I have reached a point where I feel secured as an actor | Shahid Kapoor - Exclusive Interview

Shahid Kapoor's evolution as an actor has been truly awe-inspiring. The kind that can inspire generations of budding actors to never give up in tumultuous times and believe in yourself, especially when you possess exceptional talent. During his 13 year long career in the Hindi film industry, Shahid has indeed grown from a chocolate boy, the loveable guy next door, to a man who can easily slip into a variety of different characters, no matter how dark or mentally taxing. Like a chameleon, he does a powerful character like Haider Meer and in less than a year, gets into the suave and sassy mode for Jagjinder Joginder in Shaandaar. But, the transformation for Udta Punjab is what you would call a never before seen or tried attempt. With the drug drama, which is all set to release tomorrow, Shahid steps into the shoes of a substance addict, who is a loud, wacky and completely over-the-top rockstar - an image that is a far cry from his own personality. But, the risk taker in him encouraged the actor to push himself beyond limits and take up the challenge, like he has done in the past. And with the looks of it, we are sure he will triumph once again.

We meet the actor on a pleasant afternoon at a super busy office, where anxious reporters are ready with their long list of questions. It's natural. Apart from having two big drama ventures waiting in the wings, the actor is all set for a new chapter in his life. He will be turning a father soon and like any other first time Dad, the glow on Shahid's face cannot be missed (Who said only mommy glow could exist?) He looks happy, content and super excited (and may he continue to be that way). One could see a sense of bliss and happiness in his eyes, which couldn't be ignored throughout our conversation. Marriage has certainly changed the actor in many ways than one, but this one is certainly for good. After a quick exchange of greetings, the actor grabs a cuppa and settles down for a wonderful chat, incomplete without his amazing wit, of course. Excerpts from the insightful conversation:

Image Credit: GQ India
What went into the making of Tommy Singh? Beyond the multiple cups of coffee that you took to get  a high, of course.
Oh god! This coffee thing became such a simple solution, no? But, I wish it was as simple as just that. Playing Tommy Singh was both a scary and challenging process. I could still draw parallels for the part where Tommy is a superstar, but essaying the part of a substance addict was very difficult. But, the character itself was so exciting, that I had to take it up as a challenge, especially since I don't drink alcohol. Plus, I have never ever been high in my entire life, be it on alcohol or any other substance. So, understanding the state of mind of someone in that zone was difficult. In fact, I told Abhishek (Chaubey) that in my opinion, you might have come to the right actor, but have you come to the right person? (laughs) He was very sure about what he wanted and ensured that he would discuss everything that the role required.

How was the look for Tommy Singh, which has now become a huge rage, conceptualised?
Abhishek had shot with Kareena and Diljit for a month already. After which, he came back and shot with Alia and me. While he was away, I got this entire look together, with tattoos, long hair and blue - green streaks. So, I took a few pictures and emailed it to him. His only response was - “When I get back, we shall discuss this.” I honestly don’t think he expected us to interpret it in such a way. But when he came back, he was honestly very happy about the look.

I have never ever been high in my entire life, be it on alcohol or any other substance. So, understanding the state of mind of someone in that zone was difficult.
Image Credit: GQ India

Were there any pre-shoot workshops for Udta Punjab?
No, but I saw a lot of documentaries. Also, there were discussions with Abhishek. Since he had researched the film for over a year, he understood what it is to be on substance and was able to give me a lot of information. Plus, I guess we all have been to enough parties to know what a substance addict looks like (laughs). I have seen a few here and there. So, after all this, I plunged into it to achieve him.  If a role like this comes my way, there is no way I am gonna let is go.

What about the physical transformation, that everyone can't stop talking about?
When I heard the script, I realised that the character was very in-your-face, and I wanted to ensure that I am able to make people feel that when they see the film. So, we needed to add a physicality to the character, which should look shocking. If you see someone like Tommy Singh walking on the road, you would keep staring and go, "Who is that guy?" That's the kind of look that we wanted to achieve. So, we did everything that we could to achieve it, right from 14 tattoos to changing the hair do. For three months before the film, I was working out three hours a day and not eating much. My diet would only consist of little brown rice, very little dal and yoghurt, and just some salad. That's what I ate three times a day, for three months. That's it! This is because I had very little time to achieve the look that I wanted to get for this character. Honestly, three months is very little for where I was and where I needed to be.

For three months before the film, I was working out three hours a day and not eating much. 

What was the biggest challenge of essaying a character like Tommy Singh?
The fact that he is obnoxious, aggressive, abusive, badly behaved, but at the same time, people need to fall in love with him in five minutes. That's what Abhishek told me, just one day before my schedule, while shooting with Kareena (Kapoor Khan) and Diljit (Dosanjh). Abhishek was just sitting out there, drunk and totally stressed out about making this film, and was wearing shades inside a room (laughs). He went, "Tommy is obnoxious, crazy blah blah. But, if people don't love him in five minutes, this film is screwed (mimicking Abhishek). Live with that!" He said that, got up, caught his flight and just left me thinking.

Go on...
You know, the kind of energy that one needs to play that character is insane. But thankfully, after seeing people's response to the promo, I guess we have managed all of that. You know, there are certain people who are so unique, that you find them entertaining. You don't feel bad about what they are doing, because their antics are just entertaining. Tommy Singh is just that, an exhibition. Whatever he feels, he just puts it out there. He is not manipulative, evil or contriving, but actually just a lost kid. He is a very talented musician, who wrote lyrics about something that he thought was cool and became a really big star. But ultimately, he has forgotten who he was and lost everything to his addiction. The journey shows how a guy, who thinks he is the king of this world, is actually nothing and is trying to find himself. I hope people will be able to see through that and understand Tommy's state of mind. He is just like a kid. That's why, we tried to find a way to interpret his character like that. Otherwise on paper, you will never feel for that guy!

