Shilpa Shetty Kundra, who has been missing from the big screen for the past 13 years has become the face of yet another brand.
- She has 13 brands in her kitty from varied categories like Food & Beverages, Telecom, Skincare, FMCG, Chocolates, and more.
- As Shilpa signs another brand, we try to decode what still makes the actor relevant and how she has become an example of breaking age-disparity in the industry.
Shilpa was last seen on the silver screen in the 2007 film Apne but she never really left the limelight. She continued judging various TV reality shows, became an entrepreneur by starting her own fitness channel called The Shilpa Shetty app and invested in a start-up called Mamaearth.
Shilpa has over 1.6 million subscribers on her YouTube channel, which covers fashion tips, her fitness regime and a cooking show. While on Instagram, she has gained more than 6 million followers in a short span of time. According to media reports, she has a net worth of $20 million.
This year, her long sabbatical of 13 years will also come to an end as she will be seen in two movies -- Nikamma and Hungama 2.
Shilpa was 16 and a part of the modelling world when an aerated drinks brand approached her. Today, she regrets falling for money and choosing shortcuts. Shilpa is now wary of the kind of brands she chooses to work with. She has walked out of the meeting rooms if she doesn’t resonate with the brand.
“Earlier, I really didn't think about whether I suited the brand. It was only about whether I was getting paid enough to leverage my name. But in the last five years, there has been a change in my thought process. When people take you seriously as a brand or rather someone synonymous with health and fitness, you become more responsible. So if something doesn't resonate with my personality or something that I can't use at home for my family or me, I won't endorse it,” admits Shilpa.
Before her big release lined up this year, Shilpa turned down a Rs 10 crore offer from an Ayurvedic Slimming Pill brand because she did not want youngsters, who look up to her, to fall for fad diets.
“There's so many brands I have turned down, I can't sit down and list those,” she breaks into a chuckle.
She says she would have bagged a lot more brands and made more money had she not been so fastidious. Pan Masala brands and Aerated Drinks are completely off her list and she says she wouldn’t consider endorsing them ‘for all the money in the world.’
Explaining her modus operandi of choosing deals, she says, “I'm very particular and there's a lot of due diligence that goes into the brands that I work with. And I really believe that there is no shortcut in life. If you were to tell people that by popping pills you will lose weight, I think people who actually work out the right way will start losing faith in what they're doing. And I just feel that though we stopped focusing on mental health, and we will be talking about prizes and losing weight, fitting into a certain size, I think mental health is equally important. And I can't endorse something that doesn't fall into line with my philosophy.”
The secret behind her relevance in the industry
It was during her post-pregnancy period that Shilpa was asked a lot of questions about her fitness regime on the internet. She joined social media to help people out and realised that the audiences’ love for her hasn’t changed. She used that to her advantage and started her own application. It is her penchant for fitness and strong social media following, that brands still find her relevant.
“After all these years, I feel like I stayed relevant. Today, I'm doing two films after 13 years but people still know me, not only because of television, but also because I stand for propagating good health. I want to bring about an awareness and want to play the role of a catalyst. As actors, we are always looked up to, and we have the power of social media. I used that to start my own YouTube channel,” shares Shilpa.
Now, Shilpa Shetty is in-between meetings, looking for a fundraiser for her application to expand her reach further.
Ashutosh Harbola, CEO and Co-founder, Buzzoka thinks that Shilpa had a strong influence on the industry since she made her fortune in Big Brother; her brand image changed after that and IPL, he says, added a cherry on the cake.
“Shilpa Shetty is an ever-blooming social media star and her constant touchpoint with her audience makes her relevant even when she doesn't have too much in her kitty. From a brand's perspective, it's the right fit. Since the social and digital-first audience is always on social media, their appetite for relevancy is much filled. Also, Shilpa has been testing a couple of other platforms too which is keeping her both busy and buzzed. We all saw her entry on TikTok and it's a perfect example of being in the news for the right reasons,” says he.
