His performance is finely nuanced, wonderfully measured and amazingly smooth …almost like rich Brazilian dark chocolate. And just like a heady mix of premium red wine, this powerhouse performer is known to deliver high voltage performances in each of his films and is indeed getting better with time.
…From a double high voltage performance in Kaminey to the razor sharp ‘on edge’ portrayal in Haider; from a drugger rocker Tommy Singh in Udta Punjab to the regal Maharawal Ratan Singh in the magnum opus Padmavaat, and now to the obsessed lover and alcoholic in Kabir Singh, he has indeed proved himself as a competent actor.
Yes, we are talking about the amazingly talented Shahid Kapoor whose performances have always been superlative yet… ah yes, there is a yet… he just hasn’t reached the supreme levels of success which he truly deserves.
And though he is considered an A-lister actor, strangely enough, he doesn’t seem to have the raging popularity of perhaps the mercurial Ranveer Singh or the charismatic Varun Dhawan who, on the star power ladder, are several rungs higher than Shahid.
However, Shahid doesn’t let industry demographics and the game of filmi saap aur seedi bother him a wee bit. He avers, “I am at a stage in my career where I know that people expect me to do work of a certain quality and play characters which are different and new.
And I think I have been able to do that in the last two to three years, especially with Haider and Udta Punjab coming in back-to-back. My character Maharawal Ratan Singh in Padmavaat was also in that league.”
And now his Kabir Singh is following suit… So is he satisfied with the way his career is going? Shahid says, “I ask myself a question once I am done with a film: Do I feel satisfied as an actor? Do I feel it was the right film for me to do? And I can very proudly say that I am very, very happy and in fact, very grateful and thankful that I was in these films.”
He adds, “I have been doing this for 16 years now and in the last few years, I’ve played some very complex characters... all of which I felt I was not good enough to play.
So for me, I seek that kind of scenario, where you have to raise the bar, you have to get into spaces which are challenging and difficult to justify. And I feel my best work comes out of situations like that, for example, the speech in Haider… when Vishal sir gave it to me and I was blown away!
He has worked with my father, Naseer uncle, Irrfan Khan, and Tabu… the greats. And none of them even had a two and a half page monologue. And he gave it to me! The kind of pressure that created was immense but today when I look back I feel it’s one of the most defining moments in my journey as an actor.”
As an actor, however, does he feel insecure that he isn’t positioned as high as he should be? Shahid responds, “No, no that’s a very irritating way of looking at things yaar. My insecurities come from whether I am going to be able to do what needs to be done and whether I am making the right choices.
I feel insecure about things like have I taken the right decision? Am I working with the right people? Am I doing the right content? I was very insecure when I did Udta Punjab because I’ve never had a sip of alcohol, forget drugs. I don’t even know what it feels to be intoxicated.
And I was playing Tommy Singh who was permanently high. So I felt very inadequate to play that character on the basis of my personal experience as I had no way of drawing a parallel. The only thing I could do is depend on my filmmaker and my instincts as an actor.
But yes… those kind of things make me feel insecure. But not where other actors are positioned in the ladder of numbers. I actually feel very inspired when I see good performances. You have to see something special to feel driven. So my insecurities are never to do with other actors.”
So was it a conscious decision moving away from being a chocolate hero… perhaps that would have connected to the audience better? Shahid laughs aloud, “I would have died if I was doing that. I don’t know how people do the same thing for years and years.
I can’t do it. I need to evolve, I need to grow, and I need to do different things and that’s what defines me as an actor, so that’s me. People’s perception of me can be their perception of me and I respect that, but my journey is of self-discovery.
I need to discover myself. And I need to challenge myself. I need to do different things and succeed sometimes, fail sometimes. But hell, at the end of the day, the journey should be worth it. I should look back and say, man, I tried everything and this is great.”
Shahid continues thoughtfully, “I never thought I would become a star or an actor, or have the position to play the central role in movies. But I am here! I have that opportunity and there are so many brilliant filmmakers
who are wanting to tell so many interesting stories which require so many different types of characters, different looks, and different silhouettes. So why the hell would I want to limit myself because people think I am a chocolate boy?”
So is he happy with the way his career is moving albeit a little slowly? Shahid says, “I am so happy with things happening the way it has. I really like it this way at my pace.”
Box office success, number game or social media followers affect others but for Shahid, it is just about pushing himself beyond the ordinary for his love of cinema… Nothing else matters.