He enters the hall and all eyes shift focus from one-film old Ileana D’cruz. To break the awe-inspired silence, he places a basket of popcorn on his table and says, “Popcorn, anyone? I’m on strict diet!” To your surprise, he actually steps forward to offer popcorn, seasoned with his perfect spicy ear-to-ear smile.
In Chandigarh on Tuesday, Shahid Kapoor likes to get right down to business. About his upcoming film, Phata Poster Nikla Hero, he says, “I haven’t played an out-and-out comic role so far. In the recent past, I hosted various award functions, where comedy played a key role. A lot of friends told me I did a good job. Besides, I’m a huge fan of Raj Kumar Santoshi’s comedy, from Jane Bhi Do Yaaron to Andaaz Apna Apna.” About his character, Vishwas Rao — an aspiring actor mistaken for a cop — and the expected comparison of his character with other super cops of Bollywood, Shahid says, “Vishwas Rao is a mad character, and comparison is a part of every actor’s life. I try not to think about it. The cops of Dabangg and Singham have been larger-than-life heroes. Rao, however, is a fake cop who aspires to be a hero. Of all things, he doesn’t want to get involved in fights, not wanting to spoil his face, you know.”
While most actors go on about the hard work they’ve put into the role, Shahid says he didn’t do any homework. “I had worked with Bosco at the time of Jab We Met. Working with him again was dollops of fun, since the film has Pritam’s peppy music. Bosco, however, didn’t let me prepare in advance. He thought if we pre-plan the film, it would lose its sheen; it’s meant to be spontaneous. The same was the case with the director.”
Given his versatile roles, how does he decide which ones to take up? “Once, I was travelling with Shah Rukh Khan and he told me ‘More than scripts, it’s the people that you work with. You need to get along; filmmaking is a team sport. Starting from the director to co-actor and producers, all factors are equally important. You should give them priority. Also, filmmaking has to be one person’s vision. Too many people’s point of view spoils the broth. Eventually, it’s one person’s vision and everyone needs to invest in it. Though you don’t really know the future of the film, you have to believe in it.’ His words stuck with me.”
The chocolate boy, however, takes offense when you talk to him about doing parallel cinema. “When I did Kaminey, no actor at the time had tried such a role; when I did Jab We Met, Imitiaz was just one film old — I have always taken risks. Sometimes those risks have paid off, other times they haven’t. Technically, this is the most commercial film I have ever done. I will always do films that I believe in and won’t change the way I work. My next film is by Vishal Bharadwaj, an adaptation of Hamlet.”Before he tries to end the conversation, you’re reminded of his ‘popcorn diet’ and ask him about his regime. “I train five times a week and am a vegetarian; don’t even have eggs. I’m usually found with peanuts on my plate and juice in my hand. My trainer, Abaas Ali, who has been working on me for eight years, always keeps me on a strict diet.”