Pratishtha Malhotra converses with Shahid Kapur on having completed 10 years in Bollywood.
Shahid Kapur has completed a decade in the movie business. He is a firm believer in trusting the director entirely. He has seen peak highs and dipping lows in his career span of 10 years. Now, with completing filming ‘Haider’ with Vishal Bhardwaj, he has proved to not have any qualms about adapting to the character by even shaving his head!
It’s been a decade for you in the industry and you’ve seen highs and lows. But till a while back, there were more lows for you than highs…
Honestly, I don’t think so much. I feel that when your time is right almost every decision you make seems to go right and when your time is not right somehow all decisions don’t seem to go right because from the time that you sign a film to when a film gets made, it is a long journey. Once you have taken a decision you have to stand by it and I will always do that for every film of mine regardless of the final outcome. But I think I have done less work… that’s something that I needed to focus on. I am working on building equations with people and I want to work with directors who I can completely submit myself to and I think that is very important. So I think working with Raj-ji (Rajkumar Santoshi) on ‘Phata Poster Nikla Hero’, even Prabhu Sir (Prabhu Dheva) for ‘R…Rajkumar’ and Vishal Sir for ‘Haider’… these are the filmmakers that I can blindly trust and I can blindly follow. I think that’s very important as an actor. Beyond that I don’t really analyse too much. I think there are so many factors, so it’s difficult to sit back and analyse.
What have you learnt and discovered in the last 10 years?
The learning is that you cannot have a relation with words on paper. When you read a script, those are just words on paper which need to be converted into a movie. It’s the team that you have to work with and spend a year of your life with. So it’s very important for the entire team to be on the same page and as an actor you have to make an effort to build an equation with the people you are working with. It’s not a forced effort but you need to take those steps to make the team invest in you and you need to invest in the team as well. People are more important than words on paper.
With ‘Phata Poster…’ and ‘R…Rajkumar’ you entered the so-called ‘masala entertainer’ zone. Was there some preparation that you had to do beforehand as this was the first time you were stepping in this zone?
This genre is new for me. I have never played this out-and-out entertaining commercial character. This zone is different for me. If you look at the colour palette of the posters itself, they are bright, in your face, entertaining and I haven’t done a film like that. So the most challenging thing for me to do was to adapt into a genre that I haven’t done before. For instance, like I said that Raj-ji is such a good actor himself, he was the perfect person to have started this with because I could follow him. Mere jitney bhi screw tight the, unhone sab loose kardiye! He has opened me as an actor. He has allowed me to go out there and just have fun. When I used to ask him for the dialogues of the next day’s scene, all he used to tell me was, ‘Set pe aao’. All he wanted was for us to enjoy what we were doing. This film needs to be like that and comedy needs to be like that.
A lot of people are saying that this is a new beginning for you. Are you okay with people making such remarks?
If people are saying it happily I am fine with it (Smiles). No issues.
After ‘Jab We Met’ you had said that you would be choosy about your films and you signed ‘Kaminey’ a year after that in which your performance was much appreciated by everyone. So has being choosy worked in your favour?
Sometimes it works in your favor and sometimes it does not. After VIVAH I sat down for six months, then did JAB WE MET and it became a superhit and I was like ‘Arre wah, being choosy works!’ After that I got choosy about the next two films I did – which didn’t work, so I was like. ‘Oh God! This doesn’t work!’ (Laughs). I don’t think you can really have a plan. I don’t think there is any set plan any actor can have. And some of the nicest things that you hear are from the most experienced people in the industry. The more time that you spend here, the more you understand that you should not take yourself too seriously. An actor needs to be like clay, he needs to allow other people to mould him instead of him trying to mould himself. It’s important not to plan too much but it’s very important to work with people whom you can trust because eventually when you’re being molded, you need to give people the freedom to mold you.
Somewhere between the words on the paper and the film being made, if you get a feeling that this is not what you had felt about a particular project, does it get taxing to finish that project?
Earlier I used to think about it and of course you have an instinct about things, if they are not going the way you thought they would, or the feeling that you’re doing great work. But I think an actor should avoid that. If you feel that you’re doing great work it can make you feel complacent. If you feel that you’re doing bad work and wonder if tomorrow is going to be a better day, then you might just make it bad. I think an actor should only go out there and enjoy himself, do work every day and not worry about the result.
You said that one should trust and submit to their director. Were there times when you didn’t submit to your director?
Yes, there have been times in the past when I didn’t open myself up completely to the director. But I won’t tell you the name of the film and the director till my dying day (Laughs)!