Shahid Kapoor surely knows how to make you skip a heartbeat every-time he appears on screen. My earliest memory of watching him on celluloid was 'Ishq Vishq'. The boy was a huge hysteria back then. A series of hits and flops followed next.
Just when everybody thought that he had settled in for chocolate boy roles, there came Vishal Bhardwaj's 'Kaminey' where he left everyone stunned with his metamorphosis. Next came another hard-hitting performance in the form of 'Haider'. And now yet again he has left everybody talking about him in 'Udta Punjab' even before its release.
As we await for the 'Man Of Our Moment' to arrive we know this interview is going to be one helluva ride! A couple of minutes later, in arrives Shahid Kapoor with a coffee mug in his hand. It's quite hard not to fall for that dimpled smile though!
'I quickly ate my food and came here for an interview without leaving any proofs for the photographers waiting downstairs'- he tells us with a grin on his face.
After exchanging pleasantries, we settle for a quick chat where Shahid gets candid about the 'exhausting' part of being Tommy Singh in 'Udta Punjab', his pairing with Alia Bhatt, tattoos, life post marriage, fatherhood, 'Rangoon' and much more.
Excerpts from the no-holds-barred conversation-
1. What was most difficult for you- playing a drug-addict or playing a rockstar?
A. Actually I can't really break it up like that. Definitely the most difficult thing to play was a substance addict because I have never ever had alcohol, tried any kind of drugs. That's true. I have never even had like half a bottle of beer or had any kind of substance. It just never happened. I wasn't interested in it. I never supported it. I was one of those boring guys and my friends would quite often pull my leg about it. So it was very scary to attempt a role which I have no way of understanding what it's like to be like that or to be in that state of mind. The most challenging and scary thing was whether I will make a fool of myself or I would be able to push my boundaries to try and achieve something that I actually have no exposure to.
2. So how did you prep up for your role?
A. To achieve that physicality of my character was a journey which took about three months. Basically I ate no food and trained for three hours a day. It's a very odd combination. My character Tommy Singh is a star. He needs to look good. But he is an addict so he even needs to look destroyed. So you need somebody who is good-looking but looks like he is totally messed up. To achieve that I had to train without eating. So that happened for three months as far as body was concerned. We carefully selected fourteen tattoos for my character. The whole thing of having a long hair with streaks was because when I heard the role of Tommy Singh from Abhishek Chaubey, the character was almost jumping out and hitting me in the face. I was like what kind of a guy Tommy is! I wanted the audience to have that similar taste. It was also difficult to understand what is the state of mind of an addict. My character in the film is a cocaine addict who starts chasing the drugs. He feels he needs to be high all the time. That's what gives him confidence. So what happens to people in that space is that either they are over-confident or they are extremely under-confident when they don't get it.
3. Did you take any real life inferences for this film?
A. The difficulty with this film was that nobody is ever going to show you that 'this is what happens when I am on cocaine'. So I saw some documentaries and I think we have all partied enough to see what happens when people are high on alcohol and other stuff. (laughs).
4. So was this character draining for you?
A. Every shot was quite draining. I used to actually go and lie down because I wasn't really eating any food and I was having a lot of coffee. I needed to be very aggressive because the character is always up. So ya it was extremely tiring. In fact after the first 12-13 days of shoot for no reason I fell ill. I had no infection. I even underwent blood tests. I had fever for 13 days while shooting because my body was just too tired.
5. What's Tommy Singh then all about?
A. 'Udta Punjab' is a fictional film with fictional characters. It is not based on real life. The backdrop and issue is real. However the characters and the story is completely fictional. If you see Tommy Singh in the promos he is this huge star who is an addict. Now we have seen many people like this. There have been many pop stars having these fast lives. They die young, OD on stuff, people love them, you know they are really cool looking, they come out and sing songs and have this really awesome shows. That's the journey of Tommy Singh. His journey is the fall of a star because the musician in him falls prey to the addict in him. And he becomes nothing. It's a journey of a guy who thinks that he is the best in the world recognising that he isn't and then fighting that reality.
6. How did you work upon the emotional part of your character?
A. I was very dependent on Abhishek (Chaubey). Like I said before I had no exposure to these things. But then you know you have an actor's instinct. You are playing something and then you start feeling your character and then just go with the flow of your instinct.
