On a quiet late afternoon during the working week, the Screen office was brimming with excitement to enjoy a rendezvous with actor Shahid Kapoor. When Kapoor took off his black wayfarers, while alighting from his swanky silver Mercedes SUV, the frenzy was for everyone to see. Dressed in smart casuals complete with black denims, a graphic tee, blue zippered jacket and a sports watch, it was the charming smile that served as his best accessory. After a quick dab of fresh face wipe, Kapoor settles down with a hot cuppa of his favourite cappuccino, for a freewheeling chat with the Screen team:
It’s been quite sometime since we heard from you. Using the often used cliché, what’s up?
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Right now I have been unemployed for the last one and a half months and I will be chilling for another month. I am very touchy about it (laughs). In August, I start shooting for Shaandar. All that I can reveal about Shaandar is that it is a destination wedding love – story. Govinda will be seen in a pivotal role and we are hoping that Karan (Johar) agrees to do a role too! But he is acting very starry about it, despite the fact that he is co – producing the film. All of us, including director Vikas Bahl, think Karan is perfect for the role – a Sindhi character (smiles). Currently, we are in the process of coaxing him, and even try to send him gifts everyday. Otherwise, Haider is complete and will release on October 2. In fact, the first look promo will be out next month.
Since you have mentioned Haider, how did the film happen?
It all started off with Vishal sir (Bhardwaj) and me talking about doing something together. He had given me the best role of my life in Kaminey and I was very keen to work with him again. He had several scripts in mind, which he narrowed down to three. But he did say that before anything else, he wanted to complete his trilogy of Shakespearean tragedies. In fact, when I was working on Mausam with my father (Pankaj Kapur), he had mentioned, ‘I want to see you as Hamlet, because I think that character would be correct for your age. It is one of the most complex roles that has ever been written and will give you the opportunity to do a lot as an actor’. So, it was a co – incidence that Vishal sir mentioned the same film to me saying he wanted to base it in Kashmir, which was exciting. I have been involved with Haider ever since it was conceived. With Kaminey, everything was pretty much developed when he came to me, but for Haider, Vishal sir was in touch with me even while writing the film. Haider explores human relationships. We all know Hamlet is about a boy who is looking to understand how his father died and he is dealing with this situation at a time when his uncle and mother are decide to get married. That’s the kind of an intense backdrop that the film is set against.
What was the experience of working on the adaptation of an intense Shakespearean tragedy like Hamlet?
While doing Haider, I realised that playing the part made me insecure as an actor, in the sense, whether I would be able to pull it off. Going to Kashmir was also a huge learning experience. The first thing I felt when I was in Kashmir was that there was a strong sense of pain in the air in that amazingly beautiful place. It is difficult to explain but when I was travelling from the airport to the hotel, I could feel a lot had happened here. We shot on the Zaina Kadal bridge, near the older part of town in Kashmir, which has probably been blown up five – six times. Then, we also shot in the Martand sun temple, where 5000 people were watching the shoot and they were part of the song. Kashmir was so different from the everyday life that we live.
What helped you get into a complex character like Haider?
To begin with I grew a beard, and then I had to shave off my hair completely. All this kind of helped me re-discover myself physically. A lot of preparation came from the interactions that I had with Vishal sir. Haider is a strong film in terms of drama, which makes you think a lot. I remember having dinner with my family after coming back from Kashmir and after half an hour, they all looked at me and said, ‘What’s wrong with you? Is everything okay?’They felt like I was very different from the person they knew. That’s the first time I realised that the role really had an impact on me.
You recently completed eleven years in the industry and almost each film has be something of an experiment. Is there any character that has affected you psychologically or changed you as a person?
I think you feel like that after every film. There are some films where you are pretty much being yourself. The idea is to be natural, look good, dance well and do the usual stuff, which all actors do. But all the roles which needed me to move away from myself made me feel like they have brought out a certain part of my personality that I didn’t know existed or was probably passive. I want to do more of such roles. It’s a process of self – discovery, where you understand yourself a little better. Sometimes for your character or the situation surrounding it, you need to probe how you or a person would respond if it happens for real. You need to draw a parallel to be able to portray it correctly, for which you have to delve inside and be honest about how you would actually feel in a situation like that. The feeling can be good, bad or you might have to go through both. So yeah, it does happen a lot and it’s a good question to ask at a time when I have actually experienced something similar. Also, one thing that I discovered while reading about actors who have played Hamlet, since it is not a role that is being played for the first time, is that it is probably one character that makes you feel the most inadequate as an actor. Throughout the film, I would constantly feel that I was not able to bring out every possible emotion that the character was going through, especially the layers of complexities. I would always ask Vishal sir if he thinks I was able to bring out every emotion the way it was meant to be conveyed.