Music of this film plays an important role, especially since Tommy is a rockstar. Were some of the songs designed keeping in mind his wackiness?
Making the music and creating Tommy Singh was a parallel process. Tommy expresses himself through his music. So, Amit and I interacted to discuss what should be the feel, energy and vibe of the musIc. I am very happy with the way it has shaped up. I think it sounds great. 

The fact that he (Tommy Singh) is obnoxious, aggressive, abusive, badly behaved, but at the same time, people need to fall in love with him in five minutes

Haider Meer left you feeling psychologically exhausted, which is why you followed up with a lighter film like Shaandaar. Did you undergo something similar with Tommy?
Oh yes! It was physically exhausting. Psychologically, I just wanted to feel normal. Halfway through the film I fell ill. There was no infection or illness, but I just so depleted and tired. The character was very contradictory. Superstars, Pop stars have a larger than life image. However, substance addicts tend to look very depleted and underfed. For Tommy, I needed both in one guy. So, that's why there was no food and lots of training. I would feel tired but at the same time, the kind of a guy you would want to look up to on a stage. I would honestly love to do a fun, easy-breezy film now. It's important, because I have done films like Haider, Udta Punjab and Rangoon almost back to back. 

Would you have played Tommy Singh a little differently, had it come to you a few years back?
I don't know. It was only in the last 3 - 4 years that I think I have developed the confidence to try different roles, and maybe people are seeing that in the choices I am making, therefore roles like these are coming to me. Also, I wasn't very good with film selections that time. Maybe a few years back, nobody would have approached me to play a Tommy Singh.

Halfway through the film I fell ill. There was no infection or illness, but I just so depleted and tired.
Image Credit: Samsung
But in the past, you had a Jab We Met and Kaminey, where both your characters were completely opposite and challenging.
I fell upon Jab We Met and got lucky to work with Imtiaz Ali, who had a brilliant script with him. But, I do think I had the basic intelligence to not let that film go, despite the fact that he was a new film maker. And I was damn lucky that Vishal Bharadwaj thought of me as Charlie and Guddu in Kaminey, which even I didn't see myself as. I think, those projects made me wake up and feel like - Oh shit! This is nice. Why didn't I do projects like these before? 

Have you at any point in your career feared failure?
Actually, in the last 3 - 4 years of my career, I have reached a point where I feel secured as an actor and I enjoy challenges. Maybe, that comes after 10 years of work. Or maybe, because I have seen a mix of both success and failure. So, when you have seen both sides, there is no fear. Fear creeps in when you have not seen failure, or when you don't know the dark side. I have been to the dark side and back, so there is no room for any fear.

 Doing films like Udta Punjab and Rangoon back to back is not easy for an actor. Do you think you are more open to taking that kind of a risk today?
The only question that one needs to ask himself is - just because one is not making safe choices consecutively, are these bad choices? Is this a film that I would want to go into, regardless of any kind of analysis? Sometimes, you just need to simplify things for yourself and leave the rest to destiny. Maybe there is a reason why these films are coming my way, I don't know. I just kept things simple. I felt like I wanted to do these films, because I liked the character and I did it. I didn't go far thinking which film comes out first or second. Just for that reason, to say no to a film that excites me, would be a stupid decision. Also, who likes doing the same thing everyday? What is there to like in a stereotype? If you eat Dal Chawal everyday, would you be happy? So as an actor, you need to try different things. It’s a need.

Fear creeps in when you have not seen failure, or when you don't know the dark side. I have been to the dark side and back, so there is no room for any fear.

Image Credit: GQ India

Any character in your filmography that you could relate to?
I think there is a shade of me in all of them. But, none of them are me for sure.

What was your state of mind on the last day of Udta Punjab like?
I was just so happy. Just wanted to get on to that flight and take a breather. In fact, I even posted a picture on Instagram with a fist pump while traveling back, when we wrapped the film. It felt like - mission accomplished, bas hogaya. But somehow, I felt that way on the last day of all these three films - Haider, Udta Punjab and Rangoon. It was just so tiring and exhausting, that I just wanted it to finish. You know sometimes, halfway through the film, you tend to go - Yaar! Maine khamakha
panga toh nahin liya? Bas, ghar jaake normal khaana khaate hain aur normal cheezein karte hain (laughs).      

You surprised everyone with the announcement of becoming a father during the Udta Punjab trailer launch. How has life changed ever since?
This is a very exciting phase of my life. You know, I am following accounts on Instagram and have been downloading applications to know all about this exciting new phase. Let’s just say, I am in a very happy and secure space.

So, we see you directly in 2017 with Rangoon. Any projects that you have taken up or finalised in between? I remember you telling me about AK vs SK last time.
AK vs SK is not happening and I am not doing that film. Actually, I am unemployed after Rangoon. Let's see what happens next (smiles).

By Priya Adivarekar

The Dancebee


  1. More than story it was direction and acting that makes the movie very sensual and awesome. Kudos to Shaheed and Alia !

  2. AnonymousJune 28, 2016

    One of the best interviews WITH THE TOMMY SINGH HIMSELF <3
    Love it.... U ask some seriously shawesome questions.

  3. I am a die hard fan of shahid kapoor !! love him even more :) Thanks for sharing...

    click me


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Priya Adivarekar

Priya Adivarekar - Founder and Creative Director at Diary of a Dancebee. She is also a renowned Voice Actress and award winning artiste, with serious passion for dance. When not working round the clock, she can be seen reading, enjoying a movie-binge or listening to music.
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