7. What attracted you towards it?
A. Tommy Singh is bizarrely original. I found him very entertaining but very deep at the same time. That's very rare combination. Usually entertaining characters are a little shallow. On the other hand the characters that are very complex are usually a little serious. But this guy had both which was very unique as an actor for me to do.
8. Do you like working more in out and out commercial films like 'R..Rajkumar' or content driven films like 'Haider' and 'Udta Punjab'?
A. Characters excite me. I don't have a problem with genres. I am happy to do all kind of genres. But more challenging the role, greater is the excitement. The more tired I get, the more I want a break. (laughs) After 'Haider', 'Udta Punjab' and 'Rangoon' I really want to do a light fluffy film where I can just sit, chat with the heroine and then cut into a song. (jokes).
9. Do you keep a tab on the box office collections of your films?
A. Everybody keeps a tab. Forget me, even my Man Friday tells me 'Sir, this film grossed 100 crores.'
10. Actors are showing a lot of maturity these days despite having baggage in the past. They are still very comfortable when it comes to working together in front of the screen, for example Ranbir- Katrina, you and Kareena...
A. You can choose to have a good attitude towards what's going to happen. The word 'baggage' simply means load..drop it and fly high.
11. Has 'Shandaar' taken away the novelty and excitement of your pairing with Alia Bhatt?
A. People really liked us a lot in 'Shaandaar'. What I heard from people was that the only good thing about the film was me and Alia.
12. Would you ever get a tattoo in real life? Which one?
A. I really want a tattoo. But I haven't been still able to figure out what I want. It's a long time commitment. I just made one and I don't think I am ready for another. (laughs)
13. On the other side, now that you are all set to embrace fatherhood are you making some small changes in your routine?
A. You know the amazing thing is that you think that you will do this and that when your baby arrives. But I have already started feeling that it's the other way round. Before the baby has come, you start feeling that you need to adjust to be a father. So I think that it's the parents who change the more and the child is going to be what the child is going to be.
14. So what changes are you making?
A. It's difficult to talk about. Maybe I will talk about it in my autobiography. (laughs)
15. Are you taking any classes for parenthood?
A. No. Actually there are some really cool apps these days. There is this app called Baby Centre. My wife is a pro. She has put this app on my phone and I get weekly updates and I get to know whatever I need to know. So it's really cool.
16. How has Mira changed you as a person?
A. I have become very domesticated. You know like how you see a dog running on a road free and wild and then you see him with a noose around his neck. (laughs)
17. You have also become more expressive post marriage...
A. Basically women want to take credit for anything right in a man's life. Next when the baby arrives then people are like 'oh, the baby's luck is on your way!' 'Maine mehnat ki uskaa kya'! (laughs)
18. Your next film 'Rangoon' has you playing an army officer. Was it difficult to get into the skin of your character? Did you research about the World War II?
A. Vishal Bhardwaj does enough research (smiles). I don't need to do anything more. He just gives me a big fat thing and I just have to read it.
19. But is it inspired by 'Casablanca'?
A. You know if we wanted to buy the rights of 'Casablanca' and remake it properly we would had to sell off all our property (laughs). So it's definitely an original script.
20. Recently Kangana Ranaut said that there are three heroes in 'Rangoon'...
A. Why doesn't she say that there are three heroines in the film? Is there anything less about a heroine than a hero? There are three protagonists in the film. For me there is a no difference between a hero and a heroine. So if saying that you are a hero makes you bigger than the heroine I don't agree with that idea.
21. Few years down the line how do you see your career?
A. I hope I still have work, still give interviews and I hope that I am still relevant.
22. What's your take on pay parity issues in Bollywood?
A. Pay parity has to do with the saleability of a person. I can also sit and cry and say that I am getting less money. Just because my films sell for a certain amount of money doesn't make a different story. We should view films equally based on content regardless of whether they are female or male driven. But till that doesn't happen, pay has to be on the basis of your viability. Unless somebody is getting paid less than what they are viable for. If that's happening then you have the right to stand up and say that 'I am not getting paid as much as I deserve.' But pay should be deserving of what you can get. Simple.