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2001 bears special significance for Sunil Shetty.

Professionally, it marks 10 years since he first step foot into the world of cinema.

And a personal milestone -- he completes 40.

Though his previous two outings Pyaar Ishq Aur Mohabbat and Ittefaq were BO duds, the yesteryear muscle-man-turned-comic-hero is back with his piece-de resistance -- Yeh Teraa Ghar, Yeh Meraa Ghar

The film sees Shetty team up yet again with Priyadarshan and Paresh Rawal, after Hera Pheri, which worked wonders for Shetty's then-sagging career. The actor hopes that history will repeat itself with YTGYMG.

Vivek Fernandes caught up with the actor and discovered the warm, friendly side under the tough exterior.

Mana Shetty
Mana Shetty

Jackie Shroff
Jackie Shroff


Pooja Batra
Pooja Batra

Dr Prakash Khubchandani
MD Popcorn Entertainment and childhood buddy

Tell us about your journey over the past ten years.

It's been a great learning experience. Nowadays, when I see my first few films, I want to erase them all and start afresh. I was only just born then. Over the years I've crawled, sat and stood. Hopefully, I'll start running soon.

With every film, I try to do something different from my last film. Ten years is a long time and if I withstood it, I can withstand anything. I've had more than my fair share of good and bad times but I believe that we need our ups and downs. If we didn't have that, we'd never realise the value of what we have.

Your image as an actor has shifted from that of an action hero to more of a comic one...

I'm more inclined to do comedy now is because that's a part of my personality. If my friends want me to go out with them, it's because I make them laugh. I always had that spark in me.

But I came from a martial arts background, so I was structured as an action hero. And once you are successful, they want to sell only that.

Have you wisened up? Are you particular about the work you will be taking on, especially with regard to the scripts?

I'm as human as the next guy. I lose my temper, abuse and fret when things don't go my way. I go through all the emotions a normal human being would go through. But I've learnt from my mistakes. What you know at 30, you did not know at 20.

In terms of script, I wouldn't say that I have become choosy. If I was, I wouldn't have messed up the way I have.

But I have become choosy in terms of directors. I know that an ordinary script in the hands of a capable director can emerge as a good product, but a good script in the hands of a bad director would look like any other film.

I want a great director and an even better producer, so that they can make and market a film well. Take Lagaan for example. It was marketed so well. Besides, the fact that it was a well-made film ensures that it becomes part of history.

Though I am smart, I am also a man of commitment. I signed on 45 films the day I came into the industry. I could have taken on better films and walked out of the bad ones, but I would be harming the producers who depending on me. Today, I'm at a stage where I can say no, I can say "Mr X you are a very nice man, but I simply can't do business with you any more."

How has Yeh Teraa Ghar Yeh Meraa Ghar shaped up?

It's shaped up brilliantly. I enjoyed working with Priyadarshan and Paresh Rawal once again. The film is not pretentious; it shows the simplicity of a common man. My character, Daya Shankar Pandey is full of integrity and honour. His father's home means everything to him.

I could relate to the film as I come from a middle class background.

How has your family influenced you, as a person and actor?

My parents' contribution to the making of Sunil Shetty, the man has been 100 per cent. I come from a middle class background. My parents are very simple.

My wife, Mana has been my backbone for as far as I can remember.

I give all the credit to my family.

Do you get enough time to spend with your family?

My daughter is going on nine and my son will soon be six. I need to spend time with them and I realise that. If I didn't, I'd be an uncle to them and not papa. I spend more time with my children than any other father would. After 7 pm, whenever I'm in town, I'm return home. And I work half days on Saturdays.

If I'm abroad, I plan my outdoors according to their holidays. I take at least six to eight weeks off in a year to spend time with them. I don't think you'd find a more devoted father.

Do the opinions of film critics matter to you?

Critics can get you critical acclaim -- nothing more than that. Success or failure depends on the public.

As far as our industry goes, critics are only here to rip the film and its makers apart.

I won the National Award for Dhadkan for the best villain. But to me, that role was not just that of a villain, but a supporting actor, I was one of the principal characters.

Sunil and Mahima Our minds are so conditioned to believing that the hero always gets the girl in the end. I didn't mind not getting the girl. But the award was a sign of appreciation of my work. Ten years is a long time to finally see some recognition come your way.

Do you think that there is a void in the industry as far as the 'action hero' is concerned?

I don't think that there is a lack of action heroes, but I feel there is a lack of scripts.

I think we are done with the stories of revenge -- where the wife or mother or sister is raped.

That's why we're turning to period films -- Like Gadar. It is a romantic film packed with action. But the filmmakers highlighted the patriotic aspect of the film. The formula is the same but treatment-wise and script-wise, it's different.

It's not that action films won't work -- action films will always work.

Are you threatened by the surge of newcomers that have taken the industry by storm?

The newcomers are amazing. They look like they've been shooting for ten years when all they've done is one film. They are dangerous.

Hrithik is really, really good. Abhishek is an intense actor. Even Arjun. Pyaar Ishq Aur Mohabbat might not have been a winner, but the boy is here to stay.

But I'm not insecure. There's enough of work for everyone. Besides, I'm not 20 anymore.

How would you rate yourself as a dancer?

Zero! I'm more about style than steps. I'm very graceful as a fighter because my honed instincts come into play here. But when it comes to dancing, I'm no good.

How would you describe Sunil Shetty -- The Businessman?

As a businessman, Sunil Shetty is dumb. His image as a 'businessman' is what his partners should have. They deserve all the credit.

But I will say that I'm very diplomatic. I don't take pangas with anybody.

What does the future hold for you? Do you see yourself as a director or a producer?

As an actor, I don't want to talk too much about my future films because this industry is such that even after half a film has been complete, it can be shelved. I only want to say that I'll be working with the best directors.

There's no way I see myself as a director. Direction is far too creative.

It's very easy to put a film together -- to get a script and actors -- but direction is another matter altogether. That's why our success ratio is as low as 3 to 5 per cent. Because only 5 per cent of the films are made by genuine directors.

I hope that production will be one of the achievements for Popcorn Entertainment, but right now we're concentrating on stage shows, events and celeb endorsements.

The entertainment centre at Powai is also something I'm still putting together. Before, I was running individual centres -- Thai Me Up and Astro. But I realised that the energy required for running one centre is as much as the energy required for running ten centres if they are brought together. I'm also planning on opening a huge center in Hyderabad.

I did have an offer to get into television and I'm looking at it. But nothing is finalised as yet.

Has life just begun at 40?

Being 40 means working harder to keep fit. It's a professional hazard.

I have to control my diet. I want to look leaner. I was very huge structure-wise. But now that I'm changing my format, the looks have to change also.

I still need to check life out.

Design: Rajesh Karkera

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