By Hindustan Times
He isn’t the easiest star to deal with. Or so say many people who have worked with him. He has the reputation of being ‘difficult.’ And he doesn’t even try to defend himself. But in this interview, actor Shahid Kapoor finally comes clean.
Blame it on youth or sudden fame, he says. He promises to improve, to loosen up... something he says he learnt from Kunal Kohli, the director of his latest film Teri Meri Kahaani. Here’s the man. Coming clean. Completely:
Reclusive, arrogant, difficult, snobbish… what’s with this reputation?
(Laughs) I really don’t know. I know I have a reputation that is not so flattering, but I guess I owe it to just being a private person. I don’t mean anyone harm and I’m not being mean. I just don’t socialise much, I don’t party too much, I don’t know what to say to the media if I’m not talking about a film that I am doing, so yeah, maybe I am perceived as a snob. But I assure you, I am working hard to improve all this.
Come on, isn’t “being private” the best excuse for being “difficult” or maybe “temperamental”?
Okay, let’s put it in perspective. Yes, I agree I wasn’t very easy going by temperament. But remember, I was just 22 when I started out. Think about it, I was fresh from a regular middle-class family, with no “star type” background and I was suddenly thrown into the limelight; it was a big thing. I was overwhelmed.
If that wasn’t enough, I got into a serious, very public relationship. Fame hit me suddenly. But by nature, I was rather shy and an introvert. Add to it the fact that my father is Pankaj Kapur, who is the most serious and focused actor. So, of course I didn’t know any better. Taking things seriously was the only way I knew. Now, I am learning that that is not the only way to be. Sure, you can loosen up. I think I’m going back in time now – from a man to a boy.
You were very young when you came into the industry, but your directors seemed to feel that you were opinionated. You interfered with their filmmaking. And your co-stars felt you were unfriendly and arrogant.
I don’t know if I can call it interfering but I sure was sceptical about a lot of things. I was new and didn’t want to take too many risks. And fortunately or unfortunately, I was also working with a lot of new filmmakers. So yes, I was apprehensive. And I did ask questions and gave my opinions. That, I am sure, would have created some discomfort.
About being arrogant with co-stars, I blame it on my being a great boyfriend. I was in a four-and-a half-year long relationship and was very committed. I did not find any reason nor did I have the time to socialise or make friends otherwise. Now, I have learnt better. And I shall not be the most wonderful boyfriend. (Laughs).
You regret your relationship with Kareena Kapoor?
(Smiles) I don’t look back. I am happy the way things happened and the way things are now. I am in a very good space. That’s all that matters.
Talking of your romance, you also have a loverboy image. Why are you linked with every heroine you work with?
You tell me, why? I don’t know. I think it’s just one of those things about being a part of the film industry. Yes, looking back I have been linked to each of my heroines.
Could it be the PR machinery, working towards creating a buzz?
But how? In fact, if at all, shouldn’t they be working the other way round, trying to curb the rumours? I would prefer it like that. But to clear the air, I haven’t been in a serious relationship in the last two years.
You’ve also created a lot of controversies with your co-stars, what with calling Vidya Balan fat or being at Priyanka Chopra’s house in shorts during the Income Tax raid...
Vidya first. I have to get this straight today. I never, never called her fat. It wasn’t a misquote. In fact, there was no quote at all. I don’t know where that came from. I am far too cultured to be disrespectful to a woman. I wouldn’t and I didn’t.
And Priyanka, yeah, I was at her place. We live in the same building. When she heard of the raid, she called me because I am a friend and I was the closest at the time, and I went. And I was in my shorts and T-shirt. Something that I was wearing at home. What was I expected to do? Change into my best suit and welcome the IT guys? For heaven’s sake, why did my shorts become such a big deal? I wasn’t standing there naked!
You’ve had some of the biggest hits (Ishq Vishq, Jab We Met, Kaminey), yet you seem to be one of the most underrated actors in the industry.
I’m glad people feel I am underrated. Look, I started very young. I have seen success and bad failures. Now, I’m 31. Everybody has to struggle. I was an outsider, so I had my share of it too. It is my time now. Hopefully!
Talking of failures, Mausam would have been a bad hit…
You know, any rejection is heart breaking, but when that rejection comes after two years of unconditional love and nurturing, it becomes really sour. Mausam was just that. We worked on it for two years.
