It was a busy morning at the office. We were struggling to meet the deadline. Suddenly the door burst open and a colleague shouted, "I just nailed the new Pepsi boy. Do we have a spare page?"
Had it been Shah Rukh Khan, Kajol or Rani Mukherji who had featured in the same campaign, we might have shared his excitement. But Shahid Kapur, even if he was the son of Pankaj Kapur and Neelima Azeem, was far from a household name then. Still, when his photographs were handed around, we had to admit that the boy was cute. And obliged by giving him space.
The 19-year-old model admitted in a quick q-and-a for which he had to bunk a lecture, that he was shy of girls. He had stopped going to the Mithibai College canteen because every time they spotted him with a fizzy drink, they would goggle, giggle and point in his direction. <b1>
Shahid was an instructor at Shaimak Davar's dance institute. For the trivia collectors, he was one of the group dancers behind Aishwarya Rai in the Taal charttopper, Kahin aag lage lag jayee. He became a model by chance.
He was spotted while dropping off a friend to the auditions of the Pepsi ad on his new bike.. and coaxed into giving a screen test. To his surprise he was selected. The rest, as they say, is fizzstory!
Next up: a lead role in a campus love story, Chura Ke Dil Kahan Chale, being produced by ghazal singer Pankaj Udhas. The movie didn't take off. And Shahid finally debuted in 2003 in Ken Ghosh's Ishq Vishk. The film was a surprise hit. And Shahid was the new campus cutie.
The following year, the two again collaborated on Fida. I often spotted Ken and Shahid at a neighbourhood pizza joint with their heads together, oblivious to the world. Fida paired Shahid and Kareena Kapoor. Hearts broke when it was reported that they were dating.
I remember meeting him at his bachelor's pad, post Vivah, and quizzing him on his Valentine Day plans. "When you are in love every day is Valentine's Day," Shahid had smiled, but confessed that he was flying down to Bangkok with Kareena to bring in his 25th birthday on February 25. <b2>
For Shahid 'together time' with near and dear ones has always been precious. "When you're old it's these memories that you will live with," he'd say when I pointed out that he was losing out on studio time. "I'm only 25, I don't intend to burn myself out too soon. I want to be around for a long time."
Later that year, the winsome twosome performed for our award show. They would turn up for rehearsals together and give each other groovy tips. Their acts went of flawlessly. Kareena paid tribute to her Helen aunty with the Don number, Yeh mera dil pyaar ka deewana. It was a nostalgic moment when the senior actress joined her on stage. Shahid danced to a medley of his hits.
After that, both perched on some crates backstage and watched the progression of awards on the monitor. Both were contenders for the Best Actor and Best Actress Awards.. he for Vivah and she for Omkara. Shahid lost out to Amitabh Bachchan (Black).. Kareena won. It was her first popular award and she was ecstatic.. he even more.
It was obvious then that feelings ran deep. Yet, soon after, Shahid had to accept the fact that things had changed and move on. He did.. with grace and dignity, refusing to say a word against Kareena. Or a word on Vidya Balan, Sania Mirza, Amrita Rao and Priyanka Chopra with whom he was subsequently linked. "It's not classy or cool to talk about relationships," he'd reprimand, whenever anyone tried to probe too deep.
I respected his privacy and restricted the personal queries to his new look. It was obvious that he was growing out his hair for a new movie.. may be his third outing with Ken Ghosh. Given his dancing feet, I had been telling him for months to sign up for a musical. "I'll keep your suggestion in mind," he'd nod. Ghosh's next is a musical.
"Now you should sing," I told him, after hearing him croon on a music reality show. "I'll keep that suggestion in mind too," he smiled.
We returned to his 'look'. He looked like a dude with an attitude. Another star would have revelled in the compliment. All Shahid said was, "Hey, I'd rather be a nice guy."