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    Shilpa Shetty tells why life is beautiful

    [Interview by Subhash K. Jha]
    Thursday, August 26, 2004
    Shilpa Shetty is back with "Phir Milenge", Revathi''s new movie that deals with the touchy topic of living with HIV/AIDS, and she says she has grown as a person and as an actor.

    Describing her role in the new movie as a "powerful one", Shilpa told IANS in an interview that she wouldn''t have been able to do it four years ago.

    Excerpts:

    Suddenly you're in the limelight again?

    There were times when people said I was out. Now suddenly I'm being noticed for my performance in "Phir Milenge". From my career being all over, I'm suddenly all over the place (laughs). A new phase has started without my effort.

    The media's perception has changed. I've grown as a person and actor. If I had to do "Phir Milenge" four years earlier I wouldn't have been able to do justice to it.

    Everyone is raving about your performance in "Phir Milenge".

    I'm so lucky to have got such a powerful role. Of course it's my film. But it's also Abhiskek Bachchan and Salman Khan's film. Without them, the story wouldn't move forward. Our director Revathi is so good! I agree with Salman when he says she's a mixture of Sanjay Bhansali and Sooraj Barjatya.

    Do you play an AIDS victim in "Phir Milenge"?

    Yes, we're dealing with issues related to AIDS. You know I didn't even know there's a difference between HIV positive and AIDS. Imagine educated people don't know this! What I love about this film is that it puts the message across without being preachy.

    It's not a grim film. Like Jonathan Demme's "Philadelphia" it tackles the issue of an HIV positive person's ostracisation at her work place.

    You've worked with a woman director for the first time.

    A director is a director. That's what I believed. For every director, male or female, the film is like a baby. But working with Revathi was a different experience. For one, she's fine actress herself.

    Also, I now realize her being a woman did make a difference. The way she asked me to express certain emotions could only be done by a woman. Honestly, I felt terrible when the shooting of "Phir Milenge" ended. We had become one big family. For the first time I got the job satisfaction I was craving for. It will always be a very special film for me.

    And now you're doing an offbeat thriller!

    "Khamosh" isn't an offbeat thriller at all! Why do we have to categorize any of our films as offbeat? It makes it sound so boring! Don't you think it's about time we snapped out of these rigid mind sets about films and their categories?

    But yes, it's a different experience for me. I've never shot a film in one start-to-finish schedule. And we even did an acting workshop to prepare for our roles. I've been shooting in the rain and smoking for my character. And now I've this terrible cough. Anything for realism, I guess.

    Is it that challenging?

    My entire look is different. In fact, all of us in "Khamosh" -- my co-star is the former Mr World Rajiv Singh -- feel like the characters. Though I must tell you this isn't the usual hero-heroine film. I like way I'm being presented in this film.

    And who's your director?

    Deepak Tijori. I saw and quite liked his first directorial effort "Oops". I assumed it would be a different kind of film. And it was. I told him if he had made the film with experienced actors they'd have better understood the needs of the characters. But I don't think I'd have been able to carry off Mita Vashisth's role. How would I've looked like the mother of a grown-up son?

    By acting?

    (Laughs) True. But not right now. Maybe 10 years from now. I don't mind challenges. But I don't want to push it. But I must tell you I'm doing the work that pleases me. I always wanted to work the way I'm doing now.

    A set-up like Revathi's "Phir Milenge" or Deepak Tijori's "Khamosh" gives me a new high. It's a whole new world for me. It moves in real time. I'd now think twice before doing run-of-the-mill roles. Why should I, when I'm finally getting the kind of roles I always wanted?

    But aren't you afraid of being branded a mature actress?

    hat risk is there. So alongside "Phir Milenge" with Salman Khan, I've "Garv" with the same actor. I'm not giving up my USP. I'm proud to be a typical heroine too. And don't mind serving as the eye candy, nothing to be apologetic about.

    But I must say I did "Garv" for two friends, Salman and the director Puneet Issar. To the director's credit he told me right from start that my role doesn't have meat. He wanted me to be part of his film. And you know how difficult it is for me to say no?

    Yes.

    So I said let's do it. "Garv" brought that element of variety in my career that makes it exciting. If on one end I've "Dus" where I'm glamorous, on the other end I'm totally deglamourised in "Phir Milenge". I think I'm now getting my dues.

    The biggest compliment is when after a run-of-the-mill film people question me on why I did it. My role in "Garv" wasn't so short to begin with. But it had to be abbreviated for the good of the end product. It's the film that matters finally.

    You've Salman as your co-star in your next two releases?

    Salman and I go back a long way. I've known him for 10 years. Over the years our bond has strengthened. He has always been there for me, and vice versa. Now when we've two releases together people are talking about our friendship. He's a very dear friend and he always will be.

    Dharamesh Darshan's "Dhadkan" should've been your turning point?

    I think "Dhadkan" did me a world of good. The way the audiences responded to me proved it. But how many women-centric films were made thereafter? Recently there was "Kal Ho Na Ho". I chose from what came my way.

    Out of the 50 that I was offered, I chose five. Not bad, huh? Today I've my own "Phir Milenge". Even in Indra Kumar's "Rishtey" I was noticed. I was even nominated in the comic category. But it wasn't really a comic role! I've done all kinds of roles after "Dhadkan".

    To have lasted in the film industry for 10 years I couldn't be all that dumb. Each film, even "Shool" where I did just an item song, has helped me grow as an actor.

    You're doing a film called "Dus".

    There was a film by the same name that the late Mukul Anand was directing when he passed away suddenly. The new "Dus" has nothing to do with the old one. This is an intrigue film. The audience thinks it knows what's going on. But the next moment they're proven wrong.

    I play a member of an anti-terrorist cell. I'm no prop here. My decoration-doll phase ends for now with "Garv".

    Next, in January 2005 I'm doing a film with Amitabh Bachchan and Paresh Rawal called "Maharathi". It's a play being adapted. Again it's a new experience for me. I haven't been in a film with Mr Bachchan for ages.

    What are you looking for in life?

    Scripts that would appeal to audiences. I don't have to be the central character. Besides that, you know me. I've never planned anything in life. I'm just enjoying this phase in my career where I'm flowing with the tide.

    I don't have any time for a relationship. Whatever little time I have I spend with my parents, sister and a few close friends. I also like to cook and watch films in theatres. I'm the 'chawanni chaap' audience who cheers and whistles.

    What do you feel about titillating films like "Murder"?

    Why crib when audiences are making a success of it? And honestly I thought "Murder" was a very well-made film. Mallika Sherawat played her role very well. Let's be fair.


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