ELLE Cover Star Athiya Shetty: On Her Own Terms

Athiya Shetty

In the see-and-be-seen playground of showbiz, the modern celebrity is constructed in the crucible of the ‘next big’—the next big banner film, the next coveted red carpet, the next must-have endorsement. Choosing to intentionally step off the hamster wheel can appear blasphemous, but in the eight years since Athiya Shetty’s name made its way to the box office, she has chosen to decisively space her outings on celluloid. It is an elegant flipping of the script, one that bristles with a fortitude that belies her years as she consciously seeks out stories that can stir her emotions. 

Silk blouse, long wrap skirt, and tribales earrings all by Dior

“I have never subscribed to the notion that I need to do a film just to fill my calendar,” she muses when she sits down to chat with ELLE India. Her pace is unhurried, a metaphorical ellipsis trailing behind her sentences as we lapse into companionable silence whenever she is mulling a thought. It is this sense of deliberation for sifting through the superfluous that sets Shetty apart from her contemporaries. 

Silk blouse and tribales earrings all by Dior

If you were to probe her on where she draws this emotional resilience from, she would credit her father, Suniel Shetty, as the grounding force in her life. The little girl who once visited him on the sets of Border (1997) in Jaisalmer, Rajasthan, is now fronting films of her own, and the responsibility of preparing for her the rollercoaster ride of fame does not weigh on him lightly. “He once told me not to take success to your head, and failure to your heart, and this line has always stayed with me. Through him, I have learned never to fear a Friday and how not to carry that to the next film set or even the next day.” 

On Athiya Shetty: 3D hand embroidered jungle ‘Bidri’ dress by Rahul Mishra. Gold victorian ear studs by Amrapali Jewels. Foulard strass pump by Louboutin World

Shetty credits the latter to her father’s drive to provide her with a grounded childhood, rooted in his resolute refusal to bring work home. “We never knew what happened at the box office growing up because he ensured our childhood was never determined by his failures or successes. Leaving your work at work before coming home takes an incredible amount of effort, and it is a skill that I have yet to master,” she confesses. 

Miss braganza midi dress by Bhaane. Gold necklace with emerald, polki, rose cut and full cut diamonds by Amrapali Jewels. Moc by Louboutin World
Miss braganza midi dress by Bhaane. Gold necklace with emerald, polki, rose cut and full cut diamonds by Amrapali Jewels

For fans looking to connect with the elusive star beyond the big screen—the 30-year-old has appeared in no more than three projects since her debut in Hero (2015)—her Instagram feed offers a reprieve that feels strikingly intimate and almost forbidden, as though reading a page from a personal diary tucked under a pillow. Here, Shetty chooses to bare facets of her personality that haven’t made it to the silver screen, from a literary quote that moved her on a rainy day to the hidden moments that she steals away from the world with her husband and ace cricketer KL Rahul. Slot all the pieces of the puzzle together, and you’ll find a star whose revolutionary approach to social media is predicated on showing up authentically as who she is.

Embroidered dress with mirrors, tribales earrings, both by Dior
Embroidered dress with mirrors, tribales earrings and sunset thong sandals both by Dior

While she isn’t immune to the arbitrary pressures of living in a world that is always just one filter away from a blemish-free life, the passage of time has served as a soothing salve for finding comfort in showcasing her imperfections. “I might be posing for a magazine cover one day, but I can still wake up the next morning with a bad skin day without feeling like I need to hide from the world. I would never want my followers to believe that the level of perfection that is achieved after hours of hair and make-up is attainable because my imperfections have made me who I am.” 

White cotton poplin shirt, beige silk pantalon, tribales earrings, and La Parisienne necklace all by Dior

It is perhaps with this hard-earned kindness towards herself that she fed in the words, ‘come as you are’ in her bio on Instagram, in a prescient stroke of compassion for days when the quest for perfection appears illusory. For Shetty, there is peace in accepting that it always will be.

ELLE India Editor: Ainee Nizami Ahmedi; Photographer: Farhan Hussain; Fashion Editor: Zoha Castelino; Asst. Art Director: Sanjana Suvarna (Cover Design); Hair & Makeup: Mitesh Rajani; Bookings Editor: Aliza Fatma; Assisted by: Komal Shetty, Jade Christina (styling), Nitu Tamang (hair and makeup), Priyal Varma (bookings); Production: The Crew Production; Location Courtesy: Raffles Udaipur

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