Having gone through his share of struggles for being an outsider, actor Suniel Shetty empathises with the budding talent, trying to make it big in the industry without the surnames supporting them. In October 2016, he opened an online portal that offers jobs to aspiring artistes, from actors and dancers to writers and directors. A year before that, his daughter Athiya Shetty debuted as an actor in good friend Salman Khan’s production.
Suniel, however, sees no conflict. “I am someone who treats everybody the same. My daughter had her first chance, but her second film is very much because of her own merit, because of the patience that she has, her thought process. It’s fantastic. I came through a struggle and if my kids have a certain advantage then why not. Every child looks at his father and that’s exactly what the father showcases. A politician’s son wants to be a politician, a CEO’s son wants to be a CEO. Why are we separating, alienating and running down cinema?”
Hence, the discussion around the concept that celebrities have now begun shying away from is quite irrelevant for the veteran. “The debate on nepotism is there because stars get spoken about. Why don’t they talk about anything else? Because nobody reads. It’s TRPs, eyeballs, it’s bullshit and all created. I have seen that struggle and I am helping those kids, who are going through that struggle. So, why will I believe in that (nepotism). Why doesn’t everyone start doing that? Support new talent,” he says.
While with F The Couch, the actor and casting director Mukesh Chhabra aimed at creating opportunities online, the duo has gone ahead and partnered with Tata Sky to launch a new service, Acting Adda. It is designed to help aspiring actors to learn some basics of the craft before they decide to follow their Bollywood dreams.
“The idea began with F The Couch, which is an online casting platform that gives opportunities to people across the world. We thought that we are giving them the job of acting but who is teaching them that skill? Mukesh and I thought why don’t we put all this out as content but at the same time it should be entertaining otherwise why would a mother watch it or a father watch it if she or he is not interested in acting. Then we decided to do make-up in acting, hair in acting, fitness in acting… Let’s cover all the aspects that make a complete actor, a star that’s why we designed this.”
Acting Adda will see experts sharing their experiences and learning with students about acting, auditions and the film industry. Interviews with various Bollywood celebrities will also be shown, where they will speak about their struggles. and success stories. Acting can’t be taught, it is something majority of the industry swears by but Suniel believes grooming of an actor is essential.
“All these things the fitness aspect or the grooming… this gives you confidence to be an actor. When you see failure, week after week you go for auditions and it doesn’t work for you, it makes a big difference. It calms you down, the way you dress, the way you stand… Attitude (changes). When someone walks in, if you have a certain personality, people will look at you, notice you. When you go for an audition, that impacts the screen. That is exactly what the camera also captures. I believe that small town kids need that confidence when they come in. So, this platform prepares you for auditions.”
Even as he is busy helping new actors, the audience has been waiting for his comeback to the big screen. It’s been almost three years that the actor has been lying low at work, and Suniel calls it a forced sabbatical, which he believes worked in his favour.
“I didn’t slow down, I made mistakes. I screwed up. I don’t blame anyone. I chose wrong films but right people. I went with my heart. When you go with your heart, you make some mistakes but that’s okay. I took a break for three-and-a half years. It was a forced sabbatical. But somewhere down the line, I realised it wasn’t a planned one. Work came to me, I didn’t like what I was doing. Also, my father was unwell and I didn’t want to go outside. I used to hate going out but not realised that. It was only when he passed away… I was lying on my bed and thought to myself, why did I do that? Probably to spend the best moments of our lives with my dad. But I think that was the best decision I took because now that I am back I am getting so much love.”
He has signed a few projects and is also certain what kind of work he wants to do now. “I have been getting a lot of offers. I will sit down and analyse. I have one-two big films. I want to play my age, I don’t want to do anything that doesn’t suit me. If you give me a father’s role, I will do it. I am a father in real life so, I will do that on screen as well,” he said.