“Post her marriage, she is amongst the rich kids of Instagram making the world drool on her cuteness and the lavish lifestyle,” adds Harbola.
N Chandramouli, CEO, TRA Research, highlights how strong her social media currency is, which is one of the reasons why brands still love her.
“It is not easy for an actor who has been out of an active acting career for over 10 years to continue to stay relevant. However, Shilpa Shetty has reinvented herself in many new avatars to do what she is good at. She is a fitness icon, TV reality show judge, fashionista, partner in a spa chain, has over 1.6 million subscribers on her Youtube food channel, 6 million followers on her Instagram, among other things. Guess that's more than enough to keep her relevant with new-age millennials and others,” says Chandramouli.
Social Media and Brand Expert, Karthik Srinivasan thinks Shilpa’s relatability factor for millennials and Gen Y has worked in her favor.
“Shilpa Shetty, I believe, appeals to and can be recognised by a whole lot of middle-aged and older women unlike an Ananya Panday or Alia Bhatt. That relatability is what perhaps works in her favor. Ditto for actors like Vidya Balan. To some extent, it's also a factor of a 40+ woman actor to continue to want attention, work and assignments. Some may choose to shun the limelight and live a more obscure life surrounded by people close to them, as a way to escape the excess attention of earlier times. Shilpa Shetty has been in the limelight long after her exiting the film industry, including her foray into owning teams and so on. So, modeling and films continue to help her position her brand,” explains Srinivasan.
An inspiration for other actresses
The Khans of Bollywood and actors like Akshay Kumar and Amitabh Bachchan, still continue to be the Top 10 celebrities. Senior actresses, on the other hand, struggle to find film projects. As they vanish from the limelight after they get married, brands stop approaching them.
Shilpa is unhesitant to agree that she found her calling much later in her career arc and feels women are finally stepping up to turn the tables.
“I found my calling very late but I guess better late than never. Also, times are changing. You see actresses are far more daring today. It's also a more egalitarian world now. Women are given far more opportunities. I think women today are willing to take risks. And yes, it's a different world. And I think that's the only thing that's constant - change,” says Shilpa.
Srinivasan also thinks the situation is changing, thanks to actresses like Shilpa Shetty and Vidya Balan and script writers that are breaking the age stereotypes.
“I think as an industry, Bollywood (and the regional film industries, in particular) have moved definitely away from age-limits for women actors. While there's always (and still) a demand for young women actors, there are scripts being written for older ages as well, who do not fit the conventional stereotypes of a leading woman in films,” says Srinivasan.
He adds, “From a branding point of view, I was very pleasantly surprised to see Tapsee Pannu featured in a Horlicks ad where she was specifically called out as being 30+. Or a Kangana Ranaut playing a mother of a boy in Panga. This scenario was unheard of a few years ago when only men had the freedom to be called 30+, 40+ and still get away with conventional roles in films. 40+ Shilpa Shetty is a variant of the 30+ Tapsee and Kangana.”
Chandramouli, on the other hand, feels the onus also lies on actresses.
“Brands take endorsements from 53-year-old male actors endorsing colas, and 77-year-old males endorsing everything. When it comes to women celebrities, there are occasions when you will see someone like Madhuri Dixit, who is above 50 years get endorsements. But many don't get as lucky as her. And this age-related aberration is one of the strangest as many times when choosing actors playing an older role, directors tend to cast younger actors. To correct this is the responsibility of female actors as also it is of brands and advertising agencies. Many times due to the paucity of opportunities, women celebrities above 40 tend to start focusing on other areas of their interests in work and personal life. In a highly competitive world, they must continue to stay relevant in their interest areas, stay connected with audiences, and find new interests which find newer fans. Since all endorsements are a commercial arrangement, the fee of endorsement also matters, for the potential endorsers must be willing to adjust fees in line with market demand. For the brands and agencies, it is important to have greater acceptance, to try the different, reink campaigns with such potential endorsers.”
While many actresses have come and vanished with time, Shilpa Shetty Kundra has never left the showbiz, setting an example for other female actors in the industry.