Shilpa Shetty on Dubai: ‘I always look forward to the opportunity to visit’

At the Dubai launch of the jewellery boutique Gehna, Shilpa Shetty talks to us about empowering women and why it’s not yet time for her big-screen comeback.

Shilpa Shetty says she’ll be back in Dubai later this month for the Indian mixed martial arts event in the Super Fight League. AFP
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Shilpa Shetty, who was in Dubai on Monday, February 9, to launch Gehna, a bespoke jewellery shop in Gold & Diamond Park, says she can’t stay away from the UAE.

“It feels wonderful to be back here in Dubai after a long time. We used to come here a lot, because we once used to own a home here. It’s really child-friendly and I always look forward to the opportunity to visit,” says the 39-year-old actress.

As part of the shop’s launch celebrations, she also handed out awards of excellence to high-profile Indian women in the UAE, including the entrepreneurs Sarah Belhasa, Sima Ved and Faiza Rangoonwala; Saher Shaikh, founder of the charity initiative Adopt-a-Camp; Banali Malhotra, the marketing head of RAK Bank; dermatologist Minal Patwardhan; Shelly Kawatra, head of human resources at Unilever Mena; Alisha Moopen, director of DM Healthcare; and fashion designer Ayesha Depala.

“I have always believed that we live in an egalitarian world,” says Shetty, when asked about the secret of her success.

“We need to encourage girls from an early age and inculcate the right kind of conditioning,” she says.

“Actually, it’s all about conditioning, at the end of the day. I believe I am what I am today – and for that matter all those women who have been felicitated today – are who they are because they have been encouraged.

“I am sure their parents put the wind beneath their wings – as mine did – and treated them as equals, which is why they were able to achieve what they have today. This is my message to all parents out there: you need to hone your girls’ talent so that they can fly.”

Shetty made her Bollywood debut in 1993 with the thriller Baazigar, starring opposite Shah Rukh Khan and Kajol, and went on to become one of India's most successful crossover celebrities with her 2007 appearance and subsequent hard-fought victory on the British reality TV show Celebrity Big Brother.

The actress, who has stayed away from the big screen since her son was born in 2012, says that she’s not actively seeking to make a comeback. Her focus, she says, definitely “is on motherhood more than it is on showbiz”.

“Right now, I am just a full-time mother and a part-time professional,” Shetty says with a laugh. “To do films will take me another year at least. Until then, I see myself doing various endorsements and travelling a lot.

“Speaking of which, we are going to be coming down to Dubai again on the 27th [of February] for the Super Fight League,” she says, referring to the first India versus Pakistan event in the Super Fight League at Dubai Sports City.

The Super Fight League is an Indian professional mixed martial arts league. It was launched in 2012 by Shetty’s husband, the businessman Raj Kundra, and the Bollywood actor Sanjay Dutt. Shetty and Kundra also co-own the Indian Premier League cricket team Rajasthan Royals.