I knew I was taking a risk but still wanted to take on the challenge: Shahid Kapoor
He may have enthralled cine-goers with his understated yet powerful outing as Maharawal Ratan Singh in Padmaavat, but actor Shahid Kapoor feels film-maker Sanjay Leela Bhansali is “the real hero” of the movie.bollywood Updated: Jan 30, 2018 18:02 IST
Historically, not much is known about Rajput ruler, Maharawal Ratan Singh. Probably that’s why when Shahid Kapoor was offered the same part in Padmaavat by Sanjay Leela Bhansali, it felt like that of an “underdog.” But despite playing the least author-backed part in the film, he has shone bright with his regal, understated yet powerful performance. What’s most interesting is that all of it is happening in the 15th year of his journey in Bollywood. “I feel very happy because I knew it was a big challenge,” says Shahid, as he talks about his career, playing Ratan Singh and more.
You must be really satisfied and content right now…
I have been working for 15 years now, during which I have mostly done mainstream solo hero films. But when I said yes to Padmaavat, I felt like an underdog for the first time because I knew that out of the three roles, mine – though it was a good part – was the least author-backed. I remember when I met Sanjay sir, he told me, ‘Shahid, I can’t do this film if you say no to it because I need all the three characters to be of a certain type. If you don’t do this, I don’t know how I will make this film because I need the love story to work and I need a hero in the film as I have a very strong anti-hero.’ I told him, ‘sir, I am at a certain stage in my career, so, do you feel I should do this film?’ He said, ‘I wouldn’t have come to you had I not believed (that you should do this film)’. I instantly said yes, and didn’t even hear the script.
But wasn’t it a risky move?
I remember telling Mira (Rajput Kapoor; wife) that I have taken a risk but agreed to take this challenge on. It has been a one-and-a half-year journey. In fact, she supported me a lot. I remember after watching the film, she hugged me and said, ‘I am proud of you. The character is so understated and underplayed. It was so difficult but I loved what you did in the film and this is your best performance.’ Today, I feel almost everybody has connected with my journey in the film. So, they are reaching out, giving love and are very appreciative. I am sure everybody has been an underdog at some stage in their life. Also, I feel in today’s day-and-time, actors are very reachable so, people can feel their journey and connect with them.
You must have been in a really secure space to take it up…
I guess, maybe 3-4 years back, I wouldn’t have been able to do it. Today, I feel a certain amount of security as an actor. So, I guess I was ready to take up such a challenge. Even people from within the fraternity have reached out and said that it was really brave of me to do this film. I feel very happy because I knew it was a big challenge.
Comparatively, you didn’t have many crutches to hold on to vis-à-vis playing Ratan Singh’s part. In that sense, how challenging was it come up with such a strong performance?
You know, something very karmic happened when I started shooting the film. It was December and we were doing night shifts. Due to some issues with the costume, I was informed that it may take more than two hours [to fix the problem]. So I went back [in my vanity van] and watched Mughal-E-Azam. I had asked my manager to upload the film on my laptop for reference. After watching it, I only kept thinking about Dilip (Kumar) sir’s performance. There was so much dignity and power in his silences, his character was not loud, aggressive and he wasn’t very verbose too. But still he had so much presence and character, and I realised that Rawal Ratan Singh needs that.
So, you held on to Dilip Kumar’s performance in your head…
Yes, that performance became like Bible in my head. I feel if I hadn’t seen that performance at that time, maybe, I would have not known what to do. It was Godsend. I learnt how to give power to dignity because it is difficult to be powerful when you are silent and show varied emotions just with your eyes’ expressions. I needed to achieve those things for Rawal Ratan Singh to reach out to the audience because he is the quietest of the three characters. Secondly and most importantly, he was the least known of the three characters. So, a lot of things that even you don’t know need to be communicated or else, you will not be able to experience the person, and it will just be a character. I felt very responsible about that. Somehow, the fact that I was representing the Rajput dynasty and the qualities that they stood for were so inspirational that I wanted to reach out to people. That’s the headspace I was in.
You represent the Rajput community in the film. Did you feel a big sense of responsibility?
Yes, that was very much Sanjay sir’s feeling also. He didn’t want the valour and dignity of the Rajputs to be underplayed in any way. Since there are so many other things in the film, I think he really wanted to bring that out in whatever space there was. And that drove me to realise that the goodness [of the character] must come through. People must believe in goodness and look up to a righteous character. These days, it is difficult to pull off those characters. At that time, I was coming from playing Tommy Singh (in Udta Punjab; 2016) and I felt this was an opportunity to break away from a character (Tommy), which was loud, obnoxious and badly-behaved.
But aren’t the two characters (Tommy and Ratan Singh) like two ends of a spectrum?
Yes and a lot of people may feel that Tommy was cool, but Ratan Singh is equally cool and actually far more relevant. I felt that message should go out to people who see the film, especially youngsters. They should walk out with the feeling of wanting to be that person. I felt this was definitely something that was really important. Maybe, it’s due to the fact that I have become a father, so I feel that these qualities need to be highlighted. Had I been a single guy, I might not have been able to connect with that character. Today, I feel that emotion and that sense of responsibility as well.
It’s your 15th year in Bollywood. How do you look at it?
I honestly feel I have had the kind of journey wherein God has blessed me to keep learning. God must be like, ‘Kabhi yeh mat sochna ki teri seekh khatam ho gayi hai. So, you be a student and keep learning.’ He has always given me a different exam. I have never given the same exam twice or thrice, which means the kind of roles – starting from Jab We Met and Kaminey – that I have played or the kind of genres that I have experimented with. Barring the first 4-5 years of my career when I was quite repetitive, I have had different exams. And due to ‘different exams’, I have been able to learn so much and the fact that my career has been multidimensional has made me a more experienced actor.
