Eleven years ago, when Shahid Kapoor made his debut with Ishq Vishk (2003), his charming, chocolate-boy looks coupled with nifty dancing skills instantly won him a fan base. However, in a career spanning 23 films, he’s had more misses than hits. “I could have made better choices, but today, to do a film, I need to be excited about the role and the filmmaker,” said Kapoor, at Screen Chatroom on Friday held at Express Towers, Nariman Point, Mumbai. His latest film Haider, where he teams up again with Vishal Bhardwaj, who earlier directed him in Kaminey (2009), could be testimony to this newfound wisdom.
Shot in the Kashmir Valley on a small budget, tight schedule and amid protests, Haider is based on the epic Shakespearean tragedy, Hamlet. “It is the most complex role of my career and the story is quite intense. It’s about a boy who is trying to discover the truth about his father’s death while his uncle and mother have decided to get married,” says Kapoor, who went through physical and mental training to fit the role. “Shooting in Kashmir at sub-zero temperatures was a great learning experience. But one can feel a strong sense of pain in that beautiful place because of its history,” he says.
For Kapoor, the shift from Romeo, a brawny, aimless ruffian in R…Rajkumar (2013) to the brooding Haider required a change in attitude and appearance. In R… Rajkumar, the challenge lay in convincing the audience that he could take on 30 people. “But in the first few days of Haider, I felt inadequate while working with Vishal as the character required intensity, which was a complete shift,” says the 33-year-old.
The role has also won him praise from his father, actor Pankaj Kapur, whom he has often called his biggest critic. “After dad watched Haider, I asked him where my performance was lacking. He thought for five minutes and told me I had got it all right. It’s the biggest compliment,” says Kapoor, who has worked his way up in the film industry, from a backup dancer to a star, with films such as Jab We Met (2007) and Kaminey.
But stardom comes at a price. Over the last two years, Kapoor has been linked with several co-stars and leading ladies. “These link-ups can be tiring and embarrassing. I like to do normal things, like step out for dinner, watch movies or go to a friend’s house. But when people see me with a woman, they say I am dating her,”
As he talks about rumours, failures and hardships, Kapoor claims to have learnt to take criticism in his stride. He appears relaxed, confident and settled, something he credits to spirituality. “It is now a big part of my life; it takes me back to the basics. One needs to stay connected with the real world, with family, because they make you feel normal. I am just another person, this is just another day and acting is just another job,” says Kapoor, who will start shooting with Alia Bhatt for Vikas Bahl’s Shandaar, a “destination love story”, in August.
Catch the excerpts of the discussion in the Screen issue dated July 4