Did you try to internalise the character (for Haider)?
Ask her (pointing towards his manager, Nisha) how much I spoke during the shoot! She would just be sitting in one place, eating some food. She would often ask, ‘You need anything SK?’ I would say, ‘I am fine.’ I used to spend a lot of time on my own. Also, there was not much free time because we were shooting there from 6 am to almost 8 pm, at around minus 15 degree Celsius. We were dealing with being in a difficult location and by the time we came back to our hotel rooms, we ready to pass out. But, whatever time I did have to myself, it did go a lot into thinking about the film.
What was the switch from R… Rajkumar to Haider, like?
Working on Haider has been both an exciting and schizophrenic journey for me. Two weeks after I came out of a film like R… Rajkumar, which was helmed by Prabhu Dheva, where I experimented with a lot of action, I was doing a film like Haider with Vishal sir. Initially, the switch was a little disturbing. The first couple of days, I would feel extremely inadequate as an actor in front of Vishal sir. This despite the fact that I have worked with him before. It took me a couple of days to get into a different zone of acting. I don’t think there can be a greater disparity, keeping in mind the diverse sensibilities of both the film-makers. That’s the most challenging and exciting thing about being an actor. I remember, during the initial days of shoot, Vishal sir would often say, ‘Shahid, itna loud karne ki zaroorat nahi hain. Be natural.’ I was so used to being all out there, that it took a couple of days for me to get into the skin of my character.
So, what is it like to pull off an over-the-top character like Rajkumar with conviction?
As an actor, you have to eventually get down to achieve what the film-maker is looking for. With Prabhu sir (Dheva), things were quite relaxed. I had to prepare a lot for the stunts, as there were almost 45 days of action sequences, which included intense action scenes at crazy locations. Coming across as being convincing and fighting against 30 – 35 people, especially since I am not big and strong, and my image has also been that of a boy, so it was a big challenge. Dance was another difficult aspect.
You are a good dancer, so why was dancing difficult for you?
Arey! But Prabhu sir’s style of dance is so different ya (laughs). It’s very contrary to the kind of dance forms I am used to. I have learned more of western dance, whereas his school of dance is completely Indian. Right from placing your foot to the movement of your body; everything is different. The way he interprets sounds or wants an actor to express and the vibe of the choreography is all different. It’s like coming out of the night club and dancing on the roads during the Ganpati festival. In fact, he even said that to me. ‘You can’t be cool. Be more local, as if you are in a local bar.’ Now, if you tell a trained Bharatnatyam dancer to suddenly start doing Kathak moves, toh woh sab wrong hi karega. My conditioning was itself so different, that I had to spend a lot of time during rehearsals to mould myself into his style. But at the end of it, I was loving it!
With several actors turning producers. Are you likely to hop on the bandwagon?
(smiles) Vishal sir keeps asking me if I want my name to come in the credits for Haider as a co-producer, but I haven’t been able to take a decision on that. But yes, I am open to something like that in the future, but it depends. It’s a very different space to be in. When you are doing a film as an actor, you are playing simply doing your job and coming back. But, when you step in as a producer, it’s a representation of the kind of films that you want to make. So, it becomes a very different kind of choice when you are doing a film as a producer and you need to take the ownership of that film. I’ll do it at some point, but I am not thinking about it right now. I guess it will eventually happen someday, because the way films are being made is also changing. In future, if I really feel like I am the right person to back a particular film or if I am passionate enough to go ahead and say that I want to put my name on this film, I might definitely take the plunge.
The last few years have seen a whole lot of newcomers step in and they are all doing very well. What is your take on them, since you were one of the first of your generation to take the plunge?
