based businessman Raj Kundra?
It’s not a rumour. I am seeing Raj. He’s helping me out with a lot of things. And I’m going with the flow. I’ll talk about Raj the day I know this relationship will culminate in marriage.
Apparently, you’re already talking marriage. You even visited a temple in Bangalore to pray for a happy married life.
(Laughs) I visit several temples. When I am in Bombay I walk to Siddhivinayak every Tuesday. I believe in god and in marriage. But I’m so busy right now that I have no time for shaadi vaadi. Marriage needs time.
Do Akshay Kumar and you still talk?
Sure, when we meet sometimes at public places. I’m really happy with the way his career is going. We go back a long way but for me, all that is ancient history now.
Do Twinkle and you talk?
I’ve rarely met her.
Reportedly your mom, Sunanda Shetty, has predicted your future fairly accurately. Did she predict the Big Brother win?
She always told me I would be world famous. But we thought international recognition would come through my acting career. Mom didn’t want me to do Big Brother. It all happened so suddenly. Would you go back to the Big Brother House again? The first time I went with no expectations. I had no idea what I was getting into. But now that I’ve been there, I’m not interested.
What’s your mom’s take on your future now?
(Laughs) She always says this is not the end.