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9 Jan

Athiya Shetty on her life at the movies

Meet Athiya Shetty, a young and haute Bollywood belle, who is naturally in love with a life at the movies

Does it surprise you that Athiya Shetty, daughter of Suniel Shetty, would love to star in a hard-core action flick? And before you let her model-esque stature fool you, Athiya, I’ll let you know, is full of surprises. Before she found her way to acting, she was determined to make it as an architect. “I realised it involved a lot of math and decided against it,” she quips.

Even though she grew up well acquainted with the spotlight of Bollywood, it wasn’t her first choice. “My household isn’t the type where our professional choices are made by others. My parents have never insisted on reading scripts on my behalf. Growing up, my brother and I were given the power of choice; we were allowed to make mistakes and most importantly, learn from them, but above all, we were allowed to dream. So, I dreamed of being an author and a doctor; and almost every other month, I was fascinated by different professions,” she shares. She realises that her job as an actor, today, allows her to explore all of these fields through her characters. “As an actor, I can be anyone and anything. I get to live the dream of being different people from different walks of life and it doesn’t get better than this,” she says. Athiya’s narrative for a film is the Bollywood ideal— the classic boy meets girl and falls in love over song and dance at stunning locations. As she puts it, “I am a complete Bollywood buff.” That being said, she isn’t daunted by the prospect of mixing things up. In fact, she invites a good challenge. “Growing up, I was a tom boy; I loved playing sports. At the end of the day, I’m Suniel Shetty’s daughter, so I would love to do a full throttle action film. At the same time, I love the Bollywood song and dance. So while I’m drawn to the idea of playing the typical Bollywood heroine, I would also enjoy switching it up by working in an action flick,” she says. Athiya’s time in the spotlight so far has been as much about her films as it is about red carpet appearances. She’s a girl who has mastered the art of working red carpet looks and street style with equal flair. Her trick to making the right kind of sartorial noise is simple: do comfort with confidence. “For me, style means wearing something comfortable. There’s absolutely no point in slipping into an outfit that may be on-trend, but makes you uncomfortable,” she points.

Outfit: Koëcsh by Krésha Bajaj; Earrings: Mahesh Notandass Fine Jewellery; Ring (right hand): Farah Khan Fine Jewellery; Bangles (left hand): Isharya 

Her easy-breezy take on fashion may seem elementary, but what happens when you’re acknowledged in the same breath as Sonam Kapoor, a name synonymous with fashion, I ask? “When it comes to fashion, there’s only one Sonam Kapoor. The inherent confidence with which she takes on fashion is admirable. She doesn’t let the clothes wear her; her personality shines through,” she says. Athiya’s fashion picks reflect a balance between contemporary and traditional aesthetics. She explains, “Personally, I’m most comfortable in traditional garments. I feel most confident in Indian wear—there’s something about the fabrics, colours and fit. It’s always exciting to do a bridal shoot because I get to wear these beautiful silhouettes from some of my favourite designers.” So, is she instinctive about her style choices or influenced by what’s in vogue. “I don’t follow trends,” she reveals, adding, “I just go by what my mood demands. I generally enjoy putting looks together. I’ve always been passionate about fashion. My mom was a fashion designer, so I’ve grown up around fabrics, designs, karigars and tailors. I’ve lived in that environment and possess an understanding that manifests in the choices I make.”

Outfit: Anita Dongre; Earrings: Amrapali for Swarovski Confluence; Foot harness used as haathphool (left hand): Outhouse; Shoes: Sabyasachi X Christian Louboutin

Athiya’s demeanour is sincere and she looks at her Bollywood journey—past and future—with an open mindset. Just two films old, she knows better than to be overconfident. After all, it is a competitive market and survival is no mean feat. “In Bollywood, there’s always going to be competition and pressure. You must be realistic and willing to accept that someone is always going to be better. You should be confident and comfortable enough in your own skin to put your blinkers on and continue working hard. I used to keep tabs on my peers, but this industry really gives you a lesson in maturity, and I’ve realised that the only person to focus on is me.” This year, we saw her revel in the success of Mubarakan (2017). Though Athiya’s big takeaway was not in its critical reception, but more so with her time on the sets. “It’s such a lovely feeling when a movie, which is a product of your hard work, is well received. But for me, to have worked with the likes of Anil Kapoor and Ratna Pathak Shah was the greater reward. I was like a sponge on set because it was acting school 101,” she declares. Merely two films old, Athiya has skirted on the sunnier side of criticism. Her debut, after all, was helmed by industry bigwigs—a bonanza for any newcomer. Looking back at it, Athiya believes that it was destiny. “Hero (2015) was destined to come to me and so it did. Salman Khan was producing it and Nikhil Advani was directing it. It couldn’t have been better; it was a dream,” she admits. And before you call her out for being a star kid who simply lucked out, she’ll have you know that it takes more than just luck to have a successful career, “Yes, we’re given a platform but that doesn’t guarantee success.”

Outfit: SVA by Sonam & Paras Modi; Haathphool (right hand): Ra Abta by Rahul; Rings (left hand): Suhani Pittie for Swarovski Confluence; Shoes: Lulu & Sky

Athiya is fiercely protective of her family; the gatekeeper of their beautiful world. Of her father, who she believes to be her reality check, she shares, “He is honest with me and that is why I take his opinion so seriously. You need one person like that in your life especially in this business. Someone who says it like it is and that person, for me, is my father. My mother is my ultimate style icon. There’s just so much I’ve learnt from the two of them; there’s much to admire. And then there’s my brother—due to make his debut soon—who is a lesson in hard work and dedication.”


As we wrap up our conversation, I’ve come to understand that at 25 years, Athiya is enviably sorted. She’s found her calling, enjoys a great support system at home and is a fashion icon to boot. She says, “I am most confident in front of the camera; more than I am in everyday life. You put me in front of a camera and everything feels alright and that’s what I love most about my job. So for me, a life at the movies is something I’d never part with. I’d never give up anything I love.” Duly noted, Athiya!

Photographs: Nuno Oliveira; Styling: Lynn Lobo; Hair and make-up: Namrata Soni assisted by Suhas Mohite on hair; Location: The Great Eastern Home, Mumbai

Lynn Lobo / [email protected]
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