Home » My failure taught me how to operate my own business : Suniel Shetty

My failure taught me how to operate my own business : Suniel Shetty

The actor-turned-businessman, Suneil Shetty has been the path breaker in this Field by crossing the toughest barriers to reach the point of success where he is now

by Teamexpresspo
My failure taught me how to operate my own business : Suniel Shetty

By Jigar Shah

About 30 years ago, a stylish and muscular man entered the industry at 31. Today at 61, he continues to be equally stylish and muscular but looks even younger after chopping off his long tresses. This is none other than Suniel Shetty. Talking about it, he said, “I’m happy at least I have hair on my head (laughs)”.

Over these 30 years, he delivered multiple hits with films like Border, Dhadkan and Hera Pheri. His acting career took a back seat in the last few years as he’s ventured toward his business enterprises. Now, he is back with a bang with the recently released and his first-ever web show, wherein he plays Thalaiva (Godfather). He is gearing up for another film where his character is an accountant. Read on to know more.

After 30 years, you are making your debut on a web show titled Dharavi Bank. What convinced you to take up the role on this show?

Suniel Shetty : When Sarthak Dasgupta (writer) came over to narrate the script, I realized that I could return to the sets. I had the confidence that after a break of so many years, I probably hadn’t forgotten my craft. When you disappear, you believe you’ve forgotten your craft because the world makes you think that. You have not had success in the recent past and your Fridays are difficult Fridays. Not everybody wants to cast you. Suddenly, something so big is offered to you and you start to doubt yourself. You say, Really? Do you want to cast me in such a prominent role? Kamal Hassan Sir and Vinod Khanna Sir have performed similar roles brilliantly in Nayakan and Dayavan respectively. If I could deliver even 10% of how they’ve performed, it would be a huge burden off my chest. In fact, the moment the narration was over, I felt like Thalaiva. I had to undergo 3 hours of prosthetics every day to get into my character. Ahan (son) made me realise something very interesting. He said, ‘Dad, you are the only actor in his 60s trying to look 60 years of age for his role’. It was really sweet and only a son can say something like this.

You’ve also worked in many South-Indian language films. How was that experience?

Suniel Shetty : I speak Tulu at home but there aren’t many films made in that language. The southern languages didn’t come easy to me. Even then, it was comfortable because of the discipline. When you are disciplined, you fit anywhere. Over there, you are happier because you know that 1 o’clock is break, 1 to 2 is lunch, 6 is pack up and by 7 you can be in the gym. Whereas here, we are not managing our time well.

My failure taught me how to operate my own business : Suniel Shetty

Why have you signed up to play an accountant’s role in a film based on fugitives like Vijay Mallya, Nirav Modi and Mehul Choksi?

Suniel Shetty : It is a great story to be told. I firmly believe fugitives like these take people’s money, leave the country and nobody wants to bring them back. Why? What is the reason for not bringing them back? Are there any lapses in the system? In the previous governments, a lot of money was blatantly taken out of the country to run a so-called business. Where is the money? If there was a loss, why haven’t you filed for bankruptcy rather than running out of the country? The writer and director are asking these questions, and I wanted to be a part of this story. What happens now that the system is gunning for you and these fugitives are sending notices saying you are defaming us? Sorry, I don’t understand this process of the pot calling the kettle black.

Over the past five to six years, there have been multiple breaks in your acting career. Why did acting take a back seat?

 Suniel Shetty : The market had changed. After a point, a lot of crap started to come my way. When that starts to happen, it’s better to pull out rather than be involved with anything. The market has now understood how it actually functions and what all it entails (laughs). It always takes a decade for people to understand the market.

Now, distributors have to come back, theatres have to be affordable and films need a much broader reach. Celebration of cinema is very consequential. In the world of critics, influencers and whatever else there is, it has tanked and has not helped facilitate any significant results at the box office.

A business works when there are returns. We are in an age where it is easy to raise money but difficult to make money. So, people making movies have raised money but never learnt how to earn that money back post their investment. When they understand that they will know what the actual game is; which is now to stop the cash burn, earn money back, and work on cash flow? But look at it, the same eight people are doing merry-go-round in the same eight companies and running the show.

You are bound to fail when you use an artist as a commodity. How will you run the world of business without the human touch? Back then, we used to know the distributors would meet each other. Today, no such relationship exists.

My failure taught me how to operate my own business : Suniel Shetty

Even at 61, you look younger than a 30-year-old. What do you eat or don’t eat to look like this?

 Suniel Shetty : Mine is a very balanced approach. I eat anything and everything in moderation. White food (rice, sugar, salt, milk) and fried food are something that I avoid. You will see the change if you control your food portions and the oil that goes into your body. It is not about dieting. My belief is that healthy food isn’t always bland. I fluctuate between 1600 to 2400 calories. So, at the end of the day, it is all Maths. If I eat more today, I will balance it out the next day.

There is always certain tranquility on your face. Where does that come from in your demeanour?

 Suniel Shetty : That is because failure has taught me so much. All my time with my parents, family, wife and kids is my reality check. I’m not competing with anybody and I never was. I was always in my little world. ‘Kaam kiya, Ghar gaya’. If the film worked, the producers screamed from the rooftops but I never did that because I was never interested in that. My only concern was that audience ka reaction kaisa hai? Coin pheka kya? The lesser I knew, the better it was because I didn’t belong to this industry. My failure taught me how to operate my own business. The business keeps your self-respect intact even if someone says your films don’t work on a given Friday. Par main to chal raha hoon naa (smiles).

Your memes are constantly doing the rounds of the internet. Have you had the time to look at them or used them?

Suniel Shetty : I obviously haven’t seen many myself or used them. I’m on social media for the sake of being on social media. For me, LinkedIn is more important than other mediums. I’m very active there. The body of work is so much that the audience has their way of expressing themselves using the content of my film. It also means that people resonate with you and your work, which has kept us relevant.

If you were starting out as your younger self today, would have you made the same choices in your career as you did thirty years ago?

 Suniel Shetty : I think it is the age where your choices dictate things, that is how you conduct yourself, think and speak. That is the reason why it is called a generation gap. Sometimes, I think about what Ahan is doing but he is absolutely right for his time and generation. That is the beauty of life. You enjoy different life stages because you understand more as you evolve.

I made mistakes and I thought I was invincible. I’d work with any director. It didn’t work out for me in the long run, but no regrets. There was no plan to act in the films. I got an opportunity because of my martial arts background. The biggest critic then kept calling me wooden and I asked myself what should I do? I had not learnt my craft at all. Four days of acting classes with Roshan Taneja will not make you an actor. My first film Arzoo was canned after it was ninety-nine percent complete. That was my acting school. It’s always more beneficial to learn on the job. In a way, I was lucky. My death-defying stunts in my films gave me ten more years as a lease of life in the industry.

If your movies were remade, which actor would you like to play your role?

Suniel Shetty : Border: I will say Ahan for everything but keeping him aside. I think Vicky Kaushal or Ranveer Singh will do a very good job. Both of them are fab actors.

Dhadkan: For this one, I would definitely say Ahan because of what he has done in Tadap. I was blown away by his performance.

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