With fitness that’ll make even teenagers envious and a makeover that most of his peers can only dream of, Suniel Shetty’s new look is very much an extension of the macho persona he has diligently maintained over the years. Meeting us in Chennai, the actor looked dapper in a casual suit. Preempting the first question, he says, “I have been getting a lot of offers from the South.” It’s been about four years since he last appeared on screen in Bollywood, and he attributes this to his father’s ill-health (he passed away last year). “My father was not feeling good and I took a break during which I refused many offers. Now I am back and I’m looking forward to doing films in the South too.”
The actor, who appeared in Tamil film 12B in 2001, has apparently received many offers for negative roles in Tamil. “Action heroes are generally given negative roles, but I don’t want to be a part of anything negative because what we do in the South leaves a very strong impression. Unlike normal fans, they take it all very seriously,” he says. “If someone brings me an offer to star opposite Rajini sir, for instance, and I’m asked to beat him up in the film, I don’t want to do that as I don’t want Chennai to beat me up.”
When asked, if we’ll see him in a Tamil film soon, he says, “Something big is happening and it might materialise in all the South Indian languages. We’re working on it and it’ll be announced soon. I’ve also been approached for a couple of Tamil films which I’m yet to decide on.”
Shetty says he has always respected the South industries. “I’ve done a lot of remakes—most of them from Malayalam, and even Vijayakanth ji’s films. Today, there’s no such thing as regional cinema. It’s just one whole industry.”
On his physique, the actor hopes to inspire youngsters to get fitter. “In my lifetime, I have never taken supplements. I’m not arguing if it’s good or bad—I just don’t endorse it. Wellness is not rocket science. At 57, I still believe I am fit enough to do what a 30-year-old can do,” he says.
Ask him if, apart from producing, he’s also interested in other aspects of filmmaking, and he says, “I am not a successful producer; I’ve actually lost money on it. Direction is something I don’t have the patience for. It’s a tough job and it is not my cup of tea.” Shetty claims his plate is already full with upcoming projects. “I’ve got a TV show coming up and I’ve agreed to do a comedy. It’s a gap of four years, so I want to be particular about what I do. I’ve got a company called F The Couch, a web portal that helps source people for media projects, from acting to writing. I’m also starting a TV channel which will promote all the 20 languages in India that films are made in. I want to be the LinkedIn of entertainment.”