For Shilpa Shetty the past few years have been about reinvention and this is not an opportunity or a chance that too many people who start their careers as Hindi film heroines get. But she has got it, she has grabbed it and today you can call her, not just an actor, but an entrepreneur business woman and more popularly the co-owner of the Indian Premier League team Rajasthan Royals.
Anuradha SenGupta: How are you coping with the controversy surrounding the IPL?
Shilpa Shetty: This one is getting murky by the minute and I just think it's become too political. I am pretty apolitical as a person. So I really don't know what is happening and as far as we are concerned, Raj and me, we just looked at it as just a business investment after doing a lot of due diligence and knowing that it is one of the most well-managed teams—we decided to invest in it and we have no regrets whatsoever.
I would just like to clear my stand and say that for us everything is about board, so there is not fear. It's an income tax (IT) probe and whatever needs to be done should be.
Anuradha SenGupta: When you look at the records of registrar of companies it is very clear who owns what. In 2009, when you and Raj Kundra bought this stake in Rajasthan Royals did you all know about all the other co-owners—I am guessing you did?
Shilpa Shetty: Yes of course we did and Raj got into the financial aspect of thing. I look after the marketing for Rajasthan Royal but at that point when we came in, it was a year after the first investors had already done their thing and then we were buying in stakes. So Raj did his bit of finding out what needed to be known.
Anuradha SenGupta: So you all knew then that Mr Chellaram was related to Mr Lalit Modi?
Shilpa Shetty: Yes. But I don't see why that should be a problem because it was all very clean on paper. I don't see why that is being raked up now because everybody knew about it in the past three years. It's not Lalit that is the owner, it is his brother-in-law and he is an individual in his own right. So why are his investments questioned? So I really don't understand the whole scenario.
Anuradha SenGupta: You are proud of the fact that the Rajasthan Royals has a much higher profile in these three years than it did in the first year, but the cricket has gone down the tube? I was a big supporter in the first year, saying wow what an incredible underdog story and then from number one to number seven?
Shilpa Shetty: There is no denying that we haven't really played up to the mark and, not making it sound like an excuse, but we really had a lot of issues with players, the injuries, availabilities. But it's easier said than done, we have had issues. We have obviously realised that its time to re-strategise and re-structure. We are looking towards a new team. As you know aware all the players have to go into the pot and it is going to be a brand new team for next year.
Anuradha SenGupta: A lot of questions already about whether Shane Warne will play another IPL, not just with Rajasthan Royals, but another IPL. What can you tell us about that?
Shilpa Shetty: I can't divulge too many details at this point unfortunately. But we are still working on it. He is very synonymous with the Royals. We would love for him to be on board. But obviously with experience comes age and he is aware of that. He has always maintained that if he was in good form he would play.
Anuradha SenGupta: May be he can be just a coach or something?
Shilpa Shetty: I don't know if he would be ready to take on that role. But we are still in discussions and it's too early. We have just finished with this season and we still are licking our wounds.
Anuradha SenGupta: I love the fact that you wear your heart on your sleeve almost and you are also open about how you are feeling.
Shilpa Shetty: Nobody likes losing and not loosing like this. I have always said that I don't mind losing, but losing badly is not something that I take too very well.
Anuradha SenGupta: What's the equation with the team because here you are somebody who openly says that, "I don't know about cricket, I don't know about the business of cricket, what I know about is maybe to create a brand" which you are doing and doing successfully? So when you then either support them or inspire them, how do they listen because these are the guys who are professionals, they are dealing with coaches, they are dealing with the boards of cricket control in their countries or in India, so how do they react to you?
Shilpa Shetty: We are the owners; they are just nice to us. I think we don't look at them or we don't speak to them the way that's condescending or telling them what to do, they know what they are meant to do, they are here to do a job, they love their job and we appreciate that. We have good days and bad days, I think the Royals have had a few more bad days in our share, but it's still a great team.
As far as I am concerned, it's not like I don't know about cricket; I am still learning, I am not this miss know it all. So I would rather be honest and say that I am learning and I enjoy the game though.
Anuradha SenGupta: If I was in a position to own a team, I don't think I would be there everyday because after a point I would just be bored. So the question is for you is it part of your job to be there as an owner?
Shilpa Shetty: Like I said I am also the brand ambassador, so I have to make sure that I am there because there are whole lot of PR activities, we have a whole lot of stuff that we do before matches. We do like the small interviews in between. There is no denying that the amalgam of entertainment with cricket is what makes it more interesting. So I am obviously there to also leverage my name. So in that capacity.