I think it is an amazing time to be in the industry, especially for newcomers. When I started off in 2003, there were just one or two newcomers making their debut in a year, as opposed to seven now. A decade back, there were no new film-makers or producers as we have today and hence, the choices were very limited. Today, all these guys have a lot more options to choose from. In fact, even I feel I have a lot of options today, though I wish I had them six – seven years back. There were just two – three actresses who actually looked my age, so I couldn’t get an opportunity to work with some of the biggest actresses of that time. A large section of the film-makers during that time were making movies with a certain sensibility, as opposed to today, where you have a diverse sensibility of cinema. So, you have a Bhaag Milkha Bhaag and Barfi!, but then you also have a Chennai Express or Kick, and both are extremely successful in their own space. It feels like a wide open space right now, where everybody can go and grab their piece of land. Also, there is some amazing talent out there, right from actors to technicians. I just worked with cameraman Pankaj (Kumar), who is phenomenal and had earlier worked on Ship Of Theseus. Haider happens to be his first big feature film. I am also working with new actresses like Shraddha (Kapoor) and Alia Bhatt.
Do you feel like a veteran who knows it all?
I must confess, I have suddenly started feeling older (laughs). Earlier, I used to feel like I am the youngest of the lot. It was like – haan abhi toh main young hoon aur galtiyaan kar sakta hoon. And suddenly, I was like, ‘what are all these kids doing?’ When I attend parties and meet some of the newbies, I realise that I am not 25 any more. Although I started really young, I have been doing all this work since the last 11 years and have seen the graph change over the years. It’s the first time that I feel like I am more experienced, older and mature.
Is there any youngster who makes you feel insecure? Do you consider anyone to be a potential threat, or to use a more polite term, competitor?
Everybody is a threat! Nowadays, if a film crosses Rs.100 crore, you automatically become a threat. But I don’t feel insecure, otherwise I wouldn’t have survived this journey despite giving quite a few unsuccessful films. Coming to your question, I really like the way Ranbir (Kapoor) is handling his career. I admire the way he has made the correct choice of films. He also carries himself very well and I honestly enjoy watching him on screen. I think everyone else still needs to do a lot more to prove themselves. Success and failure come and go, but I am looking at only the quality of work, because that’s the only thing you are in control of as an actor. Not necessarily the box-office figures.
From among the new actresses that you have worked with, who is your favourite?
Why do I have to choose one favourite? (laughs)
Okay! Don’t play favourites, but you can say nice things about all of them.
But that will be so boring ya! This is a lot of performance pressure. (switches to a serious tone) I think both (Shraddha and Alia) of them are very nice. I had an amazing experience working with them. They are going to be the biggest superstars of tomorrow. It’s a woman’s world, they are running the world and all the men are just a part of the supporting cast (laughs). Oh! Also, hum log support karne ke liye khade hain and women don’t need support either. So what do we do? Just hang around. Hangers-on, that’s what we are now.
Have you ever been approached to do a television show? And what kind of shows would you ideally like to do?
Yes, I have! But I should really like something to accept it. You also need to understand what people want to see you do. But if something exciting comes up, I will definitely take it up. Television is a great medium. I have really enjoyed hosting awards and the kind of connect that you establish with the audience is amazing.
It’s a lot like films. Sometimes you have to work hard and make sure that your sensibility gels well with the film that you are doing.
Absolutely! I don’t think you should ever do a film that you can’t really believe in. It’s like you shouldn’t essay a character like Rajkumar if you are not able to pull it off with conviction. Also, I have to depend on my director’s conviction to get convinced, only if he is satisfied about what he is making and I am satisfied about him, will the relationship move forward.
How do you get convinced to do a film? Is it like what everyone says, ‘I go by my instinct or ‘what my heart says’?
(Laughs) Gut feel! God, all those typical quotes. Well, there have been various reasons why I have done films in my 11 years of work. The reasons have changed over time, which has been a learning process. But I definitely think I could have made better choices. I think I am making better choices now. As of today, the role and subject really needs to be exciting. I need to feel like I want to devote six months of my life to it. I need to be excited about working with the film-maker who is directing the film and we need to have similar energies as people. While making a film, we spend so much time together that one really shouldn’t work with people that one can’t reach out to or find a connect with. So, I really wanna work with people that I can feel the same way for, whether I am having a success party or they are getting drunk and I am having a chai in my house (smiles) after a film has not done well. Regardless of the two scenarios, I want to be able to have that journey with the film-maker, which will not change the way I feel towards them after the release of the film. It’s very important to allow positive energy to move forward and associate with people who bring that out. There are certain people who bring out the best in you and some bring out the worst. Always try to stick around with people who bring out your better side.
