No matter how many films this slim, sexy and sultry beauty stars in, Shilpa Shetty will always be remembered in the UK as the winner of Celebrity Big Brother.
From the lavish red carpet premiere of her film in Leicester Square to the launch of her own perfume, she is now an international figure. Bollywood columnist DEVANSH PATEL spoke exclusively to Shilpa ahead of her return to London with the Unforgettable Tour
Q: We will be seeing you live at the O2 Arena on August 24. What’s going through your mind right now?
A: Well, a whole lot of excitement and the opportunity to actually get to connect with the audiences in the UK who’ve given me so much love. It’s now my time to reciprocate that love back and show them that this is what I actually do for a living.
Q: You’re a guest performer on the London leg of the tour. Don’t you feel left out, not being able to be with the Unforgettable Tour in Toronto, Los Angeles, Houston, Chicago and New York?
A: Not really, because I have so much work in hand at the present moment. Yes, Wizcraft did ask me to be a part of the rest of the tour, but I couldn’t make it. I am committed to finishing The Man, which is my next release opposite Sunny Deol, who is producing and directing. I decided that I could take out a couple of days and fit in the O2 Arena performance.
Q: You all seem to be wearing the colour red to promote this tour which symbolises power. But what power are we going to see from you in your performances?
A: Dancing, I think, has always been my unique selling point and whether people watch my films or not, I don’t know. But they definitely watch my dancing. This is going to be a performance to watch out for because Shiamak Davar and I are getting back together again, and whenever he choreographs something for me, he always makes it really special. The last time he did something for me was at the IIFA Yorkshire in the UK last year. The IIFA performance was pretty unforgettable and this one will be a few notches higher.
Q: How different is it rehearsing the steps you perform on tour from what you perform while shooting a song for the film?
A: We normally try to keep it similar. But when we perform on stage, most of the numbers are re-mixed so that they become slightly more fast-paced. I may not be necessarily performing all my numbers. It may be a Punjabi number which is very popular in the UK, so there is a mix of everything. Of course, we only get one chance to give it our best on the stage whereas we can go on and on until we get our steps right if we are filming a song for the film.
Q: We’ve seen you shake a leg with Amitabh Bachchan many years ago in a forgettable film entitled Lal Badshah. Having said that, what’s really so special about a 65-year-old man dancing with a woman half his age?
A: I think when it comes to Amitji, nobody even considers his age. He is so charasmatic and he has such power over his audience that they don’t care about his age. I definitely for one don’t. I have a tremendous amount of respect for him. He is a stalwart in Hindi cinema and just to get this opportunity to share stage space with him is such a huge honour. We actors are meant to entertain the audience, so no one thinks of age as a primary concern.
Q: The word ‘figure’ is synonymous with you, Shilpa. You are the fittest actress around in the Indian film industry. How do you maintain your body and have you ‘figured’ out the sort of reception you will be getting at the O2 Arena?
A: I love your question! It is very well worded, I must say. Thank you very much for the compliment. Well, I do work out and I’ll be lying if I said that I didn’t. But I also eat a lot, contrary to what people think and imagine. I do weight training and yoga on a regular basis and that’s what keeps me fit. And to answer your second question – which was pun intended – I don’t know what kind of reaction I’m going to get but I’m quite looking forward to it and I think it’s going to be very good.
Q: The only two celebrities on the tour you’ve worked with before are the two Bachchans - Abhishek and Amitabh. What was it like working with Riteish Deshmukh, Preity Zinta and Aishwarya Rai Bachchan for the first time?
A: All the names you’ve mentioned come from the same fraternity so we know each other pretty well. It’s not like we are alien to each other. We know each other and I’ve interacted with all of them in the past. So it’s just going to be great fun to be performing with them for the first time on stage. It goes beyond becoming a job because this is one of those shows which is like a picnic for all of us actors. I’m sure we are going to have a blast!
Q: We all know that when it comes to choreography, Shiamak Davar is the king. Any unforgettable moments you can recall from your rehearsals so far?
A: Well, I haven’t actually started rehearsing... but please don’t tell anybody! It’s because I am shooting for Sunny Deol’s home production, The Man. I am going to start rehearsals in a matter of couple of days. In fact, I am going off to Goa and have told them to send me an assistant who can teach me the steps.
Q: Is it true in saying that because you won Celebrity Big Brother, you are more attached to the UK?
A: I definitely got more attached to the UK after Celebrity Big Brother. It’s not wrong when people say that. I have travelled to different parts of the world but the warmth I receive in the UK is just something else. I can’t put it into words. Like I said before, I am who I am in the UK because of the people and it’s them who wanted me to win the show. I completely appreciate that. There are very few actors who go to different countries and are recognised there as well. I am blessed on that front. It’s not only the Indians who recognise me in the UK. It’s the mainstream people too.
Q: Who designed your outfits for the Unforgettable Tour?
A: Manish Malhotra is designing my costumes for the show. I am really excited. He is a fabulous designer. We are in the process of designing them because there is a certain look that we have to maintain. It’s an amalgam of both our thoughts and ideas. Manish is someone whose sensibilities I trust as well. If he thinks that a certain colour will look better on me and if I am not convinced with it, then I still will trust him. In short, it’s a good working relationship.
Q: Besides the tour, what else is keeping you busy?
A: As I said, I am filming for The Man right now and have just finished shooting a song for Karan Johar’s next film Dostana and after that I start my home production in November under S2 Global Productions. I am busy with that too. We are currently in the process of scripting. Once I announce the film, maybe you guys will get to know what the film is called. We haven’t yet zeroed on the name of the film.
Q: Any parting message for all your fans who are desperate to see you perform live at the O2 Arena in London?
A: I just want to say that I am really looking forward to coming to the UK with The Unforgettable Tour. I can vouch for one thing – it will be unforgettable.
Q: One last question... you have to let us know the songs you are going to perform on the tour.
A: I can only tell you that I am going to perform on this rocking Punjabi number. I am not allowed to divulge too many details!