On 11th August 2022, my dear friend in the film industry Suniel Shetty turned 61. On the joyous occasion, I wish him a happy birthday and would like to pen some of my thoughts on the man, who I remember I had met for the first time when producer Sajid Nadiadwala had introduced him to me when he as launched in his film Waqt Hamara Hai starring Sunil Shetty in his debut role, with Ayesha Julka way back about three decades ago, with Bharat Rangachary as the director. It was the then active PR person Ramesh Kerur who had invited me for the jaunt
I remember it was at Bangalore where I had been invited with the other members of the fourth estate to cover the location shooting of the film by the producer that I met Suniel who was a bubbly young 30 plus young man. He was and continues to be affable and friendly even today. The guy from a conservative family never used to touch alcohol and even when he used to invite me to his family’s Udupi restaurant cum bar Ramanjaneya at Lamington Road, while he used to order soup for himself, he used to offer me my favourite whisky. It was my first interview with Suniel Shetty who was extremely thrilled when it was published in the next week’s tabloid Blitz.
Right at the first encounter in Bangalore, Suniel won me over with his stark simplicity and demeanour and told me not to call him Anna though he was addressed by everyone in the film industry as Anna, just because he knew that I was senior to him while he was a junior on the threshold of filmdom. He was also the owner of a boutique in South Mumbai where he was also staying. After the pack up for the day was announced in Bangalore when I told Suniel that I wanted to visit a relative of mine in Bangalore and was waiting for a cab to come to the hotel to pick me up and drop me, he volunteered to ask his driver to drop me and fetch me back from my relative’s place, though he need not have.
My next meeting with Suniel was now in Chennai where I was invited for the shooting coverage of the film Yeh Tera Ghar Yeh Mera Ghar which was directed by none other than Priyadrshan. The film also starred Paresh Rawal, Mahima Chaudhry and Suniel Shetty. In between the shots Sunil and Priyadarshan used to make it a point to play the game of cricket inside the Vauhini studios outside the shooting floors.
After the pack up on the first day, I was keen on doing some shopping as I wanted to buy Narasu coffee powder which was available only in Chennai and I politely excused myself and told Suniel that I wanted to leave but he insisted that I continue to play cricket with the other journalists, as a result of which we were delayed by nearly two hours.
By the time Suniel left us to do the shopping and we reached the super market at T.Nagar, the shop where Narau coffee powder was being sold had closed as it was 9.30 pm, though the female journalists could shop for the saris at the Nalli Sari Centre there and when we reached the hotel back for our drinks and diner, Suniel saw me with a frown on my face as I was sulking, he asked me the reason. I told him that I could not buy the coffee as I had promised to my wife. Suniel did not react but asked me to repeat the name Narasu again and again. The matter ended there and then and the next day early in the morning, all of us bid good bye to Suniel Shetty and the director Priydarshan and left for Mumbai.
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A week later, Suniel’s then manager George called me up and told me if I could meet Suniel at Film City since he was shooting here for some film and was keen on meeting me and unsuspectingly I reached the studio at Film City to meet Suniel, who literally sprang a pleasant unexpected surprise on me by asking Georg to go to his car parked nearby and bring out three packet of Narasu coffee powder weighing three kilos exclusively only for me. Needless to mention, I was overwhelmingly touched by this brotherly gesture of Suniel, who told me that he felt he owed this to me since it was because of him that I could not do my shopping for my wife in Chennai.
The last incident involving Suniel Shetty is really interesting. My friend Vikram Razdan called me to Suniel’s office at Seven Bungalows Aram Nagar where I met Sunil as Vikram was working for Suniel Shetty for some programmes that he was commissioned to do for Tata TV. Vikram told me that Suniel wanted me to shoot for some shows for Tata TV based on my experiences with actors like Shashi Kapoor, Dev Anand, Raj Kapoor and Dilip Kumar based on my personal experience as a journalist in the film industry for the last five decades.
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I started going to his office and shooting for the videos for Vikram as well as Suniel without asking how much I will be paid for my services. A month passed by and Vikram called me to hand over a fat cheque to me for having done the shows, without my having to call Suniel and ask for the payment pending to me.
That is Suniel Shetty for you, who has always been a real friend in need whatever the time of the day may be, like most of my my other friends in the film industry like say Akshay Kumar, Jackie Shroff, Boman Irani, Raveena Tandon, Raj Babbar, Ronit Roy, Smriti Irani and Rohit Shetty, who have never shied away from doing whatever I have asked them till date.