Did you always want to act?
No, the thought of acting came later on. I was more into sports, gymnastics and martial arts. I was never really academically inclined. I’m a visual learner. If I look at something I can mimic it. I grew up watching Michael Jackson (MJ). According to me, he is the King of entertainment. I took up dancing because I wanted to dance like MJ. While growing up, MJ and Bruce Lee were my inspiration. After I finished school, I was really lost and didn’t know what to do next. By this time I had started getting film offers and one day something just clicked in my head. I thought if I could show off my skills in a film then it would be great. That’s pretty much how I ended up acting.
How did you tell your parents about your intention to act?
I don’t think we had a real conversation about it. I told my mother who is my closest friend, my biggest critic and my biggest support. My dad usually keeps busy with his work and travel, so it had to be mom.
What was your dad’s reaction? Did he offer you any pearls of wisdom?
Dad told me, “bolna kam, sunna zyaada”. Mom just said, be happy and have fun. I think I surprised my parents. They didn’t visit me on the sets of Heropanti even once. They didn’t see a single shot. The first time they saw me on screen was when the media saw me at the trailer launch. They were quite surprised. They would keep saying, “Tu aise baat karta hai? Tu aise dance karta hai?” They had no idea what I was doing, but once they saw the trailer, they were reassured.
I remember reading it in film magazines that filmmaker Subhash Ghai sent a cheque of Rs 21,000 to your father when you were born as a signing amount for you. Is it a true story?
Yes. So I’ve been told. Apparently when I was born, he saw me and said, “That’s my hero”. So yes, in a way he did sign me. In fact, I met him early on when talks of remaking Hero were ongoing, but nothing materialised.
Every young hero wants to debut in a love story but how have you made your loverboy in Heropanti different from the rest?
The character I play is exactly what my father is in real life — he’s full of positivity, loves himself, loves his family and friends and has a strong sense of right or wrong. He’s the kind of a person who would do anything for his friends. The film is about what happens to such a guy when he meets the girl. That’s when he realises what true Heropanti is.
Tell me about your name, Tiger. It’s literally your pet name, right? Was there ever a debate about the name you will debut with?
My full name is Jai Hemant Shroff. Tiger is my pet name. The story goes that bachpan mein, I used to bite people a lot so they started calling me Tiger. Somehow the name, Tiger, grew with me so I decided to take it up officially. Now this is my name, so that’s why you see it on screen.
As a child, did you impersonate your father?
Never. He’s just so stylish. I don’t think anyone can impersonate him.
If there is one film of your father’s that you would love to reboot, which one would it be?
Star children have it easy in terms of getting a launchpad, but expectations from them are also huge. Are you prepared to deliver on those?
It’s always been like that. But all the special attention lasts only till the first film releases. Once the first film is out then everyone is on his or her own. What happens after Heropanti will depend on me. It will be a test of my drive to push myself harder. I want the audience to see me as my own man.
Are there any lessons that you’ve learnt from your father’s career?
I respect him for the way he rose from his humble beginnings to reach where he did. He always had ‘the X factor’ and till date he is so connected with his audience. He still owns the place. I’m proud to be his son. He’s the reason I have worked so hard in my first film because I want to take his name to the next level. I don’t want to let him down, so I push myself that much more. I have to live up to my own expectations as well as those of the audience who love my dad and I also want my dad to be proud of me. I’ve never pushed myself so hard. I didn’t even know I had this in me. I just hope all the hard work pays off. I haven’t signed another film. I want other directors to see Heropanti and think how best to project me. I wouldn’t mind taking a break after Heropanti, until a great film comes along.
Are you prepared for the intense scrutiny that comes with being an actor especially on social media? I’m referring to the memes and jokes that made you trend on Twitter.
As I see it, our job as entertainers is to entertain people and ensure that they have a good time. If I’m trending on Twitter even before my first film is released then that means I won the first round and got the attention of people.
Did you read the jokes and memes?
Yes, I did. And to be honest some of the jokes were funny. People were comparing me to veteran actors such as Rajinikanth and Alok Nath… matlab ki kya baat hai!