Athiya Shetty on the firsts in her life

Athiya Shetty

Athiya Shetty on the firsts in her life, about co-star Sooraj Pancholi and producer and mentor Salman Khan and director Nikhil Advani

The first thing that strikes me when I meet Athiya Shetty (Suniel Shetty’s daughter) is her poise and self-confidence. She reminds me of her mother Mana Shetty, who possesses the same qualities. Athiya is a bright, charming, honest young lady, all set for her debut film Hero’s release next month.

Tell me about your first meeting with Salman.
My brother Ahaan and I became huge fans of his (and still are) after we watched his song O O Jaane Jaana (Pyaar Kiya To Darna Kya). I used to pretend I was Kajol and Ahaan was Salman Khan. He’d take off his shirt and we’d both dance to the song together. One day, dad asked us if we wanted to meet Salman at the airport. We jumped at the chance! At the airport, I remember meeting him, but was so scared and shy that I just couldn’t speak! I just kept staring at him. I had just one thought — ‘I am finally meeting THE Salman Khan!’ Ahaan was no better, hiding behind dad. In retrospect, I think we behaved so badly because we were so shy…. (Laughs) That was my first meeting but I’ll never ever forget it. After that, we met him at social gatherings as dad and he are extremely close. Then I met him directly during the look test of Hero. That was the first time the came on the sets. He loved the whole space where were going. I was still very shy and quiet then. Now after Hero, I am more myself in front of him. For Salman, Sooraj and I are like his babies. He’s very protective and supportive of us both. Even on Jhalak, he was constantly watching us to see if we were comfortable. He’s always told Sooraj and me to be ourselves, that you can’t change what you have, so just be confident.

Your first meeting with Sooraj…
Sooraj is extremely shy. You have to talk to him to make him open up and feel comfortable. Once he’s comfortable, he’s the funniest person around! I will be on the floor laughing, he’s so funny. I meet Sooraj when I was in Standard 10 and we were out in a social group and he kept looking at me. I was wondering, ‘Who is that boy?’ Our first meeting never went beyond saying hi to each other. And then I met him at dance rehearsals for the film. He used to dance after I was done, but one day he came earlier to introduce himself — nobody had introduced us to each other till then. Here we are doing a film together and nobody cares, like… ‘Do your own thing’. That’s the first time we met. I was dancing to some song when he entered and I was thinking, ‘It’s so weird’; but he was really sweet. I broke the ice and introduced myself. I am the friendlier one, he’s extremely friendly, but very shy and takes time to open up. When he’s friendly, he’s completely mad. I love him as a person and a friend. It’s so weird when two newcomers are doing a film together people automatically believe and feel that they are in love, but it’s genuinely not like that. He’s my best friend today. We tell each other everything. We have this very close bond because we have gone through this film together and been in the same boat, so everything that happened during the shooting would happen to us both together. Like when we would get yelled at by Nikhil Sir, we used to cry together, or we would get motivational messages at 2 am when Nikhil Sir used to be really proud of us and we would be like, ‘Yay, it’s happening!’ We are very fond of each other, but we are not in love. I am absolutely fine with him dating someone else. That’s how our relationship is. We are like two buddies and it’s a very nice friendship so I would never want to ruin it by getting into anything. It’s a very healthy, honest and real friendship because I know he will be there for me whenever I need him and so will I be there for him all the time. It’s hard to find friends like that and I managed to find one in him.

Your first meeting with Nikhil Advani.
My first meeting with Nikhil was after I was finalised for Hero. I went to meet him at his office. Before that, I had been a huge fan of his films — since Kal Ho Naa Ho. I loved wearing Naina’s glasses, so my mom got me those glasses. I was like a child when I met Nikhil sir because I was so excited! It was like a dream come true… It’s weird how life takes a full circle. He’s worked on all the movies I have grown up with – Kuch Kuch Hota Hai, Mohabbatein, Kal Ho Na Ho, Salaam-E-Ishq — especially the songs — I would dance to them in school. When I met him, the first thing he said to me was, “Wow! You are tall (laughs)!” He’s also extremely protective of us. He is somebody I know I can call if I am in trouble and even if it’s at 4 am. I just have to pick up the phone and tell him what my problem is and he will be there for me. He’s my biggest supporter and is the calming factor in my life. So, whenever I am stressed out, things are not going well, I feel like I am stuck somewhere and things aren’t going the way I thought it would… even if he’s not around me, I just have to send him this SMS and he types out this paragraph and I read it and I am fine. So he’s that type of person in my life.

Your first reaction when you were offered the film.
I didn’t believe it! My dad told me. I was travelling somewhere when he called and told me that he had gone to meet Salman sir and he wants to make a film with you. I was like ‘WHAT?!! Wait! What?’ So that was my reaction. It all happened so fast that it didn’t really hit me during the time we finished shooting. It’s slowing coming together for me now that I am doing a film where Salman Khan is the producer. I was in the gym working out when Salman’s older sister (Alvira) saw me and went and told Salman sir who was anyway looking for an actress opposite Sooraj. That’s how it happened, but I am so happy that this is my first film because it feels like home. We are like one big happy family and it kind of feels weird that it’s getting over now. I tell Nikhil Sir, ‘How will I work with anybody else?’ He’s like ‘Just shut up! You will do fine!’

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