I was on an extended vacation and now I am back to school,” he says.
Where did you disappear?
It wasn’t a voluntary decision. But yes, there was a time when I should have been doing more work, but I didn’t. So I need to recover that lost time now. My dad’s film Mausam took a year and a half to finish, and that started the slow-down. Technically, I lost two years. Everybody presumed that I would not take up any work till Mausam finished. The only film I signed in between was Teri Meri Kahani.
You and Kareena became a hit pair after Jab We Met (2007), and then the two of you split up. But have you ever had an offer of a film with Kareena since then?
Nobody in the last five years has come to me with an offer to work with Kareena. I had never said no to working with her ever before, and why should it be any different now? Jab We Met was Kareena’s finest performance so far. She’s one of the finest actresses we have today.
In hindsight, were you too young and immature to handle your relationship with Kareena Kapoor?
Absolutely not! I was 16 when I had my first relationship and it lasted for two and a half years. When you are seeing somebody, then obviously it’s a commitment. And if you don’t want to commit, then don’t be in a relationship. Every relationship deserves a certain credibility and respectability. For me, it’s always been like that. If I have fallen for someone, it’s been for a long time.
So far you haven’t spoken about what went wrong with Mausam.
The fact that we had just about two months to edit the film which was made over a period of two years, and the fact that the film itself got hugely delayed impacted the product. Had there been a little more time, we would have got more perspective and made corrections. It was a lot of pressure on dad who was making his first film. There was pressure on all of us, including Supriya aunty (Shahid’s stepmother Supriya Pathak), and my kid brothers. Everyone was deeply involved in the film. I was with the family throughout and I had to be their mental strength. I just couldn’t let them down emotionally.
Do you regret that phase a little?
I usually do not regret anything in life, but in hindsight, I wouldn’t want to do that again. I really don’t want to be in that situation again.
We’ve heard you’ve cancelled your New Year’s Eve plans.
I am really excited about my work now and there’s an interesting line-up for next year. So yes, I will be working round the clock. There’s no New Year’s Eve or birthday break. I have taken it on myself to make sure that I have the most of myself and just keep working.
How did you spend the last nine months?
I was reading scripts, meeting people. I have already heard about six scripts and doing three films now. Fortunately, I am working with people I wanted to work with. With these movies, I am moving into a different space too. Thankfully I had the time to line up my priorities. Raj Kumar Santoshi’s film is an out-and-out entertainer, so is Prabhudheva’s Namak, which is complete masala fare. And then there is Bejoy Nambiar’s film which is of a dark, edgy kind. And there’s one more that I am not supposed to talk about now.
I have decided one thing, though. I’ve made a promise to myself that every year I will do three films and have two releases — minimum. People have told me that I am too slow, that I do very few films, and that at this age and stage, I shouldn’t be doing this.
Certain people in the industry believe you exude a kind of arrogance.
I used to be in my own world and keep to myself all the time, so there may have been a perception about my reserved demeanour that was misconstrued as arrogance. But when people interact with you, then they know the real you.
So how did you control the damage?
People may have found it difficult to approach me and I realised it and have worked on it. I used to be socially shy. Now I have become a social animal. I go out, meet and interact with people. I made an effort and I am really enjoying that phase now. Beyond that, I cannot change who I am. I am a Piscean, and they have a lovingly detached attitude towards life.