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Food over Khel, seriously

"Like every married man I love to have food at home in the company of my wife and kids."

Suniel Shetty fills in the tank before "Khel" at New Delhi's Le Meridien. Photo: Rajesh Kashyap

THIS GANDHI Jayanti, Suniel Shetty is adding yet another star to his five-star resume and is game for the grind ahead. Starting his ascent with a chain of restaurants in Mumbai, Suniel took a pause with success immersed in grease paint and is again on the way to the summit playing the producer's part in the latest "Khel", releasing this week.

However, on table at New Delhi's Le Meridien, one finds the action king, a pauper with plenty of salad and a little rice with cheese curry completing his platter when the choices are finger-licking with buffet offering chicken to chopped vegetables in spices and steamed fish to pulses fresh from the burner. "Yes, because it is dinner time. Catch me with the breakfast and you will find it royal with lots of fruits, milk and flakes. One has to be disciplined to maintain the physique," says Suniel repeating the oft-repeated but seldom followed tenet about eating.

Ask him about his first business and Suniel wants to answer about his latest "Khel" - Popcorn Motion Pictures Private Limited an offshoot of his Popcorn Group of Companies.

"I may have a successful restaurant business but I don't know anything about the cooking part but yes, I have a taste for good food and more importantly the buds to distinguish the delicious from the insipid. But right now I am busy smelling new talents and scripts. Let's talk about `Khel'."

Well, launching three people and a company at one go. Is it sensible trade?

"Absolutely. From the day one when, Yusuf Khan, the director narrated the forceful script to me, I was certain that this will be a different film and that only Yusuf could do justice to the subject. As far as Jadeja and Celina are concerned, I can assure they are going to be the next hot things in the industry. People might come to the theatres to see Jadeja, the player but they will go back loving, Jadeja, the actor. I cast Celina for her beauty and fresh look but she surprised me with her acting capabilities. And let me clear the air about her first film. She signed `Khel' first not `Janasheen'. On the company's part, however, I was a bit nervous as the business was low when we launched the film but now with a spurt of successful films irrespective of the stars and subjects, I am certain `Khel' will work." Suniel is not ready to accept that his character Dev Mallya in the film has negative shades though the synopsis reveals the reverse, if "Khel" has to be extraordinary. Even the character Dev reminds of "Dhadkan", which saw him breaking the image of a hero, who understands just one meaning of action and got a reward for the effort in the form of Filmfare award. "Yes, the character Dev is close to my heart but we joined it with the surname of the famous liquor baron because the role demanded that. Dev is a very ambitious businessman with streaks of intensity and romanticism completing the sketch. The name will help people in identifying with the character," elaborates Suniel with eyes revealing the astonishment, of surprise going bust before the release.

But is Suniel, the actor going to dominate the show? "No way. I won't flex the muscles beyond the script. Even, in my next project `Rakht' I am there because it is a unique role and suits me, otherwise, I have no intention to get the roles written for me as I have enough work and choices of roles too." Somehow his career path demonstrates that he has learnt the trade on job? With a secure life, what keeps him experimenting with new challenges? "The day `Balwan' was released I realised that I am raw but I decided to stay in the industry come what may. I have a passion for the medium. I have learnt the art on sets. But God has been kind to me that films like `Gopi Kishan', `Hera Pheri' fell in my lap, which allowed me to move beyond the macho image. I love to put smiles on people's faces. Films Like `Ye Tera Ghar Ye Mera Ghar' and `Ehsaas' may not have worked but my efforts have been appreciated."

After having his say on the film and his growth as a performer, Suniel returns to the delicacies. "Like every married man I love to have food at home in the company of my wife and kids." And what are the favourites of Manna's man? "Anything that she cooks, especially hariyali chicken. When we are on shoot or a trip I love to have Thai food. I savour Thai soups." Does his muscular mass demand some restrictions? "Of course, red meat is absolute no. I avoid late nights and liquor. And every morning one and a half hours of labour in gym keeps me going."

Another facet of this man is his `never say no' spirit towards his fans. After spending precious little time on table the hero is sport to shake a leg with a female fan on the dance floor and framed with innumerable others. "I can't say no to them. They have made me. How can they know that I haven't rested for the last 12 hours?"

Rest or no rest, Suniel is ready to eulogise his latest effort in Punjabi for a channel with retakes for perfection.


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