Shilpa Shetty looks for a niche between the commercial and the realistic, says NANDINI NAIR
The flash of cameras and a scurry of feet announce her arrival. At 5'10" and wearing 2-inch heels, Shilpa Shetty stands heads and shoulders above the crowd. More than a decade into Bollywood and the lady has lost none of her sparkle or her ability to neatly side-step questions with no easy answers. Curiously scanning the movie posters at the showroom, as if seeing them for the first time, she talks of her new movie, "I am here to promote Shaadi Karke Phas Gaya Yaar."
For an obvious statement, it is difficult to beat! Incidentally, the film is being released after a long delay and the hero Salman Khan has not exactly been keen to promote the film directed by K.S. Adhiyaman. Shilpa though wants to stay away from it all, minding her own business, doing her things. Having cut down her appearances in movies she says, "I am more quality conscious now." Fiddling with the chain around her long, dainty neck, she begins a series of quotes that border from the predictable to the interesting.
Shilpa explains the movie as "a love story in an urban background." Oblivious of the scramble of photographers and the mad jostle of journalists in the metropolis, she explains, "It is a very nice and clean film. It is very funny but it is not a complete comedy." Thank God, one would say. Haven't we had one laugh riot too many? And Shaadi is on how marriage is a work of effort and not luck.
Last year, she was one with the guys in Anubhav Sinha's Dus. Having also done Phir Milenge, a meaningful movie, she says, "I am trying to maintain a balance between the commercial and realistic." She is quick to add that her choice of roles has been spontaneous and not planned. "It depends on what comes my way, I don't try to manipulate my career, as then boredom will set in."
Role opposite Brad Pitt
So has her fight against boredom landed a role for her opposite Hollywood heartthrob Brad Pitt as suggest the grapevine? "That's one rumour which I wish were true!" A little pause and she gives the customary response that there indeed have been international proposals but nothing has been finalised. For the moment though, Shilpa is excited about the forthcoming Metro, a movie directed by Anurag Bose where she is starring opposite Shiny Ahuja of Hazaron Kwahishein Aisi fame.
Often the credit of introducing the term, "item number" to Hindi movie jargon goes to Shilpa. Her sizzling dance to Main Aai Hoon U.P. Bihar Lootne in Shool is considered the original item number. It changed soppy song and dance routines into raunchy adult interludes. She first asks, with air-quotes, "Who coined the term `item number', where does it come from?" She might claim ignorance about the origins but she is aware of her own pivotal role and adds, "I am not apologetic about being a trendsetter." Known more for her dancing than her emoting skills, she admits, "Dance is my USP."
However, the lady says she has been trying to diversify. Movies like Phir Milenge, where she played Tamanna, a successful girl who finds the world turned hostile when she discovers she is HIV positive, required her to display an array of emotions. That movie was proof of her aspiration, "I do not want to be typecast." And in the next breath, she states, "I am into entertaining." Contradiction? Maybe, but Shilpa isn't bothered. All her moves and gestures are naturally stylised for an audience and her comment is made evident in the struck poses and a fixed smile.
Entertaining she has done plenty of, from the 1994 hit Main Khiladi Tu Anari to 2005's Dus. She seems more accustomed to cameras than queries, often replying to questions with a practiced ease. Though sometimes it appears as if she is a tad surprised at all the attention, taken aback that people would want to know why she is wearing what she is wearing, who she is reading and who she is listening to. Not the one to lament about inequities, she feels, "The film industry is not male dominated any longer. It is an egalitarian world and I am happy with it." Travelling with her mother, Shilpa is asked whether she is wary of promoting a jewellery house, after her previous unpleasant experience with P.P. Jewellers. She quickly explains what had flustered her the last time. "What got me and my mother upset was the man's response after he pushed her." Instead of apologising, the culprit responded, "Oh I am sorry, I didn't know you were Shipa Shetty's mother." As the cameras click away, there is no mistaking who is Shilpa Shetty.