SHAHID KAPOOR “I saw the film as an opportunity to reach out to the youth”

His tremendous acting potential is evident in some of his outstanding performances in films like ‘Kaminey’ and ‘Haider’, but there’s much more to Shahid Kapoor than that. The recent ‘Udta Punjab’ controversy offered a glimpse in to some of his personal qualities which make him a favourite among his producers-unassuming, level-headed and ready to stand for a cause irrespective of his stature and stardom. In a candid interaction, the award-winning actor spoke about the importance of freedom of expression, his role in ‘Udta Punjab’ and why it was important to take up a role for a cause.

By Manishaa R

On the CBFC imbroglio and the subsequent High Court verdict:
I felt relieved when I learnt that the High Court had cleared the film. It proved that we as an industry do have the freedom to express ourselves but it also indicated that freedom came with a sense of responsibility. If we want cinema to evolve, we should allow people to express themselves so that they don’t feel silenced. There have been various films that I know of which have run into problems with the censors and finally got cleared by the Tribunal. I am the same guy who did Haider and I felt it was an evolved decision for the CBFC to let a film like Haider come out. It was also the most credible film of my career. In the case of Udta Punjab, the film was meant for a social cause. You can create awareness in society only after speaking the truth. The film is not about Punjab, it is just the backdrop. You cannot address the issue by bringing youngsters into a room and admonishing them. The only way you can make a point is by entertaining them. Having said that, dealing with a situation where your film is up for release and held up in the CBFC, can be extremely traumatic. The period before the release of a film is incredibly stressful for a filmmaker, when he is readying the film making sure that the mixing, dubbing and the promos are in place, before it is ready for exhibition. However, we as a team were overwhelmed by the support we got from the industry. It was unimaginable.  

"There are few films that offer an opportunity to act for a cause and this was one of them"

On the factors that inspired him to take up the hard-hitting role in Udta Punjab:
One of the reasons I took up the hard-hitting role in Udta Punjab, was the fact that there was an underlying purpose and humane cause behind it. This is not the kind of film that you paint with colours by showing the beautiful side of life. It talks about a real issue that can affect anybody in life. There may be a lot of films in my career that could be hits and flops, but there are few films that offer an opportunity to take up a role for a cause and build awareness. This was just that kind of film. For me, the message of Udta Punjab is relevant to the youth and the entire young generation of India. I saw the film as an opportunity to reach out to all those youth who consider it cool to try out drugs. I would also like to advise people to stop judging films after seeing a one-minute promo. Why would we as actors attempt dark roles knowing that our images could be at stake? Even in the case of Alia, she is a youth icon but there was something that prompted her to take up the role, depsite the fact that the journey of her character was tough.  

On why he found the role of a rockstar addicted to drugs a formidable challenge:
The biggest challenge about playing a substance addict was the fact that I never knew what the experience was like. I am a teetotaler, I don’t smoke and I have never tried substance in my life. The film portrays the fall of a rock star because the musician in him falls prey to the addict in him and ends up fighting the reality. The character in this case is bizarre, entertaining and surprises the audiences every step with the complexity of his personality. There was also the more difficult journey of understanding the state of mind of an addict. He is a cocaine addict, who is chasing drugs and feels the needs to be on a high all the time because it gives him confidence. In that space, people are either over-confident and behave like kings or they are extremely under- confident when they are denied drugs. The scariest part was whether I would make a fool of myself while pushing my boundaries to achieve something that I had no exposure to. I had to depend on Abhishek (director Abhishek Chaubey) because I had no direct exposure but the actor in me prodded me to go on. In that respect, the entire credit goes to Abhishek, for the way he researched and came up with this hard-hitting script.  

On the preparations he made for the role:
The physicality of the character was a journey of sorts. It took me three months to get there during which period, I abstained from food and trained for three hours a day. The character was a complex one with two different sides to his personality-on one side he was a good-looking guy with a great personality and physique and on the other side, he was totally distraught and was all messed up in life. To achieve this contradiction, I trained without eating for three long months. We also had 14 carefully selected tattoos which depicted Tommy Singh’s state of mind. The decision to go with long streaked hair was in keeping with the crazy character that hits you in the face and takes the audience by surprise. We have seen famous pop stars who are all and cool and have these awesome shows, which drive the audiences crazy. As for the expletives, when there were 20 of them, I would end up blurting out 25. I didn’t even know what I was saying but that’s how one goes into the mindset of the character. It just happened.  

On his choice of roles and why it is important for actors to take a break after doing challenging roles:
I have experimented with roles in all genres and I have enjoyed doing all of them. For me, the one criterion for taking up a role is not the genre, it is the role and how different and challenging it is. Characters excite me. However some of these roles can be tiring and drain you of your energy. When you shoot for a long period of time, you go into a different state altogether since the milieu is different.  

On preparing for fatherhood and the need to take a break:
I definitely intend to take time off for my new responsibility. I have already started thinking the other way round. Besides there are some really cool apps that you can easily download to prepare for your new role. My wife’s a pro so every week she puts an app and you get weekly updates. Apart from that, after Haider, Udta Punjab and Rangoon, I feel I definitely deserve a break. I want to do a light film where I can just sit, chat with a heroine and cut to a song. I would like to take a break and enjoy the simple things of life like coming back home, having my coffee, watching a TV series and chatting with friends.   

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