Ahan Shetty is Bollywood royalty. The son of actor Suniel Shetty, he made his film debut with Sajid Nadiadwala’s Tadap, released in UK cinemas via Disney on 3rd December last year.
The film, directed by Milan Luthria and also starring Tara Sutaria, went on to become a huge success for Disney, who had never released a Hindi film in UK cinemas before. Like many other projects, Tadap was delayed due to the restrictions related to Covid-19, but Shetty is happy with how it all fell into place at the end.
“We worked on the film for over two and a half years, it was delayed because of the pandemic. I put my blood, sweat and tears into this project and worked really hard. I can’t ask for more, especially with all the love showered upon me for my debut film. It’s really special,” he said.
Shetty stayed away from the limelight whilst growing up. He isn’t seen on the Mumbai party scene, neither does he hobnob within the Bollywood celebrity circles. He only really saw the Bollywood celebrity culture once his sister, Athiya Shetty, made her film debut back in 2015.
Explaining how life was like before he made it to front page of newspapers and how it changed after, he explained, “Even though I have grown up with my Dad being an actor, he kept my sister Athiya and I away from Bollywood. We went to the American School of Bombay. No one really cared there who my father was. We were brought up in a very normal environment. I was exposed to the film world only when my sister Athiya entered the industry. I still don’t feel anything has changed for me. I’m still the same person, I still do the same things every day. The only thing that has changed is recognition. There are more people who recognise me and ask me for photos. I have a great support system around me in my family and friends, who keep me humble and grounded.”
With Tadap, the young actor took a risky path in entering the world of films. Where actors are usually looking for a rom-com mixed with a few action scenes here and there and chart-buster songs, Shetty chose a film with violence, stalking, betrayal and bloody action sequences.
Tadap is a remake of Telegu film RX100, but it was the story and his character that convinced Ahan to sign on the dotted line. “I fell in love with the story and the character, the first time I read the script. It is a very different debut film, it was risky. I trained for martial arts, dancing, weapon handling, and couldn’t use any of it in the film. The movie was solely based on performance. That was a risk. Debut films are usually a kind of show-reel, to display what an actor can do but I wanted to dive right in. I wanted to show audiences what I am capable of, but also entertain them simultaneously and give them a good film. I had to give my hundred percent to the film and didn’t think about anything else.”
The risk paid off as Shetty was accepted by audiences and his performance was generally critically acclaimed. It’s the next step he takes, that will define his career, something the actor is very well aware of.
Explaining his future choices, he said, “Honestly, I feel the second film is very important. I believe the first film chooses you, and you choose the second film. I want to work with a good director and fall in love with the script. I want the audience to fall in love with the character that I play on-screen. This is how I want to move forward for perhaps the next two-three films. Then I would like to experiment a little bit. I definitely don’t want to just work in one genre such as action films. My strong point is action but I want to do everything, romance, drama, and thrillers. I am open to doing a lot but for me it’s a combination of director and script.”
Tadap has done extremely well for a debut film in the UK since it’s always been a star driven market. Traditional Bollywood films, with hit musical numbers, and ensemble casts still work wonders at the UK box office.
Released by Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures UK, the film made the 2021 Top 10 Indian films at the UK Box Office list . It’s screened for over ten weeks since its release raking in £190,316, making the UK the most successful and longest running market for the film overseas, beating UAE and USA.
When confronted with the box office numbers, the actor is surprised. “Honestly, I’m getting goosebumps. I didn’t expect this at all.”
With promotions in India leading up to the release, Shetty never actually saw the final film pre-release. He escaped to London shortly after, where he sneaked into a public screening to watch it on the big screen.
“It’s a funny story, I watched Tadap in London after it released. My girlfriend and I thought we’ll check if the film is still playing in cinemas and VUE Cinemas in Shepherds Bush were showing it. It was around the 23rd December 2021, it was about three weeks after the film had opened. We thought not many people would be there, we would quietly go in and slip out at end. However, there were about 40-50 people at the screening, which surprised me. It felt kind of good that this is my first film and people outside of India are liking it. I hope I can carry this momentum forward and keep entertaining people around the world,” he recalled.
With cinemas back to full capacity in many parts of the world, including the UK and India, Ahan believes that footfalls will start increasing again. “I think, it’s a matter of time. In India, cinema is part of our culture. Cricket and movies are two things Indians love. Eventually, people will go and watch films in cinemas. Covid restrictions did affect the experience in India. I know in the UK everything has been back to normal since last year. I watched Spiderman: No Way Home in London and it was completely packed. I firmly believe it will all go back to normal soon.”
With more than half-a-million followers on Instagram, Shetty has been reaching audiences directly through social media. As many of the actors who entered the Indian film industry in the last decade, the actor doesn’t feel the need to be inaccessible to his fans.
“I don’t feel that an actor should have mystery around him. Personally, I’m just a private person. There are some aspects of my life I will publish on social media. However, there are things I don’t want to be out there. On the other hand, I’m not hiding anything either. If a journalists asks me a question, I will answer truthfully. I just don’t feel the need to share every detail of my life on Instagram,” explained Shetty.
But what about the constant attention an actor receives from the media and from fans all around the world. Ahan sees it as part and parcel of the job. “I think, it’s just a part of life now. I don’t crave the attention. I don’t feel better about myself in any way because I’m famous. Like I said, I’m a private person. I don’t go out too much, I like to stay at home. I may go for a dinner or a movie once in a while.”
London is special for Ahan and not just because he watched his debut film at a cinema in the city or that the film is a huge success in the UK, but because of love. The love for his girlfriend, Tania Shroff, and for the British capital.
“My girlfriend divides her time between London and Mumbai. I come to London often, where I train, work-out, and spend time with her. I love Winter Wonderland during Christmas. I also just love walking around in London and being outside, shopping is great too.”
“It’s good to relax and then come back to India and get back to work.”
Tadap is available to stream on Hotstar UK.