Shilpa Shetty makes a comeback with ‘Hungama 2’

Fourteen years after Life in a… Metro, Shilpa Shetty returns to a full-fledged acting role in Hungama 2. The follow-up to the 2003 hit sees the return of director Priyadarshan and actor Paresh Rawal, and has Shilpa also recreating her iconic Main Khiladi Tu Anari number Chura ke dil mera. The Telegraph caught up with Shilpa over a video call on the film (that streams on Disney+Hotstar VIP on July 23), revisiting the song and why she has no regrets about taking a sabbatical from the movies.

You have a film releasing after 14 years. Nervous much? Or is the excitement a lot more?

Thankfully, it’s an OTT release, so there is no judgment in terms of box office. But I am quite confident that if Hungama 2 had released in theatres, it would have been a big hit. This franchise has had quite a following, even though Hungama 2 doesn’t really start off from where the first film left off. It’s an absolutely different plot with a new cast. Only the director (Priyadarshan) and Pareshji (Rawal) are present from Hungama.

The advantage of having a release on OTT is that everyone can watch our film at home. Me coming back to the movies will now be seen by more people than perhaps I would have expected in a theatrical release.

So is not having the pressure of the box office liberating?

I have never been under any pressure for any of my movies, to be honest! I do my work and I forget about it and move on. You can’t be bogged down by box-office results. Yes, I would always feel terrible if I wasn’t appreciated in my films. But whatever the movie has been, my songs have always been appreciated. Even if the film was a big flop, my songs were a hit… and I would be like, ‘Mera kaam ho gaya hain!’ (Laughs) Even my cameos have come in for praise.

Also, back in the day, the onus was never on the heroine. Now, female actors are also getting meatier parts and a whole lot of importance. So maybe the pressure will build steadily. But individually, I just do my work to the best of my ability and leave it to destiny.

There are some obvious reasons why you would have wanted to do Hungama 2. What was the predominant reason?

Priyan (Priyadarshan). Just to be in a comic caper with Priyan sir directing and to have Pareshji in the same frame was the clincher. I have loved Hungama as well as Priyan sir’s other films in the past. I had always wanted to work with him in the ’90s and he never worked with me! When Ratanji (Jain of Venus, the film’s producer) was making Hungama 2, he told me that he was planning to reshoot Chura ke dil mera (from Shilpa’s 1994 hit Main Khiladi Tu Anari). I told him, ‘You can’t shoot Chura ke dil mera with anyone else!’ (Laughs) Let’s just say the universe conspired to get me into this movie!

But this wasn’t supposed to be the film releasing first. It was supposed to be Nikamma (co-starring Abhimanyu Dassani and Shirley Setia). And imagine… the first images of me in a film after such a long gap was from a song that I did more than 25 years ago. You were asking about pressure earlier. Redoing Chura ke dil mera was a lot of pressure. And that too with a boy (Meezaan) who is 25!

Shilpa Shetty with Akshay Kumar in Chura ke dil mera in Main Khiladi Tu Anari (above) and (below) with Meezaan in the recreation of the song in Hungama 2

But you have always looked 25! Especially in this song. What was it like doing this song all over again?

It was easier said than done because it was about recreating something that became a milestone in my career. How does one outdo that?! I had to live up to a benchmark. It was different when I did the original song… I was much younger. This time around, I knew there would be a lot of positives, but a lot of negatives as well. But I just went with the flow and gave it my best shot. And now I think that for Meezaan, it must have been even more pressure because he had to take the place of Akshay (Kumar) and that must have been very daunting for someone who is one-film old. But he was brilliant.

The beauty of this song is that Priyan has made it situational. When you watch the movie, it just flows into the story. We are enacting it like it’s an old song and we are dancing to it.

What are your most enduring memories from shooting the original song?

Oh my God! Lots of memories! I was so new… Baazigar (1993) had just come out. We had gone on an outdoor (schedule) to Mauritius… and it was hot! If you watch the song again, you will realise how tanned my arms are! We shot on sand, but a lot of people thought it was snow because it was so white. I went on set wearing this leopard-print top and long skirt, which became quite a style trend after the song released. But Sarojji (Khan, choreographer) took one look at me and said, ‘Itna covered hoke kyun aayi ho?! And she immediately took a pair of scissors and cut through the top and knotted it up at my stomach.

I didn’t know what was happening! I was just 17-and-a-half and so new… how could I tell the Saroj Khan anything?! (Laughs) I had tied my hair up in a ponytail and she told me, ‘Heroine ke baal hamesha khuley hone chahiye!’

She was the one who made me look the way I did in the song, my style to my expressions. I didn’t know anything! Today’s heroines come so prepped with their style, with their manager, troupe and paraphernalia… we had nothing!

Did the fact that your generation of heroines were largely greenhorns contribute to your innocence and spontaneity on screen?

Well, it did contribute to our exclusivity. We weren’t seen as much as the heroines today are. We didn’t have social media, we didn’t have trolls! (Laughs) We just had a few hand-picked channels that showcased our work. I came in at a time when the satellite channels were fairly new and we would have excerpts of our songs playing on them…

Growing up in the ’90s, I remember watching Philips Top 10 a lot!

Oh yes! Philips Top 10 always had at least three of my songs! (Laughs)

Now that you are back, do you regret the time away? And do you think you could have better leveraged the eyeballs that came your way after your Big Brother win?

I have no regrets whatsoever. It was a self-imposed sabbatical. I had worked very hard for a long time. I got married, and then I had Viaan and now I have another child (daughter Samisha). I feel that despite not working in films for 14 years, I have still managed to build a brand that I perhaps otherwise wouldn’t have been able to if I was acting. I made the transition from just being an actor into doing so much in health and wellness. That, for me, is of so much more importance because I am able to change peoples’ lives and health and that, for me, is great karma.

Yes, entertaining people gives me a different kind of joy. Once an actor, always an actor (smiles), but I am doing that as well now. I have Hungama 2, Nikamma and then I have another film, in which I play the title role, and then a web series as well. I want to do selective work because my family will always come first.

No regrets about not venturing into the West post Big Brother?

I said ‘no’ to the West! I can’t shift bag and baggage. While I may look very ambitious, I actually am not! (Laughs)

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