The Phata Poster Nikhla Hero actor pours his heart out in this exclusive interview
Shahid Kapoor is on the brink of something big. He knows that and everyone around him knows that. The film that releases this weekend, Phata Poster Nikhla Hero, can take him there. Or the one that releases later this year (Rambo Rajkumar) or even the one after that. The 32-year-old has waited in the wings too long and is now ready to claim what was always his for the taking. Over the last two years, the choices that he made are evidence enough that he is a man with a plan.
He lost the ‘difficult’ tag he wore with some sort of pride. He moved away from his comfort zone and signed films that he would have scoffed at two years ago. He opted for filmmakers who wanted to redefine him onscreen. In his 30s, the suddenly single Shahid lost most of his baggage and found himself. Here he talks about his journey, the joy of singlehood and just being….
So how long since your last release? Feels like ages.
Actually it has been just a year since Teri Meri Kahaani…
Feels like ages…when did Masoom release?
(Cracks up) Masoom released some forty years ago, I think you mean my dad’s film Mausam which was a year before that.
Yes, (sheepishly) I meant Mausam…
I have been doing this one appearance in a year, which was really a bad idea and I hope that will change now. But I didn’t plan it like that. Mausam just took way longer than expected. Dad and I got so frustrated and fried by the end of it… We’d made this moral commitment that we will only do this film, and not take up any other assignments. Nine months into the film when it started getting delayed, we looked at each other and said, ‘You know…we made this promise to each other, however, we didn’t ask anybody else to make this promise to us. So everybody in the film is going out and doing other stuff while you and me are sitting at home waiting’. So what happened was that if Sonam Kapoor got jaundice, it meant I was unemployed. Because I was only doing that one film.
You also walked out of two films, right?
After Teri Meri Kahaani, I was immediately supposed to go into Shuddh Desi Romance (SDR). But it got delayed by six months. Then when they told me it will start soon, I was like, I don’t believe now when you say you will start next month because you had said that five times before.’ It started eating away into Rajji (Rajkumar Santoshi) and Prabhu Deva sir’s films. So I opted out of SDR. And Punit Malhotra’s Gori Tere Pyaar Mein…. They first offered the film (SDR) to Imran (Khan) and I think he had some issue with it. Then they offered it to me. I had date issues and they wanted to shoot in the same window so I couldn’t do it.
Is there more pressure when you have had a release in a long time?You know, there is more pressure when you do less films… but when your last two films haven’t fared well, there is no pressure.
Because the chances of your next film doing better are much higher. Actually when your last one is a blockbuster then you are like, ‘oh shit, how do I do better than that.’
You can’t be serious…
I am! It is always about expectations. It is how much you are expecting from a movie Phata Poster… is an underdog. It is better to be a underdog and then surprise people…
But it is what you call the market calls a ‘hot’ film.
Now people are really liking it but nobody expected anything from this film. Rambo Rajkumar was seen as a bigger film because of Prabhu sir’s last three hit films’ record… Technically even Rajji’s last film (Ajab Prem Ki Ghazab Kahaani) has done really really well… but that was four years ago, and today nobody remembers what happened eight months back. Six months is the max…. Things change very fast, people move on… they forget…
Speaking of which, when you are not seen onscreen often, isn’t there a fear that the audiences will forget you?
I think that is a fear that every actor lives with, ke bhool jayenge kya? That one day when I go out, will people not recognise me anymore… it is a thought that every actor will have at some point. But after a point, you need to forget all things and just go out there and do movies.
During Mausam I saw my father go through so much stress, that most important thing for me today is that every day I am on set, I want to be happy. I want to make people happy, work with nice people, and I believe everything else will take care of itself.
Phata Poster… has the smell of a success… agree?
Very happily agree. It is warming up nicely. Nobody knew what to expect from the film but everybody was curious about the title. I think because we got a fun title. Obviously then it has Rajji doing comedy..But people were like Rajji toh comedy banate hain, tu kaise karega… But people seem to enjoy seeing me in that space and I enjoy being in that space. Looking forward to the response.
Are you aping Salman Khan in the movie?
No ya… my character is a fan of his. I don’t think you can ever become a star if you ape others. You need to find yourself. Warna waise toh koi bhi Salman sir ko copy kar ke successful ban jayega… aise thodi hi hota hai. You have to find your identity.
No hesitation about playing another actor’s fan?
Not at all. I got to play his fan which was a lot of fun. You know, actors see some hysterical fans and interact with them. So it was fun that I got to play one. I had so much fun doing it. I am shouting ‘Bhai, bhai…‘ through the scene which was very funny.
