Is Michael Jackson an inspiration for your upcoming film, Munna Michael?
The movie is about a boy who is a Michael Jackson fan. Initially, he does not use his skills in the right manner or has a purpose in life until he meets a few people. In real life, I am a bigger Michael Jackson (MJ) fan than my character is. For the film, I had to train intensively in his style of dance. For the first time, I have also tried a typical Bollywood song. Apart from dance, the film has action, humour and Nawaz sir (Nawazuddin Siddiqui), who is adding a completely different flavour to it.
How fascinated are you with action movies?
I love physical movement and have grown up watching the likes of Bruce Lee, Jackie Chan and MJ — they were the best in their field. I have often wondered what would give me an individual identity. I don’t want to be known as Jackie Shroff’s son. I want to create my own identity. Before the release of Heropanti (2014), when I danced at a promotional event for the first time, Farah Khan told me: ‘You can’t be Jackie Shroff ka beta. You can be Govinda’s son or Hrithik Roshan’s brother.’
Unlike your father’s time, why has it become very important to have a six-pack today?
We are in an aesthetic medium, so actors wish to look good. If one aspires to be a hero, they follow a particular blueprint now. Having a great body has become a norm. The focus on craft is still there, but there is more awareness about having a great body. I don’t know if it is a necessity, but personally I am into fitness and health. Someone like Aamir Khan keeps moulding his body for different films such as Dangal, 3 Idiots and Ghajini. Hrithik Roshan plays a superhero in a film and a special person in another.
What are you guided by while selecting movies?
Instinct. Everyone knows I can dance and fight but there has to be an emotional pull for the hero to fight. When the audience is with my character and whistling for him, there can’t be a bigger high than that. I try to get that right.
You are four films old but you have already experienced failure.
I was heartbroken when A Flying Jatt (2016) didn’t do well. Since my first two films did well at the box office, I got greedy. After Baaghi (2016) opened at Rs 12 crore, I assumed A Flying Jatt will open with around Rs 15 crore. When I recollect the effort we put in — I was wearing that superhero costume in the Mumbai heat and shooting action scenes — I feel bad that it did not do well. We learn from our mistakes. I am hungrier than ever. I don’t think I will fail again in my life.
How important is it for you to perform your own stunts?
I like to do my stunts for authenticity. Everyone’s body language differs from the other. Action artistes are put through so much hardship — they take hits, fall from a height and break glasses. Yet, they don’t get the recognition they deserve.
You come across as someone who is determined to be focussed. How ambitious are you?
I’m very ambitious and extremely focused. I want to be there where only a handful of people have reached. I want my name to feature along side Michael Jackson and Bruce Lee, who have become a reference point for dancing or fighting. I am working towards it.
You handled Ram Gopal Varma’s tweets very coolly.
(RGV had tagged Tiger’s picture on a magazine cover and said: ‘Please learn machoism from @bindasbhidu (Jackie Shroff’s Twitter handle) who even without martial arts poses more like a man and never like this’).
I did not want to give it much importance. I was very focused on my film at that moment. I did not want other things to bother me. I am like a racehorse, with eyes only on the finish line.
Some have called your look ‘effeminate’ and features ‘gender-fluid’.
When I entered the industry, I got a lot of attention as I looked different. I’m fair and didn’t have facial hair then. My lips are pink because I don’t smoke. I didn’t mind all those comments as I believed that they were at least talking about me.
What kind of idea did you have about the industry before you entered?
Every time we went out for lunch, my father used to be surrounded by people. I used to latch on to his legs and very proudly say: ‘He is my father’. I used to watch him on the sets too. But I did not have any interest in becoming an actor. I was more into sports. It’s my father who put me in sports. That gave me the discipline that I have today.
Do you agree that starkids enjoy a certain privilege?
That’s absolutely right. Starkids do enjoy certain privileges. But being my father’s son works only until the camera rolls. Then, I am on my own. I have carved my own identity now. I have never asked my father to call up a director or ask anyone for a favour. It is Sajid Nadiadwala who saw my photo in a newspaper and contacted me.
Do you feel there is still a lot of pressure on you?
Yes, there is. My father has a body of work. If I think that I’m Jackie Shroff ka beta, then I will continue to feel the pressure. I want people to look at my father and say ‘Tiger Shroff ka daddy hai’. It has happened so many times as little kids don’t know him but know me. He is so proud of that. But at home, we do get little competitive about who draws more crowds. Three years ago, he used to be surrounded by people. Now, it is 50:50, at times even 60:40.