|Shilpa Shetty at the 2007 IIFA Awards in Sheffield.|
8 June 1975 (age 35)
Mangalore, Karnataka, India
|Spouse||Raj Kundra (2009–present)|
Shilpa Shetty (Tulu: ಶಿಲ್ಪಾ ಶೆಟ್ಟಿ; born 8 June 1975) is an Indian film actress and model. Since making her debut in the film Baazigar (1993), she has appeared in nearly 40 Bollywood, Tamil, Telugu and Kannada films, her first leading role being in the 1994 Aag. Although she has been through years of decline during her career, Shetty has been willing to reinvent herself quite often. Her performances in Dhadkan (2000) and Rishtey (2002) were appreciated, while her portrayal of an AIDS patient in Phir Milenge (2004) won her many accolades. Her younger sister Shamita Shetty is also a Bollywood film actress.
Shetty has been embroiled in various controversies including suspected mafia links. In 2006 she was issued with a warrant on charges of obscenity. After taking part in the British Celebrity Big Brother TV show in 2007, Shetty was crowned the winner with 63% of the final vote, after an international racism controversy involving her and fellow contestants Jade Goody, Jo O’Meara and Danielle Lloyd. This was followed by a re-establishment of her status in the film industry in 2007 when she appeared in two successive movies, Life in a… Metro and Apne, with her performance in the former drawing positive reviews.
She is the eldest daughter of Surendra and Sunanda Shetty, manufacturers of tamper-proof caps for the pharmaceutical industry, and her native language is Tulu although she speaks several other languages at differing levels, including English, Tulu, Marathi, Hindi, Tamil, Gujarati, Telugu, Urdu and basic French.
In Mumbai, she attended St. Anthony Girls’ High School in Chembur, and later attended Podar College in Matunga. A trained Bharatanatyam dancer, she is also into sports, was the captain of the volleyball team in school, has earned a black belt in karate and is currently a dancesport expert and enthusiast.
At 5 ft 8.5 in (174 cm) barefoot, Shilpa Shetty is among the tallest actresses in Bollywood. It was revealed on 29 March 2009 that Shilpa had purchased a house on St. George’s Hill in Surrey, England with her husband Raj Kundra.
Her first leading role was in the film Aag in 1994, which was averagely received at the box office. She had a hit that same year with the film Main Khiladi Tu Anari opposite Akshay Kumar. This was followed by many films which were average to poor performers at the box office. Shetty starred in another big film that year, Aao Pyaar Karen, followed in 1995 by Hathkadi, where she was working alongside actors such as Saif Ali Khan, Govinda and Madhoo, but they failed at the box office. 1997 was one of her busiest years: she appeared in six different films, beginning with the Telugu language film Veedeva Dani Babu. Her first major Bollywood film of that year was the action thriller Auzaar. Shilpa portrayed the character of Prathna Thakur alongside actors Salman Khan and Sanjay Kapoor. In 1998, she had one release, Pardesi Babu, for which she received critical acclaim and won the Bollywood Movie Award for Best Supporting Actress. In 2000, Shetty received much acclaim for her role in Dhadkan which earned reasonable takings at the Indian box office. She received several nominations under the Best Actress category in different award ceremonies. She would later go on to star with Anil Kapoor and Karisma Kapoor in the film Rishtey (2002). Her comic performance as an eccentric fisherwoman was appreciated and she received a nomination under the Filmfare Best Supporting Actress Award category and various nominations for Best Comedian as well.
2004 was also a good year for Shetty with the release of Garv in which she portrayed a Muslim orphan and disillusioned table dancer starring opposite Salman Khan. According to Shetty, she chose to do the film because she liked the subject. The film was a cop drama. However, she received much acclaim for her performance in Phir Milenge, where she made a sensitive portrayal of a successful city high-flyer who contracts HIV via unprotected sex and becomes a social outcast as a result. The film, based on 1993’s Philadelphia, was perceived to have tackled a social taboo as yet unaddressed by Bollywood. The film earned Shetty a Filmfare Best Actress nomination, and provided an impetus for her HIV-related charity work (see below). Film critic Taran Adarsh from indiaFM noted, “Phir Milenge belongs to Shilpa Shetty completely. She delivers, what can be rightly called, the performance of her career. The viewer feels and empathizes with the character mainly because of her effective portrayal. She conveys the pain and the emotional upheaval through her expressive eyes, making it amongst the most memorable performances the year has seen so far.” This marked a break from the previous trend of superficial song-and-dance items in favour of roles which have a greater depth of character, exemplified by her film Dus (2005), an action thriller. Although it received average returns at the box office, Shetty stated that she had taken the role in order to reinvent herself by portraying the rather unconventional character of an anti-terrorist squad member. She also starred with her sister in the film Fareb in 2005. Shilpa had one release in 2006, the much delayed Shaadi Karke Phas Gaya Yaar. The film was a box office flop, but she got good reviews for her role as a not entirely likeable wife. In 2006, she was a judge on Jhalak Dikhlaja, a Sony Entertainment Television dance show based on the original UK show Strictly Come Dancing.
