Shahid Kapoor on Kabir Singh success: ‘I have just bought a house in Worli and I need to pay for it, so I am very happy’
He could easily be called ‘the box office disruptor’ of 2019. After all, breaking every archetypal notion and turning each trade mantra on its head, Shahid Kapoor delivered the biggest blockbuster of his career yet, Kabir Singh. And that too when not many – including the trade world – had many expectations from the film. “I’ve been doing this [acting in films] for the last 15 years and suddenly, I feel very different, and it’s only because of the love audiences have given me,” says Shahid, who is currently busy with the shooting of his next, Jersey, a remake of the Telugu sports-drama of the same name. Excerpts from an interview:
Personally, how do you look at 2019?
It’s been a defining year [for me]. I think 2019 has empowered me to play all types of characters. It has given me the belief that audiences are there to watch a good story. If you can emotionally impact them and can give a new experience, they are not as restricted in their mind as I think some of us, within the industry, are about what can travel wide and what can’t. The first thing that I felt [vis-a-vis Kabir Singh] was a very strong and direct connection with the audience. When you get such overwhelming love, you realise its direct intensity. So, now, I feel very connected with the audience and people who have given me and the film so much love. And I only feel answerable only to them.
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Now, going ahead, does a hit of such a big size put any pressure on you?
Not really! I think during your early years in the career, when you haven’t done enough work then you tend to take pressure about these things as you think that you can control them. But after many years, when you understand that success and failure is not completely in your control, you actually feel kind of liberated. I just feel that I did something very instinctively, from my gut, which connected with people. And I just want to continue doing the same.
Like Kaminey, Haider or Udta Punjab, you broke the mould of a ‘Bollywood hero’ once again with Kabir Singh. Does that give you a kick?
I don’t think I’ve ever fallen in any bracket in the last 10 years of my career and Kabir Singh was also not the kind of film that people would expect me to do. So I think giving the audience the unexpected is what my relationship with them is based on. I will always try and give them a new experience. I will never do the same thing 10 times, which may work at the box office. But I don’t think that’s my relationship with the audience. Every actor has a different equation [with people] and my attempt is to surprise them or give them something new every time with a story.
What has been your biggest takeaway from the year?
That’s a very large question (laughs). I feel we are standing at a crossroad where everything is being questioned a lot, everybody is feeling very judged, and everybody is being judgmental towards everybody. But I feel at the end of the day, filmmaking is all about telling stories about good people as well as bad people. It’s also about the craft as well as entertaining people and the only one who should have the last word is the audience. So, my biggest learning is that you are making movies for people and your focus has to be on what they feel about it.
Do you feel success has come at the right time for you?
It’s never a wrong time for the right thing (smiles). Whenever it comes, its welcome and I am thankful. Let me be very honest, I have just bought a house in Worli, and I need to pay for it, so I am very happy that I got a successful film (laughs). People see actors differently but we also have the same issues that every other person faces ke, ghar chalana hai aur family ko accha ghar dena hai and acchi life deni hai. So, I felt very relieved that now, hopefully, I will be able to pay for the house that I have bought.
Looking back at 2019, would you call it a transformative year of sorts for you?
See, as an actor, what happens is that you have many ambitions of your own because of which you make choices accordingly. But after Kabir Singh, I feel one of the most important aspects for me – while making my film choices – would be, ‘how I can reach out to people who have given me all the love.’ I wouldn’t want to do a film that is limited in its appeal. Of course, in today’s times, there are no rules to the game. But I’d definitely want to give people as many good films as I can because I feel they are the wind beneath my wings. And that’s why I feel responsible towards them.
Kabir Singh has beat films such as Avengers: Endgame, Joker, War and Gully Boy to become the most-searched movie on Google in India this year...
See, Kabir Singh was also quite a controversial film [many felt that the film ‘glamorised misogyny’ and ‘toxic masculinity’] and many people spoke a lot about it. So, I guess that also contributed a lot to why the film is the most searched film. It’s surely one of the biggest hits of the year but these are conversations that need to happen. I feel one of the biggest things that a film does is to bring up a conversation in the society. It makes the society reflect upon itself. Films are not meant to sermonise but some films are surely meant to reflect upon life. A film can be purely for entertainment, or to scare people, or it can be based on somebody’s life story which somebody believes must be made, and then the audience will decide if it’s worth their time or not.
In essence, you are advocating for space for different kinds of films. Is that correct?
Absolutely! And it’s great to see that there are different kinds of filmmakers, who are making various types of films. After all, cinema needs to be a wide spectrum medium. There should be no rules to the game, otherwise where is the free speech and free expression? Agar humein filmein banana hai and if films are a part of the fundamental right of free speech and expression, then we should agree to disagree. Nobody should be forced to like something that they don’t. But I don’t think anybody also has the right to say that you should or shouldn’t make this because we are all on the same platform. For somebody to tell others that you can or cannot do this means they are on a pedestal. Right? And I don’t think anybody is on that pedestal. We don’t need to fight if we don’t agree. That’s what a healthy democracy is all about. Respect somebody else’s point of view and others must respect your point of view. Disagreement is the basis of free society and that’s what we should focus on.
From this point, how do you see 2020, and the future?
The future looks the same as it was earlier. It’s as unexpected and as unpredictable. I don’t think I have gained any special sixth sense. This job is just so unpredictable that you should just keep the head down, focus on work, enjoy what you are doing, make people happy and keep going on till the time people want to see you. The idea is to keep giving them the best you got and never think that is forever. I feel everything has a timeline, har cheez ki expiry date hoti hai toh jab tak chal rahe ho, chalte raho, kaam karte raho.