Your association with Shiamak Davar has been a long one and recently, you were a part of your brother Ishaan’s graduation show. Did you get nostalgic?
Honestly, I did have tears in my eyes and Shiamak gave me an award for no reason. I felt that all the kids deserved an award and not me, but he was very emotional about it. I also got quite emotional because it was like a flashback to what used to happen in my life and then, I was now seeing my brother do the same thing. During my early days, I was always splitting centre in the first row, which is a huge thing for dancers. We start in the fourth row and work our way towards the first line. It’s like life! Going backstage, clicking pictures with old friends and bonding with the team brought back many memories.
Who has helped you the most to reach where you are today?
Wow! (Laughs) I don’t know. It’s very difficult to answer that. There are several people. (pauses) It obviously starts with your parents, followed by my siblings, immediate family, my first teacher Shiamak. My first director (Ken Ghosh), my first producer, my first co-stars – they are the guys I did it for the first time with. Gosh! (pauses) My closest friends, the people that I work with. My team is a huge part of who I am. Today, an actor is not an individual anymore. It’s very difficult to break it down, but yeah, these are some of them. Also, I was very close to my maternal grandfather. He was a huge part of my life, till I turned ten and shifted to Mumbai from Delhi. I can never forget how he used to drop me to school everyday. There was not a single day in my life where he didn’t drop me to school. It might sound like a normal thing, but (gets emotional) it’s amazing.
Do you feel you are getting close to being a fine actor like your father, Pankaj Kapur?
Are you mad? (Laughs) But hello! Don’t you think I am making an effort? (smiles) The one thing that nobody can take away from me is that I put my heart and soul in whatever I do.
Your father has done a lot of non – commercial films and has always stood out as a good actor. However, you started off on the other end of the spectrum. So, do you think non – commercial actors can crossover and vice-versa?
Commercial and non – commercial is difficult to divide. There is mainstream, which has songs and you are supposed to look good, be desirable like the perfect male or female, but that has nothing to do with the actor that you are. It’s connected to being a hero or heroine at some level. I don’t know if the crossover is successfully possible, but what is possible is to make good films and cast the actors rightly. What’s also possible is to draw the audience in because of certain physical attributes that you might have. Like, all my friends, most of the girls, who I hang around and watch football with (smiles and changes tone, while laughing) will only ask stuff like – ‘Is David Beckham there?’ How people look is exciting and eventually, a lot of people cater to it. In some films, looks are important, apart from other important elements. Then, there are other films where such things aren’t required. I think Hollywood has done a great job, where you have people like Al Pacino, Robert De Niro or Dustin Hoffman. They may not score 10 on 10 for looks, but they are fantastic actors and you wanna go watch their films because you know they will engage you for two hours. Others may be extremely good-looking, but you may not be able to watch them for long on screen.
Which of the above mentioned categories do you fall under?
You want me to comment on myself? (smiles) I don’t do that! But I hope I feature in it, somewhere. (laughs) I definitely feature somewhere, that much I know. Now, which side, you guys can decide.
But what do people, colleagues or your directors tell you?
This is true . But, I’ll still not comment (laughs). What to say ya baba? It’s dumb to say such things.
Fine! So we will go say ahead and say it out loud that – you are wonderful, very talented, very good looking actor. Extremely high on date-able quotient. All of that. You wanted us to say it!
(laughs) It feels so nice to hear it from others. It doesn’t feel so nice to say it yourself.
Do you watch your own films?
Yes, I do watch my own films. But, it happens in different stages. A lot of times you end up watching it in portions. You watch a lot of it in front of the monitor after you have finished a shot and then keep it in your memory. Then, you watch it when the film is being edited and if the film-maker wants to show it to you, either to get your opinion on something that needs to be done. It’s an interactive process. Then, you see it when the first edit is ready, followed by the final edit which has the background music and everything. And then, you go to the theatres and see it with the audience. But I can’t really view it the same way as maybe you would view my film. I don’t have that luxury because I have viewed it at different stages, so my perspective of it can never be that of somebody who watches a finished product for the first time. I can never watch my own films and enjoy it the way I go into a theatre and enjoy someone else’s film. It’s like the difference between the guy creating music and the one who is listening to it.
