By Subhash K. Jha, Bollywood Hungama News Network
Shahid, you're apparently turning down filmmakers like Rajkumar Santoshi and Ashutosh Gowarikar. Why so ultra-choosy?
I've come to know many things about myself lately. I've realized I only like doing one film at a time. I don't quantify my assignments consciously. If I like five films, I'll do them all. After Vivah, I didn't like anything that was offered. So I sat home for six months until Jab We Met. But yes, I must admit today I feel more responsible towards myself as an actor than I did earlier. It's the place I'm in now. But I'm only 27. And I don't need to take myself that seriously. But one thing is for sure. I won't go on a set until I'm convinced about the script. I think, for an actor being part of a good film is more important than giving a good performance. And it's good films that give an actor the position where he can pick and choose. It has to be the script that excites me and a director whose work I like. It's also about the state of the mind. If I'm in a dark place, I might do a comedy.
Were you offered Ashutosh's What's Your Raashee?
Let me put it this way. Me and Ashutosh met. He wanted to make a film with me. But he needed to shoot it in November. I couldn't shoot for it till June 2008.
But he's shooting Raashee in November!
Well…maybe it was for another movie.
You're being very diplomatic.
I really can't comment on which film he offered. But we did meet.
And Raj Santoshi?
Yes. He narrated a subject to me. But it was slightly similar to Jab We Met. We mutually decided to do another film another time. I'm honestly looking forward to working with him. My father, who worked with him recently, had really wonderful things to say about him.
You're going to be directed by your dad?
That's right. We're looking at starting that this year. I've pushed him for three years to take this plunge as a director. He has all these lovely scripts lying around which only his family knows about. I really wanted him to direct me. He kept fobbing me off saying, "Beta, I don't want to direct you just for the heck of it." He has finally come up with something he thinks will do justice to both of us. I'm very excited about working with my dad and about my character. I'm finishing all my films before I start my dad's film.
Will you produce it?
We haven't figured that out. In a couple of months, we will.
Why do you say yes then no to directors?
I've never agreed then pulled back from a role. Yes, I take a little time to decide. The most difficult thing in my life is to say no. I meet a filmmaker only when I see a chance of working with him. Otherwise, I'd rather not meet them. So I'm careful about meeting directors. Maybe I'm very new right now, so I don't have the luxury to have couple of months just to hear scripts. When Imtiaz Ali came to me with Jab We Met, it was like an offer out of the blue.
Did the irony of your breakup with Kareena and the film's success strike you?
It's too glaring for me to not notice it. But that's life for you. You can't fight it. I've always accepted what life gives you. I think what defines my life is not what happens to me but how I deal with it.
Do questions on Kareena make you uncomfortable?
No. It's been a year now. The pain has receded. See, I know that as an actor, I'm not allowed to have my complete privacy even if I want to. I try to keep my personal life to myself. I want to stay connected with the person I am. I want to be in a real world. Sometimes, in our world we're pulled into an illusory state. I want to stay normal. I'll do as much as possible to uphold my privacy.
Is Sania Mirza a part of your private space?
I don't like talking about her. But yes, we do know each other, we're friends and we're in touch. A lot of people have been speculating about my personal life. And, I've always said I'm a normal person. If I'm in a relationship, I won't be sitting in a room alone. I'll go out with the person I'm in a relationship with. So people will get to know if something is on without giving details.
Since you're seen with Ms Mirza, does one conclude you're seeing her?
I go out with a lot of friends. But she's a well-known face. So when I'm seen with her, it becomes a matter of discussion. Beyond that I'll hold on to my privacy.
Do you enjoy tennis?
I enjoy watching it. But I don't play it.
Would you say Jab We Met is a turning point in your career?
I'd say Vivah and Jab We Met. Vivah is actually a much bigger film than it is perceived to be. But Jab We Met got its due. So, yes it was a turning point.
It was an emotional turning-point for you as well?
I think I've been re-defining my emotions for some time now. For two years now, I've been on my own.
You've become secluded?
Secluded is too strong a word. It isn't as if I don't have friends and a family. My father lives just a floor below. And I've a set of friends I'm very close to. I've people in my space, but not outside it. I'm not from a filmi background. So, naturally my friends are from outside the industry.
Do you get time to do the things you enjoy doing beyond acting?
Nowadays doing a film doesn't end with the last day of shooting. You've to give at least twenty days for publicity. Today I'm doing more work. So, at the moment I'm focusing almost completely on my career. It's never enough. The amount you can give to your career just keeps growing.
Did the light hearted mood of Kismat Konnection help you get over your break-up with Kareena?
More than the film, I had my family and friends who helped me get over that phase. I don't think a film can do it for me.
New and younger talents have come in after you. Do you still feel like a new kid on the block?
Not so new. In comparison to people who've started two Fridays back, I am more experienced. But I hope to play 'boy' roles until I am 40. Other actors are doing it. So why not me? I'm very happy being young. I started at 23. I couldn't have asked for more. I'm quite happy playing the college student. As an actor I'm looking for good actors…boy or man is secondary. I don't have any agendas.
You don't have a group of directors to work with?
I don't keep working with the same set of directors. Of course, it's great to work in the comfort zone. I like going from a Sooraj Barjatya to an Imtiaz Ali. Or from Imtiaz Ali, who's 30-plus to Aziz Mirza who's 60-plus. And now I've gone to Vishal. That's exciting to me. The only guy I've worked with more than once is Ken Ghosh. Now we're doing our third film together. He had gone into hibernation after Fida. I kept chasing him like a newcomer to make a new film. It's nice-feel good film. I also have my first film with Yash Raj Films, where I co-star with Rani Mukherjee.
Wouldn't you look mismatched with her?
That's what I was told when I did Kismat Konnection with Vidya Balan. But if the film and characters work, the doubts will disappear.
Today you can do Kaminay side by side with Kismat Connection.
Yes. I've shot for fifteen days with Vishal Bhardwaj. It's been very special. I'm looking forward to working with Priyanka Chopra in the film. There's so much happening. I take my work seriously, but not myself. Every day I want to talk, walk, dance and act better than the previous day. My nightmare is, one day I won't be able to do a scene. I want to be able to do everything that acting needs.
Finally what have you learnt from life?