Whose fan are you in real life?
I am totally and completely in love with my father as an actor… both as a son and as an actor. I am a fan of all the three Khans too because since I was in school and college, they have been the reigning superstars. For my friends and me it was always like… if any of their films was releasing matlab Friday ko college bunk kar ke jaana hi hai...
Aping Salman’s single status too?
(Laughs) I don’t know. I am happily single. I have been single for the past two years. I always say this… I am living in my 20s in my 30s. All through my 20s, I was in very serious relationship and I was this committed boyfriend types…And I am very happy in the space that I am in right now.
Deliberately keeping away from a long-term relationship?
I don’t know how I will be in a relationship anymore. I have loved being in a relationship and I think it is beautiful but it is also wonderful being single. It helps you discover yourself. I have discovered a lot more of myself in the last two years because when you are in a relationship a lot of what you are becomes about the other person. Especially in a long-term relationship.
You haven’t had a hit in a long time, yet somehow you have managed to avoid the tag of finished. How?
(Laughs) I guess I just got lucky.
There seems to be a certain faith in you as an actor…
Most people I meet tell me that Shahid, your best is yet to come…
You believe that too?
For sure… absolutely. When I look back at the last 10 years, I feel like I have achieved 20 percent of what I should have. So I need to cover up that 80 percent and continue to do what I need to, in the next 10 years… I have changed a lot in the last few years…
Earlier I would wait for a film to come to me. Today I am ready to go out there and make a film happen. I have reached a point in my career where I want to start running now. I don’t want to jog. I want to sprint. I am in that head space. If I fall, I will get up and sprint again but I don’t want to be careful.
What brought about that change?
I realised that there are things which are not in an actor’s control. In the last two years I’ve learnt that sometimes you work really hard on a film and it doesn’t do well and sometimes you do a film randomly and it does amazingly well. So the most that an actor can do is that work with the best people he can and try and enjoy the process of working.
Maybe it is also because I have completed 10 years in the industry. Time really flies….You need to value it. You need to make the most of every day because soon it will be gone forever.
Gone like your ‘difficult’ tag?
(Smiles) Yeah…. When you start sprinting you lose a few layers… the difficult tag is one of the layers I am hoping I lost for good. I was a little closed as a person and that was because I am shy. I now realise that if you are a shy layman, you can stand alone in a room full of people and nobody cares. But if you do that as an actor/celebrity, people think you have attitude. It took me many years to realise that. People come with a lot of preconceived notions that an actor will be difficult, will not talk to me, etc. So it becomes an actor’s responsibility to break the ice. Make people comfortable and make them relate to you.
Also, earlier I would go on set and only think about acting and focus on my work. Now I have realised that filmein ban jaati hain, role mil jaate hain, it is relationships that you need to work upon, and equations that you need to build…. Because the film industry is a community. It is a small set of people who you keep working with and meeting everywhere you go…so you need to work on your equations.
When I saw my father so stressed about Mausam, the thing that happened to me after that was that I wanted to see only smiling people around me…so if that means that I make that extra effort to connect then I will do that. It is difficult to explain but when for a year you see your father going through stress, it just leaves a feeling within you that is just so big that it becomes a part of your mental makeup.
The happy vibe comes across…
It is also because of the kind of films I am doing. These two films have been very liberating. In both films I have pretty much followed the directors because I was stepping into a new space, but I had great faith in the people I was working with. I knew I could just let go and do exactly what the directors wanted and feel fine. I really feel happy.
Happy films seem to be working at the box office.
You know this girl sitting there (pointing to his manager Kruti) coaxed me three years ago to host a show. I used to be like: Boss put me on a stage and ask me to dance and that will be fun. But don’t give me a mic and ask me to talk. She told me, ‘You are a lot of fun and that doesn’t come across’. She pushed me into it and I hosted a few shows and I had a lot of fun doing them. People had fun watching them and they told me, ‘Dude, why didn’t you do this earlier’. Since then, I was like ‘okay, so why am I not doing a film like where I am funny and entertaining, easy, light…?’ It is a dimension of me, which I never explored and it was wrong of me to not have done that.
What after Phata Poster… and Rambo Rajkumar?
I haven’t signed anything… there is Vishal (Bhardwaj) sir’s film.
You are waiting for these two films to do well, triple your price and then sign (more) films?
No baba, those thoughts used to come to my head earlier..now I just want to be on a set and do films…. I want to work…I enjoy working.