When he made his debut with Ken Ghosh’s teenage comedy Ishk Vishk, Shahid Kapoor was dismissed as yet another good-looking boy who wanted to emulate Shah Rukh Khan. However, 12 years later, his detractors were eating humble pie after watching him in Vishal Bhardwaj’s Haider, in which he played a brooding poet from militancy-torn Kashmir. There was a metamorphosis, right from his looks to his performance.
His boyish smile was the only remnant of the chocolate boy days he had started off with. Not only did he sweep all the popular awards of Bollywood last year, the film was Shahid’s ticket to the big league. He turned into a serious actor almost overnight. “People started looking at me with a different kind of emotion,“ the actor says. Was it respect? we prod him. “I don’t know how to explain it and maybe I am not comfortable labelling it,” he says. “Whatever it is, I am enjoying it.”
King of good times
There is a marked difference in Shahid’s disposition these days. The actor, whose arrogant behaviour was spoken about in hushed tones in the industry, seems to have mellowed down a lot. He comes across as a calm, gentle and mature young man, quite contrary to what media reports about him suggest. “I was never arrogant,” says Shahid. “Yes, may be I didn’t open up earlier as much as I do now, and I do not blame those who mistook it for self-obsession.
I didn’t even have anything to be arrogant about earlier.” It is just that he is someone who respects and values his privacy, he says. But even that has changed now. Shahid has taken up the task of explaining to his wife Mira Rajput the importance of obliging the paparazzi. “Earlier, I didn’t know how to deal with my fans or the media. My friends would advice me to be more warm and welcoming,” says Shahid, fresh out of the debacle that his latest film Vikas Bahl’s Shaandaar was. “Today, when I see Mira struggle with the same, I know what she is going through exactly, so I am helping her out.”
One look at Shahid’s career graph and it is evident that Shaandaar is not the biggest flop in his career. There were times when he was scared to even step out of his house, he confesses. There were times when one bad decision followed another. There were times when he sat at home jobless for months without an end. There were times when he was written off by the industry. “But all through this madness, I never doubted myself,” says Shahid. “I knew that this was just a phase. I was like a horse with blinkers on. I just shut out from the world and started doing my own thing.”
It was a commercial film, R.. Rajkumar, that brought him back to the fore, which is why he would never stop doing “massy” films. “The push and the visibility a commercial hit can give you, trust me, nothing else can,” says Shahid. But doesnt it affect him when films that he believed in and directors that he placed his trust on, including his father actor-filmmaker Pankaj Kapoor (whose debut directorial venture Mausam that starred Shahid in the lead sank without a trace), do not do well? “Some things are beyond our control in this industry,” he tries to reason out. “I don’t regret any film that I have done so far. But failure is not a good feeling, and if it was up to me, I would never want to go through it again.”
In Shahid’s performance as the smart wedding planner Jagjinder Joginder in Shaandaar, too, you see a marked difference. He seems to be at ease and looks more comfortable than ever. He stands up tall against his father, who co-starred with him in the film, and makes his presence felt. Fearless and uninhibited, it was a brand new version of the actor that we got to see on screen. “I can’t say I have become fearless, may be my confidence level has gone up a bit,” he says. “But when you see an actor being effortless, you must understand that he is being guided by a really good director.”
A confident performer
And, Shahid seems to be working with many such filmmakers right now. As he wraps up his role in Abhishek Chaubey’s Udta Punjab, he dives straight into Vishal Bhardwaj’s ambitious project Rangoon, which is set in the time of World War II. He giggles like a child when we mention Rangoon, and says that he feels lucky to team up with the director who gave him two of his career best films, Kaminey and Haider. “It is a different feeling when Vishal sir chooses me to act in his films,” he says, excitedly. “He has the most talented actors on his beck and call, and he continues to give me opportunities. I feel blessed.”
Unlike many of his contemporaries, Shahid doesn’t seem to emphasise on money or fame now. Today, he can afford to not worry about box-office figures or satellite rights. “It is not about being commercially successful these days, it is about being relevant and striking a chord with the characters you portray,” the actor says. “If your work is relevant, success and fame will follow. I want to enjoy what I am doing and be happy and proud about it.” The key to surviving in this industry, he says, is to be able to adapt easily. “You better adapt, else you will be obsolete and soon forgotten.”
So, did this newfound maturity come with age or with marriage, we are curious. “Both,” he says, with a grin. “Marriage does make you more responsible. Being single surely has its own perks, like freedom, but I like this feeling of stability. You feel grounded, settled and clear in your head. You become more selfless because life suddenly becomes not just about yourself. It is a great feeling.” Right after his hugely publicised affair with co-actor Kareena Kapoor Khan, Shahid had gone on record proclaiming that he would only marry someone who didn’t belong to the industry. He still believes that that is a binding factor in their relationship. “The fact that Mira is not from the industry is such a relief. She makes me feel normal,” he says. “She is not interested in listening to or talking about the industry. She has her own life and that puts me in a real atmosphere. I think our differences are what makes us happy together.”
However, the actor is still a private person when it comes to matters of the heart. “Whatever needs to be known about my personal life is out there in the open,” he says. “I hope people will respect the fact that I need to keep some things to myself. Right now, all I have in mind is to sit back, enjoy my new life and get ready to take up bigger challenges.”