Do you ever get upset if your family and friends tell you something about what they didn’t like in your film?
No, they are very honest with me! In the first five – six years that I worked, I would get very emotional. But now, we share a more mature relationship and we can sit down to discuss things. If I say, I don’t like what you are saying, it’s not going to change the fact that the individual hasn’t liked the film. Most times, they have said good things. We are grown up enough now to view things like that and usually, my family is extremely supportive and says good things. My dad is a little limited with his praise but he is also at the end of the day, a father. He is very loving and encouraging. But, they might sit down and say, they don’t agree with my choice of films.
What is the most lavish praise that has come your way from any of your family members?
This is a very timely question! (smiles) After my dad saw Haider (it was in the edit), we were chatting at home and I asked him if I was falling short of in any scene as an actor. He kept staring at me and couldn’t come up with anything. If my Dad thinks that I didn’t miss out on anything, how good or bad I was will be decided when people see the film, then that for me is the biggest compliment. He just spent five minutes, looked around, turned to me and said, ‘you have got it all right.’ I think that’s one of the most amazing things about being in the same profession as your father. It’s also a lot of pressure and can be very painful, because it’s the same job. Your dad did it and you need to do it as well as him, otherwise you are always compared.
In the midst of striving to be the best actor, how is it that you have suddenly got this bad boy image?
Because I have been single for three years! Nobody is in my bedroom to confirm and say, (changes tone) ‘Hey! I saw you. I know what you are doing.’ Everyone is just speculating things. Everybody knows about the long term relationships that I have been in till about three years back. Now, I am not and so I get linked up with any female. It’s very frustrating! Imagine, in 2014, if you are seen with a girl, they say you are dating her. Why? You and me might be sitting in a coffee shop and people will think we are dating. That’s just not right! Yes, I am single and will keep meeting people, but that doesn’t mean I have hidden the fact that I am in a relationship. I haven’t ever done that. I don’t think it’s something to be ashamed about. There are so many people that you interact with, be it a co-star, friend or acquaintance and they might be in a relationship with someone and might be answerable to them. I have a family who reads such stories everyday. It’s really embarrassing. But I am not going to be under house arrest, just because people will write things about me. I need to stay connected with who I am, otherwise I will lose myself. So, I will step out, go to the club, enjoy a dinner, watch a film or drive once in a while, chill at a friend’s house. That’s how everyone unwinds when they are free and why should it be any different for me?
Any particular character that you would like to essay on screen?
I would love to play Joker from Batman. I want somebody to cast me as a character who is simply bad, without any explanation. Usually, our heroes like playing roles where there needs to be a strong justification about the reason why you are bad. Some people are just bad! So, I would like to play a role like that.
Shahid recently got a music mixer for himself and confessed that he wants to learn more about DJing. He loves music and asserts that it is an important part of his life. He mentioned that he was the only guy in the entire college who would walk around with plug-in headphones and a discman tied to the belt, with ten CDs to keep
changing music. Currently, he is interested in music genres like deep house, techno among others.
Shahid confessed that he doesn’t read a lot, adding that it is one of his biggest problems. He can watch anything in audio-visual format, for hours and apart from films, he loves watching documentaries and other useful videos. The actor has just read just five – six books and none of them belonged to the fiction genre. While stating that he reads newspapers and online articles, Shahid added that he enjoys reading Screen as well
Shahid was quizzed about a popular hashtag that he is often seen using, which is called Typo Tuesday, on Twitter. He mentioned that it was a friend’s idea, who joked how the actor had made many typos in his tweets. He further added that Typo Tuesday is a fun thing that he generally started messing around with
Bend it like Sasha!
Shahid is currently glued on to the FIFA World Cup matches, but felt bad that his favourite team Spain got out early. He is also supporting Argentina because of his favourite football star, Lionel Messi, but feels the player does not have adequate team support to fall back on. So now, the actor is placing his bets on Brazil and Netherlands, who he thinks are strong contenders
Transcribed by: Priya Adivarekar