Shahid Kapoor got his introduction into the glitzy world of Bollywood at a young age, as he was a star child born to powerful acting talents like Pankaj Kapur and Neelima Azeem. However, he is hardly known for using the name of his successful parents to get work in the industry which is so cut-throat.
Kapoor first gained attention after appearing in the Aryans’ music video ‘Aankhon Mein’ in his early twenties but bagged his big break in Bollywood after producer Ramesh Taurani roped in him for his teenage romance Ishq Vishk (2003). Since then, the actor has added many credits to his resume and is currently seen in Kabir Singh, an intense love story which is adapted from cult Telugu film Arjun Reddy (2017).
A few days before the theatrical release of Kabir Singh, Eastern Eye caught up with Shahid Kapoor in a posh Mumbai hotel. In this interview, Kapoor talks at length about the character that he plays in Kabir Singh, whether or not he is more inclined towards taking up characters that show aggression, his working experience with newcomer Kiara Advani and much more.
Shahid, the music of your film has become a rage among the audience. Everybody is crooning Kabir Singh’s songs. What do you have to say?
I think it has been a long time since such a soulful album has not come out, which has melodious songs. This album has no item song. The makers have created the original soundtrack, keeping in mind the story and emotions of the film. There are a lot of new artists who have worked on the music of the film, be it Sachet-Parampara who have done ‘Bekhayali’ and ‘Mere Sohneya’ or Vishal who has composed ‘Kaise Hua’ and ‘Pehla Pehla Pyaar’. Mithoon has also composed a song. So there is a lot of new energy in the film.
When the original film was made, it had newcomers. I think Vijay Deverakonda had done only 2-3 films before. But Arjun Reddy (2017) turned out to be a breakout performance for him where he got noticed. If I am not wrong, it was Shalini Pandey’s first film as well. It was the debut film of director Sandeep Vanga also. In a nutshell, the original film had freshness, so it was important to bring that into this film as well.
At times, I would feel, “Will I be the wrong choice for this film because people have been seeing me for so many years now. Will I take away that freshness from the film?” So, in the music also, we tried to bring as much freshness and as much original melody.
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How much important role does music play in an intense love story like Kabir Singh?
See, some films are plot-driven, story-driven but then some films are attitude-driven. For example, my film Kaminey (2009) was a very attitude-driven film. The music and background score of that film gave you that feeling and excitement. Even in this film, there are songs which set the mood of the film for you. So the music needed to jump out and make an impact. I am so happy that people are enjoying it.
Which one is your favourite track from the film?
‘Bekhayali’ is the song that represents the pain, angst and aggression of Kabir Singh. So that is the face of the album for me because that is the attitude of the character.
How do you slide into the skin of such intense characters so effortlessly?
I don’t know. As an actor, I work with the same passion and dedication in every film. Sometimes something clicks and connects with the audience and sometimes it does not. Films are very unpredictable and dangerous as you can never figure out what will work with the audience.
See, these characters allow me to go deeper and to create more complexity. That is always exciting for me even as a viewer when I watch a film. It is exciting when somebody plays a character which is, you know, challenging their own expectations. These characters give you that opportunity. And if they happen correctly, then they become a little memorable. But they also get written very rarely. You will have to wait for films like that to come your way.
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What did you do to make sure that Kabir Singh does not remind the audience of Arjun Reddy, despite the fact that the former is the literal adaptation of the latter?
When I saw Arjun Reddy, I really liked the film. I am even a fan of Arjun Reddy. But when I am playing Kabir Singh and trying to participate in the process of creating a new character in a new film, then, for me, Arjun Reddy does not exist. It is very essential for me to throw that out of my mind and come and bring something original to the table. So that was the simple mindset that I had. I am an Arjun Reddy fan, but when it comes to Kabir Singh, there is no Arjun Reddy. I had to keep that attitude.
Do you think that you have a thing for essaying aggressive characters like Charlie, Haider, Tommy Singh and now Kabir Singh?
I think Haider was the most non-aggressive character that I have ever played. If you look at it again, you will see that he was not even able to take revenge when he got the opportunity. That was a very conflicted character. So, for me, Haider was not aggressive. He was a very complex and complicated character.
The character that I play in Udta Punjab is an addict whereas Kabir Singh is an alcoholic. There is some similarity, for sure. But Tommy Singh was a very selfish man. He would just think about himself. That was his problem. Kabir Singh has got so much into love that he is not thinking about himself at all and has become self-destructive. So the problems that Tommy Singh and Kabir Singh face are quite opposite.
Do you believe that Kaminey was the turning point of your career?
Hundred per cent. Kaminey allowed me to jump out of that “chocolate boy” cage which I was in before. Chocolate boy is indeed a big cage and people caged me in that. They were like, “He can do only these types of films.” I was so frustrated with that. I was like, “Please don’t define who am I as an actor. Let me find myself first. Don’t pre-decide for me who should I be or I can be.” So, of course, Kaminey was that first opportunity that helped me to break out and loosen. That was the turning point of my career.
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Do you feel you are very choosy when it comes to taking up projects?
I feel that every day. I always think about why I do fewer films? I tell myself every day that I need to do more films. But then it does not happen.
My selection has gone more wrong than right. There are actors who come up with three films a year and all of them fare well. Every actor has a different journey. I have to be true to my journey.
There are people who believe that Kabir Singh is the next most intense love story after Tere Naam (2003).
I am very happy that people are feeling that way. Yes, it’s true that an intense love story is coming after a long time. That is the reason I wanted to do this film because I felt it was so fresh and new for me.
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What was it like working with newcomer Kiara Advani?
Kiara’s character is very challenging in this film. I have also played such characters in films like Jab We Met (2007) and Padmaavat (2018). Such characters do not always get the kind of appreciation that they deserve because, you know, the audience always focuses on the character which is louder. In this film, I have that loud character.
So I actually have a lot of respect for the fact that Kiara being on the newer side has kept and held her own so well in the film. When you will see the film, you will realize that if Preeti does not work, then Kabir Singh does not work because everything that he does is for that character. So the girl has to work. If you don’t feel that the guy cannot do this much for her, then the film won’t look convincing. I can very confidently say that this is definitely the best work of her career. She has done a very good job.
How do you see at the web-space? Has any OTT platform approached you?
Yes, I have been approached. There are some offers on the table. I think it is a great platform. I watch a lot of web content myself. It is expanding in India. It is something which is new to our country. It is finding its audience. So, it is at a stage where it is establishing itself as a platform. I have a feeling that it is going to be a very popular platform in the years to come. It is a very convenient platform. It also allows you to tell stories and not feel restricted by the amount of time you need to tell them. Sometimes there are stories which need time to be told. If the right subject is chosen for the right platform, then it is always beneficial.
And I am open to all platforms. I never have any issue with which platform I am working on. I need to feel excited about what I am doing, and that requires a lot of time. So if there is something which makes me feel it is worth my time, I will definitely be open to it.
Kabir Singh is running in cinemas now.