Suniel Shetty: Underworld Was Behind Us During Our Human-Trafficking Rescue Operation | EXCLUSIVE

July 10,2024

In an exclusive interview with Zoom, Suniel Shetty spoke about rescuing 400 girls in a human-trafficking operation, raising his concerns against drugs consumption, working in ‘Welcome To Jungle’ after asking Sanjay Dutt about it, KL Rahul winning the World Cup trophy and much more. Here are the excerpts from the interview.

You have been a part of rescuing girls from human trafficking, tell us about it!

You know the thing is, because Suniel Shetty is an actor, everybody remembers that name. But for me, the hero behind this entire thing was my mother-in-law, Vitla Kadri. Earlier we used to run this NGO called Trafficking in India, but then we shifted it because we were having problems with the name and other people were using it. Now it's called Vitla Foundation. My mother-in-law along with a whole lot of NGOs got together and took this bold step to get out more than 400 little girls from the world across.

How did the rescue operation take place?

I've never spoken about it, and I don't want to talk about it, because it could have been harmful, and it can be harmful in the future also. Because these are things that is done with the highest confidential team apart from the then CM, and the then police commissioners. That's why I've never spoken about it. The only reason I'm speaking to you about this is because I know how to be put right and the only reason, I need to talk about it is also because I'm not the hero of this. I was a messenger, and yes, I did whatever that I did. After that, there were a lot of people who helped me manage this, but the credit belongs to unearthing this and everything and having the guts to do it was my master’s in law.

One of the girls had also won a major award and she had done an interview with me for BBC 10 years ago. That girl also told me that sir, I don't know whether you remember the girls you have saved, which was an absolute tearjerker for me. These girls have moved on and started NGOs of their own. Which is very interesting because they are taking the lead. I think that story should be told by them. For me to talk to you was only and only reason is that I'm not the hero. I was one of the character actors. The hero was my mother-in-law and her NGO and the other NGOs that supported her. The heroes were the Mumbai police and the officials who supported it.

What encouraged you to be a part of the girls’ rescue mission?

I was always working with my mother-in-law. I was always helping her with everything. She was constantly saving children and we were providing shelter for them. So that continues even now with Mana, and her siblings. They're all involved in this work continuously. Ahaan-Athiya does their own thing, Rahul does his own thing. All of us are involved. We talk only when it needs to be spoken about it because I honestly believe I'm not doing anything to promote a film. I'm doing it because I want to do it. We're doing it because we want to do it, and we enjoy it. It gives us satisfaction. And it's my mother-in-law who taught me that the art of giving is what the art of living is about. You know, you better give and see how much you receive. And that's why she meant the world to me. You know, I would put her on the same pedestal as my own mother. That’s the love and respect she had for me, and I had for her. We loved her dearly. She made a lot of difference to a lot of children in the world. It was her, because of whom I got the opportunity. We had the underworld after us after that, but we managed thanks to good friends and the police and the department.

So, when good people take up good causes, the system also helps you. And that's exactly what happened. And that's the only thing, I mean, I had people who wanted to be heard about it. No, we want to do this for this channel. I said, I'm not interested in it at all because that's not the reason we did it. That's why I didn't speak about it for 26 years. And now if I'm speaking, I am getting the credit where it's not fair. It is saving the girls of Nepal or saving them from prostitution. Also starting, not starting Suniel Shetty, you know, that is what I want to clear. Because I'm sure a whole lot of people who worked on it see this news and are not happy. We are not spoken about, you know, so there were too many people involved. You know, my mother-in-law used to handle all that. But Jet Airways that came forward and overnight took those girls and sent them away. Jet Airways doesn't exist anymore. But that was an airline with a heart. Naresh Goel, you know, hats off to Nareshji and his wife. You can’t forget all these people. There were a whole lot of people involved.

You have also come out in support of the anti-drugs campaign; how do you think it can be eroded?

I am involved with the UN now. With the UN, we tweeted, I started paying for them and everything. Asia, where they are talking against drugs. The drug, the anti-drug campaign and the narcotics is also working towards that. There's a constant effort, but the effort cannot be just theirs because it's so rampant that every citizen must make sure that they contribute, you know, by informing, by telling. And once again, we cannot treat the drug addicts as the menace. The menace is the people who are supplying, you know. Consumers, they need to be rehabilitated. They need to be helped. They can't be looked at criminals, like criminals. You know, it's the sellers that need to be done. And responsibility of the entire society like cleanliness is, hygiene is, plantation is, all that is. Blame someone and point the finger at someone. So, that is all I can say, because jitna bhi karo kam hai, constantly at the anti-drug campaign. That's when actors, everybody, sportsmen, people who are influential should come forward to support this.

Athiya Shetty chose to wear your ‘Sheher Ki Ladki’ outfit, do you allow her to wear your outfits?

She does her own thing. She robs half my clothes. Chor she is. She takes my t-shirt, she'll take my trousers, she'll take my tracks. Old stuff of mine, because I've always collected all my jackets and stuff like that. Of my films and a lot. She will alter it and wear it and then tell me, Papa, it's okay. I call her a chor. But other than that, also, you know, she likes to do stuff.

KL Rahul has made India proud with T20 World Cup after 17 years, will you still give ‘Sharma Ji Ka Beta’ the credits?

It's a huge achievement for India. Because after 17 years. Yeah, but that is Sharma ji ka beta and his quality as a leader. Because he is the ultimate captain. I love that boy. I mean, Rahul's my son, but Sharma ji ka beta is a nation's beta. Which is brilliant.

You reportedly own the buildings where your dad used to work earlier, is that true?

No, no, no. There again, there again. Three buildings my father has bought, and I am the caretaker. So, I am the caretaker of those properties. That means Mr. Shetty, his two daughters and third me. We are all proud caretakers of that property.

You are a part of ‘Welcome To The Jungle’ for which you took consultation from Sanjay Dutt, tell us about it!

I asked Sanjay Dutt whether I could do that, didn’t consult him. Because it is only fair that he is so close to me that I asked him for his permission more than anything. So, I asked Sanjay for his permission and that's what happened. But it's a big film. It's a fun film. I see it as a potential. It's a very, very funny film. So, fingers crossed. Looking forward.

You recently said that ‘Hera Pheri’ was a disaster movie upon its release, why so?

I said it was a disaster because of its opening at the box-office. Because people don't understand. What kind of comedy will the actors and actresses do? But after the first show, the film never got released. Yeah, that's true. And even now, people talk about it.

Will we get to see ‘Hera Pheri 3’ happening super soon?

Once we complete finishing ‘Welcome To The Jungle’, then we will soon work on ‘Hera Pheri 3’.

Will we get to see you in ‘Border 2’?

I haven't seen Nidhi Dutta since a long time. A little child who keeps her secrets close to her. She hasn't told her senior uncle anything yet. But I'm basically dead in ‘Border’. So, I don't know where I would fit in. You can't bring me alive again. That's the only problem. JP Dutta is a family to me, if the script is different, then one may not know!