Suniel Shetty
Urmimala Banerjee (DNA; May 2, 2017)

After almost a decade, Suniel Shetty is back on TV with India’s Asli Champion… Hai Dum, that airs on &TV from May 6 onwards. This show focuses on physical fitness and endurance. With contestants being former sportsmen and medallists, Sunil says he could not be happier than be part of a group that has fitness as its passion. In a candid interview, he spoke about the show, his kids, his dislike for social media and how people need to get real to be happier in life...

What made you say yes to India’s Asli Champion?
I guess it is because it is about health, wellness and the idea of mind over body. It is about the common man and not celebs. It appeals to the former and gives one a chance to convert his signature into an autograph and become a star. It gives us the confidence to bring out the champ in us. I believe there is a champion within each one of us and this show is about that.

What kind of role do you play on the show?
I am the big brother, they call me anna. I am their mentor as well. I am working 16-18 hours a day with them. I am the host of the show. I will be looking into their needs and helping them navigate their highs and lows. I am imparting my knowledge to them. I am excited to see the change in the contestants from mild, quiet souls to more confident beings. They are pushing their limits, which is what the show is about. I feel, mentally, if you are there, half the battle is won.

What is your fitness regime at this age?
I do an hour of Yoga in the morning, basic suryanamaskar and stretching. In the evenings, four days a week, I do weights. I mix this up with squash or swimming twice a week. Being sporty always helps. I try to keep myself fit.

How closely do you identify with the people on the show?
Hundred per cent, it is my journey. I come from a simple background. The day I got into sports, fitness and martial arts, my passion became my profession. I was a trained restaurateur, I did my hotel management. I got into the movie business because of my passion. I owe my movie career to my fitness. Though I was not a good actor, I was sought after because of the stunts I did. The day we understand it (the importance of fitness), it can be magical for us.

We see film stars on TV, but a few TV actors too break into films. Do you feel it is unfair?
I did not come from TV. I was lucky to get a break. It is about being there at the right time. You need the desire to succeed. You said there are many good actors, but you need something extraordinary to stand out. It is about timing and also that one unique quality that makes you stand out. I was not an actor per se, but when I got into the industry, no one could do action like I did. I could do all the death-defying stunts. You need to have extraordinary talent to stand out in the minds of the public. TV actors burn themselves out with over exposure.

Your take on the six pack abs and biceps ave in Bollywood?
I think it is good… But the fittest people, I would say are Amitabh Bachchan, Akshay Kumar, Anil Kapoor and Salman Khan. Others have fabulous bodies. It is fantastic, the kind of hard work they put in. However, having a good body is also about being flexible and having bundle of energy. Very few people have that. When great bodies can’t move well, it is debatable from where they get it. But it is a good trend for sure as it urges the youth to exercise.

Among the young stars, which actors do you feel have a great body?
I think Tiger Shroff has a great physique and flexibility. Varun Dhawan has phenomenal energy, which is a sign of good fitness levels.

If you get an offer to do a finite series on TV, would you take it up?
I would surely do it. I do not want to be a judge. I will praise something if I am knowledgeable about it. I’ve stayed away from judging because I did not want to be dishonest to myself.

Any advice to youngsters who are dealing with the stress of urban living?
What is the stress? I feel young people have it too easy. Everything is so easy — lifts, fast food, multiplexes. I would tell them to get out and face the real world. Trek, cook, garden and meet people in real. Stop getting on the phone and social media all the freaking time. Be real and it will work for you.