Unfortunately, we got just two months to do post-production and I think that took a toll. Yes, I agree it could have been much shorter. A two-hour, 50-minute film just doesn’t work today. But when I look back, I feel bad, but I am glad I did the film. It gave me two years of blissful family time. Something that I had missed always.
You keep calling yourself an “outsider” but both your parents are actors…
...but not in the “commercial” sense of the word, right? Mom was essentially a theatre person, she did some films and TV mainly. Dad was never very mainstream. And my upbringing was never the flamboyant ‘actor ka beta’ type. In fact, far from it.
What was it like?
Very, very middle class. My parents were separated. I lived with my mother in Delhi for the first 10 years of my life and studied in Gyan Bharti Public School. I was very close to my maternal grandfather. Those were tough days. I have never lived in a house that was mine. I have always lived in rented accommodation. There were days when we didn’t have enough money to fill petrol. So we walked.
I was also conscious about the fact that I was the only son of a single mother, so there was this huge sense of responsibility. I think that’s where my being an introvert comes from. I was very conscious of what to do and what not to do. It wasn’t really a carefree childhood.
Did you miss your father?
Somewhere I tried to understand. Dad was in Mumbai, and at that time, it wasn’t the easiest thing to travel to Delhi at the drop of a hat. Taking a flight wasn’t the cheapest option and travel was difficult. Of course I had my insecurities and vulnerable moments. But in hindsight, it also made me more responsible. And somehow, more positive. I treated it like a problem… “dad isn’t around, period! So what is the way to get past it?” – that was my attitude. I didn’t sit and wallow in it. That was the time I grew up suddenly – from a boy to a man.
Your relationship with your parents also gets talked about often…
It does. And as casually as anything else. People should be a little more sensitive about things… For me, it is complicated. I don’t have a regular happy family like most people. My parents are separated, my dad married someone else and so did my mom. All my siblings are from my parents’ other marriages. So yes, it is complicated and I don’t like talking about it or explaining this to everybody.
But all this doesn’t stop us from being close to each other. I am very close to both my parents. And my siblings are far younger than I am, so I am like their father. A lot of times I know questions are being asked and things are written just for kicks. So I don’t respond. Especially when it’s speculation.
When did you learn to dance ?
Will you believe it, I was a bathroom dancer till my college years. Then I somehow joined Shiamak Davar’s troupe and it all started. And till recently, I believed that I was a great dancer, till my brother Ishaan called me “passé” and showed me some new steps. Man! I wanted to run to save my job!
So who is the real Shahid? And why don’t we see him more often?
I am a good boy. Sweet. I love to chill. I have a select set of friends, am big on house music, love Goa. I don’t read much. Though that is one habit I am trying to inculcate. But the last time I read a book with great interest (Life Is Fair), I turned vegetarian! So it’s tricky, I wouldn’t want to give up too much.
The lover boy and his leading ladies
Amazingly talented. All the appreciation she is getting now has been long overdue.
Who said I called her fat? She is a very fine actor and a wonderful co-star. And wow! Hasn’t she rediscovered herself? And how!
Very talented, very sharp, positive and a team player. One of the best co-stars you could have.
Sonam KapoorSonam Kapoor
Great fun to work with. She taught me all about clothes. In fact a lot of what I wear even now was suggested by her.
Bahut lecture deti hai yaar! She is ready with her lecture on any and everything. I thought, being a senior, I would tell her how to go about things, but damn, I didn’t even get a chance. Good fun and a great actress.
They make the best films. I love these guys
Imtiaz Ali, Director, Jab We Met
One of the finest talents in the film industry. He is a genius of a filmmaker.
Vishal Bhardwaj, Director, Kaminey
Will give my right arm and leg to work with him again. He is the master of the game. Am waiting eagerly for the next film we can work on.
Kunal Kohli, Director, Teri Meri Kahaani
The easiest director I have worked with. Very talented, great fun. Taught me not to take myself so seriously. Made me loosen up and enjoy situations.
Pankaj Kapur, Director, Mausam
By far the finest actor in the industry. I’ve learnt so much from him. In fact most of what I know in terms of anything comes from him. He is unbelievably focused.
Parmeet Sethi, Director, Badmaash Company
Very dedicated. Knows exactly what he wants. Made a wonderful debut film. A very capable filmmaker.