I was talking to Suniel Shetty and I told him I refuse to think of him as a senior citizen. But that’s what he is. The actor, Bollywood’s original Hunk of the 1990s, is 60 today. He replied, “I’m 60 turning 21. I am at my fittest.” Well, he's not exactly looking 21. But yes, Suniel has reinvented himself in every way and he’s looking better than I’ve ever known him before. And he and I go back years. Not 60, but long enough. He wasn’t an actor then. But a restaurateur and fashion brand owner. His gorgeous wife Mana being his strong and silent support. Today, his daughter Athiya is a Bollywood actress and a respected fashionista; his son Ahan is waiting for the release of his debut film. That’s how old our friendship is.
I remember when Sanjay Dutt turned 60, he told me there were benefits to being a senior citizen, like Income Tax relief. Suniel does not look at 60 as even a number. “I’m not saying I’ve got the energy of 21, but I’ve got the experience of 60, that makes up 10 times,” he explained. What he had done was learn to balance his life better. He was in a very interesting phase workwise. In films, on the net, OTT, in reality shows. “In my space, my zone, playing my age, playing characters that are very central – and for the first time, clear that I’m ready to show my body. I did it when I was younger, but I’ve never been so ripped and well-defined before.” It’s true, check him out on Instagram, especially the black-and-white images.
The pandemic taught Suniel about gratitude and giving, to cherish people and to value relationships, the discipline to do the right things, to exercise regularly and eat correctly, to keep himself motivated. After decades of looking like the poster boy for bodybuilding magazines, he’s finally understood fitness, and how simple it is to achieve. “I’m balancing my weight, building muscle, breaking down my food, all perspectives are falling in place, but most of all I’m fighting the myth of age, claiming what is mine and enjoying every moment,” he said. “It’s time to separate the men from the boys.” Easy for him to talk, I thought, at 60 Suniel is a man of the world but he’s got a boyish 29 inch waist. Happy birthday, my friend.