By Devansh Patel Bollywood Hungama News Network
It's not a rainy morning in the suburbs of Mumbai, but the sky looks as grey as the puddles of mud churned up outside a film studio; but, inside, something magical is happening. Walk along several dark and grimy corridors and suddenly you see a room inside a room - like a Chinese box or a conjuring trick - where light streams out of the windows into the cavernous gloom. Navigate a path through Shahid Kapur's personal assistant and manager, and you find yourself within the inner sanctum of what looks like a Caribbean or a Hawaiian beach resort. The actor is a part of a chat show called 'Tere Mere Beach Mein', where the set has been recreated down to the last detail, with a vase of colourful peonies, and the gleam of traditional tea light candle stands reflected in the cut glass mirror. DJ on the roof top plays 'Dhan Te Nan' as the star arrives and gives it a rum-punch flavour. The host of the show, Farah Khan, takes her seat and waits for her first celebrity guest to sit on the pink sofa besides her. Before this, inside the actors' vanity van, I was ordered to take the centre seat of the front row. "Please introduce my journalist friend to Farah and Genelia (she was the second celebrity guest on the show) and make sure he is comfortable while watching the talk show", commands Shahid to his manager. Bollywood Hungama's London correspondent and UK's Harrow Observer columnist Devansh Patel meets one of India's best loved actor, Shahid Kapur. And with his latest performance in Kaminey where he plays Charlie, the notorious criminal, tinsel town may not be necessary.
Oh yes, he's dignified. Shahid Kapur seems long, slender, impossibly serpentine - and anything but 29 - as he uncurls himself from the sofa of his vanity van where he's getting ready to go to Yash Raj Studios. Dressed in a white tee and a grey shirt unbuttoned over it, he rises to his full height and steps out, which is considerable, and greets me warmly with a strong handshake and a "How ya doin'?" Even the most banal conversational gambit sounds like mood music when purred in that warm and smoky baritone. He is in the best shape of his life: Strong, sturdy and sly. Just like Charlie in Kaminey. But before he was Charlie, he was once a boy. "The journey from a boy to a man and to a kamina now has been interesting. It's exciting and has shown new sides of myself. I've learnt a lot on the film and while working with Vishal Bhardwaj. I've become a lot more self assured, ready to take risks, do something new and different. I think doing something different is easy but doing something different where you can reach out to your audience is a tough one."
And was he tough in his school days? Was he as bad as Charlie was in the film? I ask him. "I was a bit of Charlie, the bad guy and Guddu, the good guy. When I was in Delhi I was Charlie. It was home ground for me. I was born there. I had been in the same school and was the big boss. The school was next to my locality in my area where I lived. When I came to Mumbai, I became a bit like Guddu because I was an outcast. I had a different accent. I came here when I was in fifth standard and didn't know how to relate with people. Even they didn't care to know anything about me. My school had just turned into a co-ed and there were three girls amongst twenty five of us. The boys would obviously pay more attention to the chics than me. I had a tough time in school in Mumbai. It was another new comer like me called Haider with whom I became good friends and bonded well. So it was a mixed bag for me in school."
Thanks to directors like Vishal Bhardwaj, Ram Gopal Varma, Shimit Amin and Rakeysh Omprakash Mehra, that we find actors like Saif Ali Khan, Amitabh Bachchan, Shah Rukh Khan and Abhishek Bachchan give out their most memorable performances. Something which the audiences haven't seen before, and characters they identify with. Shahid is the latest to join the bandwagon. What's good for him is also the fact that his father Pankaj Kapur has also worked with Vishal Bhardwaj. Does that mean more inputs from both sides for Shahid? "Me and dad never really discussed how it would be to work with Vishal. I had seen Vishal's films and I had the exposure to his kind of cinema and was aware of the commitment he gave for his films. There was also a thought of, whether he would be making a commercial film for the whole world to see. With Kaminey he has flipped the coin. The song 'Dhan Te Nan' proves it. Yes, there was a 'Bidi Jalaile' from Omkara but the former is going places. The fact that both my characters in the film have speech defects also comes from the fact that Vishal wanted the film to appeal or entertain the audiences. The whole lisping thing and stammering was convincingly done to make it look commercial. Vishal makes you see yourself like you've not seen yourself. For any actor, that's a bonus because it opens up the space for you. If I can pull off Kaminey, then people will say, if this guy who did Jab We Met can pull off a Kaminey, I don't want to restrict myself in seeing him on screen in a particular role. We will go and watch Shahid Kapur films and not the romantic films of Shahid Kapur."
The face is in close-up now, as it so often is in his movies, though in person Shahid seems much younger. Through films as diverse as Jab We Met and Kaminey, the world's great cameramen have traversed this subtly shifting, always compelling facial landscape. Viewers of Shahid's work may feel they know every last mole and freckle around his dark brown eyes. He looks at me after every answer by sliding his sunglasses. Strangely so, I question myself whether he has come out of his Charlie character from Kaminey. For a better answer, I throw the question to him. "No. I do not get into my character so deep that I don't come out of it in my real life. To get used to lisping, I used to try it out in my house or talking generally. Once you start doing it, it becomes addictive."
He continues, "As an actor, I'm quite a spacer. I did become a bit quiet when I did Jab We Met. Now that I've done Kaminey, I am out there. I feel strong. There is a little bit of reflection which does come on to your personal life and try to avoid it as much as I can. When I was playing Charlie, I saw a lot more of a raw and an edgier side to myself which somewhere surprised me too. Today, I look different but confident."
I brief Shahid on the advantages of working in a dual role for a film which is, if you are hated in one, you are still accepted and liked in the other. He laughs out loud. "I am hoping that we will be able to create that magic. We've worked really hard on creating two people and two diverse ones - Guddu and Charlie. I hope that when people walk out of the cinemas they say that they didn't care if it was Shahid Kapur in Kaminey. They should be infatuated by Charlie or Guddu and not Shahid.
We hear that Shahid Kapur shot for both his characters, Guddu and Charlie, simultaneously. So how difficult was it to hide the strong and muscular built of Charlie and show the lean look of Guddu, I ask the actor. "You're right. I had to hide Charlie's body while filming for Guddu's role. The screenplay of Kaminey was such that we were shooting with both my characters on the same location. I didn't really get time to zone in and zone out of one guy. I must thank the costume department for hiding Guddu's muscles, thanks to the cameraman for lighting him differently. Thanks to Vishal for presenting him differently and thanks to Priyanka for completing the whole Guddu-Sweety space. You stammer one day and the other you lisping. Unlike in a film like Cast Away, they showed two physically different Tom Hanks", answers Shahid.
Shahid Kapur's love life in school, his Priyanka Chopra obsession, his take on Supriya Pathak Kapur and his mother Nileema and much more in Part 2 of In the world of Shahid Kapur.