Anuradha SenGupta: So there are days sometimes when you are like I wish I could just sit back home in my pajama and watch the match on TV?
Shilpa Shetty: If you really were part of a team, there is no other way you would do it.
Anuradha SenGupta: So you say you do get involved. You cannot stay at an arms length once you get into a role like you have?
Shilpa Shetty: Yes, that happens. I think it's also me as a person, I think I just get too involved with anything that I get close to or that I am part of whether it be films or anything. It's like you immerse yourself into the character. So right now I don't have the character of co-owner left anymore for this season. I have hung-up my jersey.
Anuradha SenGupta: When I introduced you I said you are one of the few Hindi film heroines who have had this fantastic opportunity to reinvent yourself, do you agree that these opportunities are rare for someone who starts out her career as a Hindi film heroine?
Shilpa Shetty: I think the opportunities you get today, at least in the last four-five years, has certainly been a welcome change for the heroines. But when I started around 17-18 years ago, there was very little you could really do. You were kind of relegated to just being like a showpiece, so you were typecast very easily. So I got typecast into becoming a glamorous heroine and there was only that much you could do. Then like you rightly said I got the opportunity of reinventing myself and I just grabbed it with both hands, first with Dhadkan then Phir Milenge and whatever I did. I have always been a sort of person who believed in setting trends than following them.
Anuradha SenGupta: But that is as an actor. We know that the female actors have very short shelved lives in Hindi movies, the actors go on into their 40's and the women are simply not allowed to do that. It can be a cruel industry, right?
Shilpa Shetty: Life is cruel.
Anuradha SenGupta: So is it good for you that you are out of that rat race?
Shilpa Shetty: It's really left up to each one to see how you want to carve that niche for yourself. I think I have been able to carve it in a way that is not usual and that was a choice I had to make. I made the choice of doing Big Brother which was not an easy choice.
Anuradha SenGupta: Turning point, totally in your life?
Shilpa Shetty: Definitely, it was a milestone in my life. But I really believe that it was something that was planned for me. It was divine intervention. I could have gone completely wrong.
Anuradha SenGupta: I am sure you have had a lot of reservations about doing celebrity Big Brother, isn't it?
Shilpa Shetty: I honestly had no inkling what so ever, what the show was about. I had just seen Big Boss on television in India which had just begun which I found hilarious. But I had no idea of the differences that it would have with an Indian going on a foreign show. So that was something that I wasn't really prepared for, but with God's grace I came out triumphs and survived.
Anuradha SenGupta: But you sort of came out totally Shilpa Shetty, the persona that was known to the public was completely revamped as a result, Shilpa Shetty before and Shilpa Shetty after Big Brother is completely different brand, isn't it?
Shilpa Shetty: Yes.
Anuradha SenGupta: You came out as a true life heroine as well.
Shilpa Shetty: Yes, my sister says, "That you never got an award for playing those different characters in the one thing that you have won was Big Brother for being yourself." So there couldn't have been a bigger award than that for me. But I really believe that nothing succeeds like success and that is reality. I think just being on that international platform gave me a lot many more opportunities and I didn't even contrive it.
I actually took part in Big Brother thinking that, see they paid me a lot of money just to go there, it was a three week show so they said, "Even if you don't make it through the first week you still get the whole money. And I was like' "Okay, I just have to be myself, I don't have to do anything. Okay, cool". And I thought I was going to get out of the show in the first week and then I stayed on and I had no ides what was happening outside because my perception of things were totally different. I walked into it blindly then after I got out of the house, it was a whole new world.
Anuradha SenGupta: Were you surprised by just how popular you had become and still are in the UK?
Shilpa Shetty: I did become a household name even with the main stream which was a huge surprise for me. When you have a foreigner come up to you and recognise you by your name, it's very unusual for an Indian. I think the only other name that made it there was Gandhi. So for me when somebody told me that I realised that this was big. When I came out of the Big Brother house, I think it kind of sunk in, I just thought it was a reality show I won it, big deal, I don't know, I will be popular amongst the Indians in the UK. But I had white children come up to me and hold my hand and start crying. That was the kind of impact it had.
Anuradha SenGupta: And lots of opportunities that it brought it to you.
Shilpa Shetty: Yes. But I realized how big it was when these foreigners came up to me and they were like, "We are all not like this." And they were all very apologetic and I was like "okay." I feel there was a certain sense of respectability as Indians that came about through the show for Indians, which was a good thing. I think the whole perception of Indian people was very different before the show. I am not saying that it was me who did the turnaround I just think that they got to take a closer look of Indian people, the contemporary Indian people. So a lot of people told me that it kind of changed that perception as well. So I think it was all good.
