Life In A... Metro - Shilpa Shetty interview
Interview by Rob Carnevale
FORMER Celebrity Big Brother winner Shilpa Shetty talks about appearing in Indian ensemble drama Life In A… Metro and what it means for her personally and professionally.
She also discusses the impact that Celebrity Big Brother success and controversy has had on her career as well as some of her future plans…
Q. Life In A… Metro is something of an atypical role for you. How have your fans reacted or how do you think they’ll react?
Shilpa Shetty: I wish I could answer that question. I’d be a clairvoyant and not an actress. I think it’s fantastic that Anurag [Basu, director] thought I’d be able to portray the role of Shikha. I’m synonymous with glamour and my forte has always been songs and dances. But I feel very proud to be associated with a film like Metro that’s tried to do something real and unpretentious. I think it’s going to be very well accepted. I think audiences are ready, they’re looking for something different and looking for interesting cinema. Metro is definitely a great amalgam between reality and entertainment.
Q. Were you at all daunted by the fact it was a different role for you?
Shilpa Shetty: Why? I wouldn’t have any apprehensions about doing a role like that because it was such a good role in the true sense of the word. Shikha is such a good character and it was such a meaty role that I’d be foolish as an actress to say no to something like that.
Q. How did you find shooting on the streets of Mumbai?
Shilpa Shetty: I was OK with shooting in the roads but anytime Anurag would take us to this railway station in the back of beyond of Bombay I wanted to kill him! The entire love story between my lover and me is set in the background of a railway station that was shot two hours away from Mumbai which was quite tedious.
Q. Did you ever get a sense that art was mirroring life with your character in Life In A… Metro given that she’s a woman who is treading a tightrope between family, honour and her young lover and in real life you’ve got this tightrope of appeasing people in India and your new fanbase in England?
Shilpa Shetty: [Laughs] It is a tough job to do. But you can’t please everyone so at the end of the day I try and keep myself happy. Call me selfish or whatever. But I try to do the right thing. Sometimes, unknowingly, you offend people. But I think Metro is a film that people are going to like universally because we haven’t offended any sensibilities. We’ve just portrayed characters and we’ve made a film that’s unpretentious. In no way have the writers and directors tried to commercialise things. We try to project them in a way that’s extremely real.
As far as I’m concerned, the character was so believable for me. I’m still so deeply rooted with the Indian culture… you’re right when you say it’s a tightrope walk for her to balance her family and then suddenly have all the reasons and the opportunity to get out of that marriage. Yet she still chooses not to. It just goes to show how culturally balanced she is. It’s how 95% of Indian women would react in a situation.
Q. Is taking part in Life In A… Metro part of a conscious decision to move into more dramatic, less glamorous roles?
Shilpa Shetty: I beg to differ with you. I don’t think it’s a de-glamorous role at all. Yes, there isn’t as much make-up. But I remember sequences where I came on the set in a skirt and a top and Anurag [the director] would tell me: “No, no this is too glamorous!” I’d say: “It’s just a skirt and a top, there’s nothing glamorous about it.” But he’d ask how to make it less glamorous.
Whatever you see of me in the movie, the way I’m presented, obviously there’s been some input from my side but it’s Anurag’s visualisation of the character. I will do what the character demands. There’s nothing in my head that says I’m not going to do glamorous roles. I’m an actor and there are very few actors who can actually dabble with both commercial and art cinema together. But I absolutely love the fact that you can’t really call Metro an art film even though it’s so realistic. It’s very, very commercially viable as well and extremely entertaining. It’s a different genre for me.
Q. East is east and west is west but which do you prefer now that you’re shuttling between the two so often?
Shilpa Shetty: I’m a proud Indian but I feel very, very happy that people have accepted me here as well in the west. It’s the people here in Britain that have given me my newfound fame here, so I owe it to them. We must give credit where it’s deserved. It’s not just the Asian community, it was also the British people who voted for me [on Celebrity Big Brother] and wanted to see me. So, I’m very happy and I think I’m a good eclectic mix of both cultures.
Q. Can you tell us a little bit about your musical? Is that still going ahead?
Shilpa Shetty: It’s still in the early stages, we’re still scripting. It’s going to be very Bollywood-ised but we want to show it on Broadway, which will be a huge step. Let’s hope, pray and keep our fingers crossed that everything goes well.
Q. And what’s keeping you busy at the moment?
Shilpa Shetty: For starters, I’m going to be launching my perfume in the next two months. That’s a huge step for me. I’ll be the first Indian girl to be launching my perfume mainstream.
Q. Was it always the plan to move on to those sorts of things, or was it off the back of Big Brother that they were made possible?
Shilpa Shetty: No, I mean who would have ever thought I’d win? I guess it was all pre-destined for me. But I had no inkling I was going to run into this kind of luck. It’s all happened and it’s all turned my life around overnight; opportunities have knocked on my door and I’m just making use of them. I don’t want to do anything and everything. I want to be a brand that every time I leverage my name I want people to feel sure that it’s going to be something good – so whether it be my movies, my perfume, my restaurant, my musical, it’ll be good work, good food and good everything [smiles].
Q. So do you believe in destiny or karma?
Shilpa Shetty: I’m a believer of destiny and I believe I’m destiny’s child. I’ve seen the highs and I’ve seen the lows and I believe things happen for a reason and always for the best. Maybe this was all meant to be and maybe Big Brother worked as a catalyst in a bigger issue like racism, which was important to be broached. Maybe it had to happen this way and I’m glad that I could help it. How it’s worked for me is that it’s been able to open up doors for the Indian film industry. We can actually think of premiering our film in Leicester Square, so what better compliment? So yeah, it’s all karma.