"Funny to say this, but I have never considered myself to be beautiful. I didn't have the face to be an actress.
"
(Rediff, April 1997)

Her debut performance in smash hit Baazigar gave her a short-lived taste of success. Struggling to break out of the role of "Akshaye Kumar's ex-girlfriend," Shilpa Shetty yearns for meatier roles.

Shilpa Shetty    Her first career was modeling; Shilpa took a film offer on a lark. But the allure of fame drew her back for more. "It's by chance that I was modelling and I got this offer. I accepted it and I loved it. I was warned that this profession was not a nice one to be in, but believe me, that's not true at all. It's just the way you are. You are good or bad here or in any other profession. Frankly, I wasn't serious about my career during Baazigar. But afterwards, I liked it when people recognised me and mobbed me on the roads, saw a photograph in the magazine. I hate the yellow journalism that goes with it though. So it sort of grew on me and now I am very serious about acting." (Rediff, April 1997)

    Alas, Shilpa often compains that others aren't reciprocating by taking *her* seriously. She has had to fight against the notion that her greatest asset is her dancing ability. "My dancing is my USP. I did just one item number in Shool. That too because I needed to get noticed then. But people are making it out as if I made a career out of dance numbers. From now on, all my jhatka-matkas will be reserved for my regular flicks. No more guest appearances for me." (Filmfare, Jan 2002)

   Nevertheless, she could not resist the invitation to headline a dance performance at Cannes in May 2003. Her warm reception there offered the only bright spot in a month that saw her parents charged with extortion and her father imprisoned. According to the Surat police, Surendra and Sunanda Shetty hired mafiosos to recover $170,000 in fees the Shettys felt were owed Shilpa for her modeling of Parag/Praful Sarees a few years before. Authorities released the following transcripts (transliterated and translated by Rediff, May 19, 2003) of telephone conversations that allegedly took place between businessman Pankaj Agarwal, Shilpa's parents, and the goons Surat police say the Shettys hired:

Uday Shetty: Shilpa Shetty wala matter hai. [This is about the Shilpa Shetty matter.]
Agarwal: Kya matter? Kaisa matter? Aap kaun bol rahe hai? [What matter? Who is speaking?]
Uday Shetty: Acchha, tu ek kaam kar, bhai se baat kar le. [Okay, speak to 'bhai'.]
         (He gives Fazloo's number and disconnects. Fazloo phones Agarwal.)
Fazloo: Apko unko do khokha dena padenga. [You have to pay them Rs 2 crore.]
Agarwal: Lekin hamara kuch lena-dena nahin nikalta. [But I don't owe them anything.]
Fazloo: Aapko bata diya na, aapko paisa dena hi padenga. [I have told you, you have to give the money.]
        (Uday Shetty calls again.)
Uday Shetty: Aap ne kya socha? [What have you decided?]
Agarwal: Lekin hamara kuch lena-dena nahin hai. [But I have nothing to do with them.]
Uday Shetty: Aapse paisa vasool karne ke liye hamein advance bhi mil gaya hai. Agar paisa nahin diya to hum tumhara game kar denge. [We have already received an advance to get the money from you. If you do not pay up, we will kill you.]
Agarwal: Lekin aap Shetty ke aadmi ho kaise maloom padenga? [How will I know if you are Shetty's man?]
Uday Shetty: Main aapko ek number deta hoon, aap wahan baat kar lena. [I will give you a number. Speak to them.]
      (He gives Surendra Shetty's number.)
Uday Shetty: Meri Shetty se baat ho gayi hai, aap bhi baat kar lo. [I have already spoken to Shetty. You also talk to him.]
     (Agarwal phones Surendra on the number given to him by Uday Shetty.)
Agarwal: Aap bhi businessman ho. Main bhi hoon. Yeh raasta barabar nahin hai. Woh log to apni zabaan mein baat karte hain. Woh seedhi baat nahin karte. [Both of us are businessmen. This tactic is not good. Those people do not deal properly, they use their own language.]
Surendra: Aap ko paisa to dena hi padenga. Tum Sunanda se baat kar lo. Woh Kashmir mein hai. [You will have to pay up. Talk to Sunanda. She is in Kashmir.]
     (Agarwal calls up Sunanda Shetty.)
Agarwal: Fazloo mujhe bahut pareshan karta hai. Main office mein baith nahin sakta hoon, aap please use rokiye. [Fazloo is harassing me. I cannot sit in my office. Please stop him.]
Sunanda: Aap humko paisa de do, phones apne aap hi band ho jayenge. [Give us the money. The telephone calls will stop.]

(transcript excerpt courtesy of Rediff, May 19, 2003)

    Those who knew the Shettys reacted with instant disbelief. Shilpa's ex-boyfriend, actor Akshay Kumar, told Rediff, "I'm shocked beyond words. Shilpa's parents are too decent to be involved with all this. It's incredible!" (Rediff, May 24, 2003). Shilpa herself was badly shaken: "I have never harmed anyone in my 10 years in the industry. I don't know why I've been targeted this way. What really hurts is that my parents are being hurt. Why them? God is witness to what's happening to us. I'll wait for justice to prevail." (Rediff, May 24, 2003)

    As for the other great scandal in Shilpa's history -- her ill-fated liaison with Akshay -- she insists that the debacle has not soured her on men. "I'm not scared of falling in love nor have I become cynical about love after my experience with Akshay. Pyaar ho jaata hai, kiya nahin jaata. [Love happens, one doesn't decide to do it.] Right now my career is very important. It's like I have to hit the bull's eye in my career and I can't see myself getting married for a really long time, at least not till I achieve my goals." (Tatanova, Nov. 2000)

      And what about her bizarre conviction that she isn't beautiful? "I have a personality, people tell me that, but I am not conventionally beautiful. You don't have to be beautiful to be an actress. It's the presence that is important. You can be the most beautiful person on this earth, but if the audience doesn't like you, that's it. Fortunately, the audience likes me and finds my screen presence good, so I am still here." (Rediff, April 1997) And after the success of 2001's Indian, a slew of new offers ensures that she will be here for a long time to come.

 

Shilpa Shetty
born: June 8, 1975
height: 5' 10"

FILMS

1993 Baazigar*
1994 Aag
1994 Hathkadi
1994 Main Khiladi Tu Anari*
1995 Aao Pyar Karen
1995 Gambler
1996 Chhote Sarkar
1996 Himmat
1997 Auzaar
1997 Insaaf
1997 Prithvi
1997 Zameer
1998 Aakrosh
1998 Pardesi Babu
1999 Jaanwar
1999 Lal Badshah
1999 Shool*
2000 Dhadkan*
2000 Dus
2000 Jung
2000 Tarkieb
2001 Indian*
2002 Badhaai Ho Badhaai
2002 Chor Machaye Shor
2002 Rishtey
2003 Darna Mana Hai
2004 Garv
2004 Phir Milenge*
2004 Shaadi Karke Phas Gaya Yaar

* acclaimed performance


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