Given an opportunity, would you change anything from your past?
No, I wouldn’t. I don’t think I have got success quickly. In fact, I think I am still getting there. And I am still in my quest of reaching to the best of my potential. When you go in a plane, the journey is very fast but it’s bland but you enjoy a train journey way more. It (train journeys) takes much longer but you enjoy and my journey has been like that. I have learnt many lessons and I have been able to soak in every moment of this journey, and have also stopped at many stations (smiles).
When you started as an actor, things were diametrically different from what they are now. Do you feel fortunate that you have seen best of both the worlds?
I feel today, success comes fast, people become the flavour of the season and then they leave also fast. That is very dangerous. I think in the earlier generations, it took longer to establish yourself, for people to know who you are because there wasn’t a lot of media or internet. If you see the generation ahead of us, names such as Akshay (Kumar) sir, Aamir (Khan), Shah Rukh (Khan), Salman (Khan), or Ajay (Devgn) sir, they are still going on and on. I am sure there is something amazing about that journey that they all have and the most important thing is longevity. And every actor from this generation should only worry about that. They should think 10 years ahead and think, ‘how will I keep myself relevant 10 years later?’ You should choose wisely how fast you want to run a 100 metre race depending on how long you want your race to be.
You are set to team up with your Jab We Met (2007) director, Imtiaz Ali after a decade…
Yes, besides Batti Gul Meter Chalu, I am also doing a film with Imtiaz. We are getting back after 10 years and I am quite nervous about working with him. I think he has brought out phenomenal performances from all the actors he has worked with. I feel there are few film-makers, who make your feel like you are not a good enough actor to satisfy them completely, and Imtiaz is one such person. The film isn’t experimental at all in nature; it’s a very fresh and interesting story. It’s a very different film for Imtiaz as well.
You have been a part of the industry for a long time and have seen the highs-and-lows. So, at this stage, what does the success of a film do to you?
Right now, I just feel relaxed and very thankful (vis-à-vis Padmaavat). I feel emotional because it was a very long journey and a huge challenge, especially when you take a risk and then wait for a year-and-a-half. It’s a defining moment in one’s career. At one level, I feel really proud of myself but when I look back sometimes, I also feel, ‘arrey, you did it (laughs)’. Today, people are talking about opening collections etc. but I feel in a Sanjay Leela Bhansali film, he is the actual hero. The film is not a success because of a certain actor. Sanjay sir has taken every actor, who has worked with him, 10 steps ahead because of the kind of cinema he makes and the way he mounts his heroes and the kind of dedication he puts in. So, he is the hero and I feel very fortunate that he chose to take me in his film. Now, that the film is out, it would be proudly kept in my library of films that I would want to share with my kids as there will never be another Rawal Ratan Singh, so job well done (smiles).
In today’s day-and-age, it is almost impossible to make a multi-starrer, especially where one plays the least author-backed part…
If I did not love Sanjay sir that much, I would have not done it. I was really in awe of him as a film-maker. It was not an easy decision to take. In Hollywood, you see a Tom Hardy do a film such as The Revenant, or Brad Pitt participating in films sometimes just for two or three scenes. So it is important to be part of great films. In Sholay, there are two heroes and Sanjeev Kumar was the third one, who was as good as the other two. Does that mean that those legendary actors would not have done that film? All the larger-than-life things were done by Gabbar Singh, but it is an unforgettable film and an unforgettable performance. Also, in Godfather 1, Al Pacino didn’t have a lot of screen space but then Godfather 2 happened. However, he did not know it was going to happen. In our generation, we should remember these things. Mr Bachchan is the greatest superstar ever but take a look at his filmography – so many of his films have had not one or two but multiple actors. So, we should not think like that.
In your career till now, you have played a variety of characters but not a historical one, and that too in a film that has an over-the-top, cruel character like Alauddin Khilji…
Both characters have their own challenges. I must say Ranveer (Singh) has done a great job. It is a very complex job to pull off Khilji, but it is very author backed because the focus is a lot on that character’s journey. To play Ratan Singh – within this film – was really challenging. If a film was made with only Ratan Singh, then it would have been an easier journey. But within the limited screen time, to be able to find this guy, for him to stand tall and make an impact was almost like swimming against the tide.
In an earlier interview to us, you mentioned that you have “made mistakes” in your career…
Yes, but I feel very lucky to be here. Four-five years back, at one point, I used to feel that maine bahut saare mistakes kar diye hai aur abhi kaise isko correct karoon main. But here I am, and I think I have hit a very different gear and am at a different place in my career and like I love the fact that I am not very closely affiliated with any particular set of people. I am open to working and collaborating with everybody. Right now, I don’t feel like I am limited at all, so it’s a great place to be in when there are different opportunities in front of you and lots of exciting things that are coming your way. That’s the best thing about where I am in my career.
But anyway, your career’s pace hasn’t been the same throughout…
Yes, as that doesn’t work in the long run. It’s very important to learn to pace yourself. And for that you need to have a very solid, realistic perspective of yourself and be humble. You should know everything – your present reality, future opportunities as well as past mistakes.
There has been lots of talk about Mira’s (wife) acting plans?
Even I don’t know. Sometimes I also look at Mira and ask her, ‘tu kuch plan kar rahi hai kya’ and she just smiles. Na haan bolti hai aur na bolti hai. When I know, I will let you know (laughs). Anyway, half the world thinks that my wife is also going to start acting. So, very soon, I’ll have only actors around me [in the family].
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First Published: Jan 30, 2018 17:49 IST