Anuradha SenGupta: The excitement level is not as high obviously now, three years later. Do you miss it?
Shilpa Shetty: I didn't make the best of it I guess, out of choice because I didn't want to make that shifts.
Anuradha SenGupta: You could have worked there?
Shilpa Shetty: I could have worked there. I had a lot of opportunities. I just was not ready for it. I think I was a little confused at that time as well. Confused in the sense that I am very Indian at heart and I get home sick very easily. So I did whatever stuff I could do in the time that I was there, but then my agent told me to make the shift and I was like, "No ways." So he made a very important point at that time. He said, "If you want to make it, anywhere, there has to be a sense of belonging," So you have to shift bag and baggage and I didn't feel it.
Anuradha SenGupta: So you got the man you married to shift bag and baggage?
Shilpa Shetty: We make the best of both worlds. I respect the fact that he hails from there and I think my reason for actually doing Big Brother was to find him. So that was the best thing that could have ever happen to me, that came out of Big Brother.
Anuradha SenGupta: Let's talk about your acting career because you know 2007 Life in a Metro was a great film. Good role and then we don't see you except for fleeting appearances. So is that career still something that worth exploring?
Shilpa Shetty: I love films. I love cinema. I love being part of it. After a certain point it can get very prosaic and I so wanted to break away. Life in a Metro happened at a point, quite beautifully that I received success with Big Brother and that film was nearly ready for release. So it kind of got to see the first première at Leicester Square and I got the appreciation as an artist that I have longed for always. After that I got busy with a whole lot of stuff that I was doing in Britain. I was doing a world tour with Miss Bollywood which took up nearly 4 months of my time, so it's nearly quarter of a year, more than quarter of a year. So I had to dedicate that time because we were on the road and I did have a lot of offers, I couldn't make the best of them and I had to make that choice because for me that was something again that I hadn't done. To be the first Hindi film heroine to take a show on your own was a huge deal for me.
We packed out stadiums and Royal Albert Hall which is a huge complement for me at that point. So yes I could have done Hindi films, I was offered a whole lot of films after Big Brother, but I just felt that you know I valued myself a little more, I don't know why? I felt the sense of not wanting to do anything and everything which I would have done before. I am very low on self esteem.
I use to always feel ke chalo let me do this I am getting this is the best at this point so let me just do this, and let me do this and I wasn't that quality conscious at that time. Realizing the kind of opportunities that were coming my way after Big Brother, I realized that people valued me more than I valued myself and that's when I took a back seat and said for me to actually want to do something, either I have to do it for the love of the person, I use to do a lot of stuff for the love of money then let me do it for the love of art now.
Anuradha SenGupta: It's a good space to be isn't it?
Shilpa Shetty: Yeah.
Anuradha SenGupta: It's incredible how many women I meet on this show and they are all achievers who have low self esteem. How does that happen?
Shilpa Shetty: Yes, one has to be very confident, low on self esteem is also because you know I went thorough a very weird phase in my life. It doesn't matter where you put your self in life. Its about the way people perceive you as well. It's like you know you want to demand X amount but the people don't want to give you more than X amount and they are paying somebody else who doesn't deserve it half as much as you because you are more dedicated, and you are more deserving but somebody else is getting that money. So it kind of puts you in that space of wanting to make you believe whether you are really worth it after all or not. This is not a very comfortable space to be in.
Anuradha SenGupta: Today you believe that you are worth it I hope?
Shilpa Shetty: Of course every penny.
Anuradha SenGupta: What does the Shilpa Shetty brand stand for today?
Shilpa Shetty: I am happy to just be where I am. There is no need for wanting to prove myself anymore. I think when you are an actor every film release is having to prove yourself at the box office, to the audiences. I don't feel the need to that anymore which is a great space to be in. As far as brand Shilpa is concerned, I have leveraged my name for other people and when I have done it I have done it with the confidence of believing in the product and when it's Shilpa Shetty the brand like it's the perfume, if it's the Yoga DVD, Spa's, I have also started on Royalty which is our new night club. We have got the Wama group in London, I am starting a whole new range of low fat curries. It's stuff that I would use, its stuff that I believe in, its stuff that I preach and practice. That's what my brand stands for and that's what people believe in. So when people meet me at an airport and say that you know we love your Yoga DVD it just makes me feel better than a box office success which I haven't had in a very long time.