‘I love my job as a producer. For me, it is not just about investing money’ – Popcorn Entertainment MD Suniel Shetty

Suniel Shetty is eating, talking and breathing Popcorn Entertainment. He has shifted gears from acting to production. A seven film co-production deal with Balaji and a co-production deal with Studio 18 is already underway.

Apart from this, the man is working towards lining up as many as 17 films, doing a reality TV show with Ekta Kapoor and also building a studio in Panvel. ‘I am not active, I am hyper-active’, he says.
What is the real reason behind you signing so few films as an actor? 
People say I am being very selective about my work, but I don’t say that. I do not have 100 projects coming to me; 10 projects come and all are trash. I would rather not be associated with it. I am not insecure. I genuinely have no work as an actor and I can choose what I am doing.
Today, I am making 17 films in Popcorn. I am not to be a part of these films as an actor because I never want my co artists to think that my role is better than theirs. So I eliminate myself from my own productions, as far as possible. In Mission Istanbul I am just doing a guest appearance because Apoorva (director) did not get anyone else, so he put me in the film. I am acting in Loot with Govinda, Mimoh and Javed Jafri.   
Secondly very little good cinema comes to me and I have no choice but to do it. One Two Three is one such movie. It is unfortunate but when the promos of One Two Three started people come back to me and told me that they knew a good film would come to me.
Are you enjoying your role of a producer? How are you participating in the production of your movies? 
I love my job as a producer. For me, it is not just about investing money, I am also going through scripts, music, edits and I sit with the director. So I am enjoying the kind of films that I am producing. For instance, Mission Istanbul talks about the face of terrorism- whether he is alive or dead- what will happen if a terrorist himself owns and runs a news channel? There is no bigger news than that.
EMI talks about the credit card and whether it is good or bad and how do you use it. Then I have Mumbai Chakachak in which we talk about Mumbai as a karmabhoomi of so many people, we take so much from it but what are we giving back? Little Godfather talks about the train blasts and how Mumbai comes together at the deadliest of situations. We are doing different kinds of films and I am enjoying this phase.
I am focusing more on my production company now. Between June and September three to four films of Popcorn will release and currently from the production point of view I am not active, I am hyper active.
Would you want to direct movies as well?  
I don’t think so. I am happy behind the scene. I think I will make a good producer.
So has the actor in you taken a back seat temporarily? 
I have signed three to four interesting films now. But I wouldn’t want to talk about it now, because tomorrow by chance if One Two Three doesn’t work these guys will remove me from the movie and tell me that they have changed the character.
Now I am clear that I cannot afford to act a lot, because of the money that has gone into my production house. I have big plans and big dreams. I have identified a place in Panvel to build a studio to make films and television programmes. Ekta and I are also doing a lot of reality TV together. So I will do two-three films a year. < Page Break>
How much has your experience as an actor helped you to set up your production house? 
I think that I understand the problems of actors, technicians and directors. All in all if you understand a problem, then that is your solution. I make sure everybody is happy on the sets. The shooting will happen, but everybody needs to be happy and that is what I want to take care of.    
How simpler is it to co-produce films rather than producing them solely?
I am co-producing movies with Balaji purely because of the amount of respect that Balaji has given me. When I met Ekta the first thing she told me was that ‘I always told my father that I want to do something with Suniel Shetty.’ This was a big high for me, because Ekta has performed and delivered and I on the other hand have not delivered on the production front. We have not even signed a contract and we already have seven films in co-production, this I think that says a lot for the amount of respect they give me. They are the masters of distribution and today I am slowly but definitely mastering production.
How have you gone about setting your production team? 
A whole lot of producers who made films with me earlier, cannot produce anymore because the whole canvas has changed. So today, they are my executive producer and partners. They are my backbone. I concentrate on the creative part and they do the execution. There are a whole lot of people like Pami Sandhu and Sunny Narula. Shabbir is a childhood friend of mine who is very actively involved in the production.
What about production entices you so much? 
A Rs 2000-3000 crore company.
EMI was the first movie that Sanjay Dutt shot for after he was released from prison, was it because of your friendly terms with him?  
It was purely because of the script of the film. According to me it is Sanjay Dutt’s life’s best performance. I can shout this from the rooftop that he is outstanding in the film.
He is like a brother to me, there are a lot of things between us which are unspoken yet said. People say that I stand by Sanju like a rock, but I think it is the other way round. Today if Sanju gets any film, he says Anna ko le lo saath main…achcha lagega. When I was producing films he was the first actor to say I will do your film. So he is the one who is supporting me and not vice versa.
I am not among the producer, actor or friend who would exploit him for money. Whoever gives whatever to Sanjay Dutt, I will always give him a rupee more, because I believe he is worth it.       
How was your experience giving your voice for Nikhil Advani’s animation film Ab Dilli Door Nahin? 
It was very-very good. It is a lovely subject and a great team. The character in the film is very much me—brother and father figure.