2007 proved to be Shetty’s most successful year at the box office so far. Her first release, Life In A… Metro, won a significant reception, and became the first Bollywood movie to premiere at Leicester Square. The film performed well at the box office, and was declared a semi-hit within three weeks. Additionally, the film was critically acclaimed and Shetty’s performance was appreciated, with Rajeev Masand of CNN-IBN writing, “It’s a terrific performance and unquestionably Shilpa’s best to date.” Her second release, alongside three Deols, Dharmendra, Sunny and Bobby, the drama Apne, was also a box office success.
Celebrity Big Brother 2007
Shetty was a contestant in and the winner of Celebrity Big Brother UK. and was the first Indian celebrity included in the Celebrity version. Reportedly paid Rs.31.5 m (£367,500 GBP) for her participation, she said to presenter Davina McCall, “I just want every Indian to be extremely proud that I’m in here”. As for her participation, she stated: “I have zero expectations. The only thing I really hope to keep is my self-respect and my dignity.” Her sister Shamita told the Times of India that this “is the boldest decision Shilpa has taken hitherto.”
During her time, Shetty instructed fellow housemates Carole Malone and Ken Russell in meditation, and flirted with Dirk Benedict but tempers started to fray by Day 7 as a clique formed in the house disapproving of Shilpa’s presence. Following a worldwide controversy that publicised her as a target of racist bullying within the house (see below), Shetty won the contest after gaining 63% of the public vote and described the experience as “incredible and overwhelming”. She further thanked the public for “a fantastic opportunity to make my country proud”.
Post Celebrity Big Brother
In February 2007, Shetty attended a reception at the House of Commons by invitation of Keith Vaz MP to meet with then Prime Minister Tony Blair.n:Big Brother star meets Tony Blair She was also invited to meet with Queen Elizabeth II at Marlborough House in London in March 2007. During an interview on This Morning, Shetty confirmed that she had been asked to act in the British EastEnders soap opera, and turned it down as it would mean all her other arrangements would have to go on hold.
She was the subject of a Sky One documentary entitled The Real Shilpa Shetty, which was produced by British television production company Twofour. The large number of commercial offers that Shilpa received after winning Celebrity Big Brother themselves became reason for controversy with an increasing number of accusations about her riding the ‘racism’ wave to commercial gain. She was on the cover of the first issue of OK! Magazine to be sold in India.
In early September 2007 she modelled at the Wills Lifestyle India Fashion Week, which also displayed some famous Bollywood actresses including Lara Dutta and Celina Jaitley. As of October 2007, Shilpa will be seen in a musical titled Miss Bollywood. On her agenda next is a cookery book titled Soul Curry and the role of Sita in Uru Patel’s international venture Hanuman.
In August 2008, Shetty began hosting the second season of Bigg Boss, the Indian version of Big Brother. Controversially, Jade Goody was one of the initial housemates. Goody left the Bigg Boss House early in the series after receiving news that she had cervical cancer, of which she later died on 22 March 2009.
Indian Premier League
As well as modeling and acting, Shetty has associated herself with several other commercial and non-profit organizations.
In February 2006 Shetty lent support to a BBC World Service Trust television show designed to tackle the problem of HIV-AIDS in India. The project, which also involved other celebrities Vivek Oberoi, Dia Mirza, and Raveena Tandon in separate episodes, featured Shetty as she shadowed a young achiever whose work involved raising awareness about the condition. According to reports, she participated in order to show solidarity with HIV-AIDS sufferers.
The issue is particularly close to Shetty’s heart as she had portrayed an HIV-positive sufferer in her 2004 movie Phir Milenge. Speaking about the movie and HIV in general, Shetty said: “Why not a film on HIV positive patients? It is a social stigma in our society. We made this film to highlight this problem … This film will bring about a social awareness about AIDS in our country. It is high time we talked about this in our society”.
In March 2006 various sources reported Shetty’s joining PETA as part of an advertising campaign against the use of wild animals in circuses. According to a PETA India press release, Shetty is a long-time PETA supporter and has assisted the campaign by posing for photographs in a figure-hugging tiger costume. She explained that her crouching in a cage was uncomfortable during the photoshoot, but that her discomfort was insignificant compared to the pain suffered by the creatures. “These once dignified animals only leave their cages, which are barely larger than the size of their bodies, for a few minutes each day to be forced into the ring to perform tricks which make no sense and are upsetting to them. The best way to help animals suffering in circuses is to boycott the circus”.
Shetty revealed in a later interview that she felt strongly about this cause and that she was appalled to hear of the cruel treatment suffered by such animals. “I thought I should stop that. If I can make a little difference to their lives, why not go for it?”