It’s not every day that your film makes close to Rs 280 crores, that too, only in India.
Especially, for Shahid Kapoor, the experience is absolutely new, or as he says, “it’s a virgin territory for me.” But along with bouquets for Kabir Singh, came brickbats as well, for his faulty character. “But there is a certain section of people, who had propaganda of sorts that they talked about,” he says. We catch up with the actor for a freewheeling chat about the criticism, success, being a family man and more. Excerpts:
Kabir Singh is the biggest hit of the year so far. Has the feeling finally sunk in?
Yes! Weirdly, the first thing that I sensed was a feeling of being relaxed. And then, I also felt very emotional and undeserving of such numbers because it’s not as if I worked five times harder on this film and still, it’s making much more money. God has been very kind, and I’m very thankful to people. It has changed something inside me as far as my relationship with audiences is concerned. Now, more than anyone else, I want to work for them — be it my own reasons, family or my belief in cinema. I feel like keep giving them films which they’ll really enjoy. I don’t want to let them down.
At the same, the film and your ‘flawed’ character has been criticised by a section of people. Does that still bother you?
You know, it’s strange that no one questioned Shah Rukh Khan’s character from Baazigar (1993) when he loved both the sisters at the same time. I feel we’re coming of age with the kind of films we’re making, and our cinema is coming closer to reality, but with Kabir Singh, I saw an opposite kind of reaction. I found it a little hypocritical and surprising too since the character that Leonardo DiCaprio played in The Wolf of Wall Street (2013) — who I feel had a lot more issues than Kabir — is celebrated and applauded. And the same people are dissing Kabir Singh. Interestingly, people — at mass level — loved both the films.
As award season kick start, do you expect nominations or winning awards in the wake of all the talks?
Let’ see. We have seen that the audience has matured and has come of age. Now, we will see if other people have also grown up or they are still prejudiced. Time will tell. One thing’s for sure: the kind of love Kabir Singh has got can’t be disputed, and the film is driven by the character. So the writing is on the wall. Beyond that, nothing is in my control.
There’s a lot of mystery around your next film. Why haven’t you signed anything new?
My life is maintaining a mystery with me (laughs). I am dying to tell everyone what I’ll do next as it’s the best time to announce it. I was trying to find a film even before Kabir Singh released as I don’t like to sit at home. But I just didn’t like anything enough. Now, a lot of things have started coming so, I’ve to go through everything. Also, it took me a month or so to absorb everything, and understand what it means. After all, pehli baar hua hai. But there are things that I have liked. Hopefully, we will soon make an announcement.
It has been four years since you got married [to Delhi girl, Mira Rajput]. And you put it beautifully in an interview that ‘even though it’s just been four years, a large part of who I am has been formed since the day we got married…’
It’s like a wild horse that used to be free in the wild. But for four years, he has been domesticated. So, my self-image has completely changed. I’m a domesticated horse now (laughs). On a serious note, your sense of identity becomes different before marriage as compared to when you have children and wife to come back home to. Then, it’s not just ‘you’ anymore, but more about ‘us.’ I think once you get there, then it’s difficult to get back to ‘you’ in terms of how you even think about life. Your thoughts and decision make a transition from ‘I, me and myself’ to ‘us’. I think that’s a big change.
Of late, there’s a lot of curiosity about whether Mira will get into showbiz or not. You take?
Wherever, whatever, however – that’s completely her decision. We got married and within first year, we had our first baby and then two years later, we had another one. So, right now, it’s difficult for her to give her time completely to anything else rather to herself. I can see how dedicated she is as a mother, and she is completely consumed by that. But she is just 25. In another year or so, she would have taken care of an extremely important, big part [giving all the attention to the babies]. She has all her life to figure out so many things for herself. Then she can do what she wants to.
You have tasted a blockbuster hit such as Kabir Singh after being an actor for 15 years. Do you think it will change the course of your career?
Just the fact that it happened, has already changed the course. The platform has been provided to me. Now, if I take this great opportunity and screw it up, then that’s my fault. But I will try not to (laughs). The opportunity has been given. Also, I strongly feel there’s never a wrong time for the right thing. Whenever it comes, it’s the right time.
Coming to all the criticism that Kabir Singh received, would all the talks make you think twice about taking up a similar character in the future?
Not really! Today, I feel liberated. Now, I know my relationship is with the audience. And if they got it, that matters the most. Everything else is just noise. It gives you clarity ke main yeh films kiske liye bana raha hoon. To me, the most exciting part about cinema is to play all kinds of characters. I was never obsessed with being this perfect man whom every woman wants. I’m here to play characters, good and bad, to be loved or hated for the traits of the characters. It’s just so difficult to make people hate you. And the fact that Kabir was hated in some parts, I take it as a compliment as it means I possibly did a good job with it.
Why do you think all the criticism has been unfounded?
For me, it’s a fundamental thing. You can’t impose your personal morality on a character, as he/she has its own morality. If I say that only a certain kind of film should and shouldn’t be made or watched, then I am saying that the entire country knows less than me. Then, you’re putting yourself on a pedestal. And it’s like living in a bubble of being intellectually superior. That bubble burst with Kabir Singh as people were like, ‘I am an adult and I will decide what I like.’ Just because they love a film, doesn’t mean they like the bad behaviour of a character. In the ’70s, when Mr [Amitabh] Bachchan played the angry young man, did people start shooting the cops? No, people don’t do that.
What’s your personal take on your character?
Did I like the way Kabir behaved in certain parts of the film? Not at all! But an actor’s job is to play a character without being afraid. It’s a coming-of-age of cinema wherein you have to show things the way they are. If there’s a problem in the society, what’s the first thing that you need to do? You must acknowledge that there is a problem and then address it. The job of films is to mirror life and show what happens and what can happen. If people today are saying that this kind of behaviour against a woman is unacceptable, it’s great that Kabir Singh has fuelled such a conversation.
There has also been chatter about your part being misogynist…
Yes, there were people who said that, ‘Kabir is a misogynist.’ But for me, he was badly-behaved across the board, starting with his grandmother. If he was very nice to men and badly behaved with women, then I’d have agreed that he is misogynistic. But his prejudice is not on the basis of gender since he has an anger management problem. He just loses control. So, that term was very propaganda-ish. I didn’t see any relevance in it. People, who watched the film from a neutral point of view, understood it. But those who came in with prejudice, didn’t see it in totality.
Recently, I came across a scene of Raj Kapoor and Nargis where they are having a very passionate fight. And I was like, ‘something like this got made at that time?’ So, I was very surprised that in today’s times, when people are watching Sanju, in which he puts a commode cover around his wife’s neck as a mangalsutra , why is everyone attacking only this film. It felt a bit strange. But I am happy to hear from people that they didn’t like the film. No issues! But it’s unacceptable that you tell other people not to like this film or that this film can’t be made.
In spite of everything, right now, how do you feel?
I really believe a lot in destiny. A lot of people say, ‘oh, you waited 15 years for a hit this size,’ but maybe, if I hadn’t waited for so long for this, I wouldn’t truly appreciate and respect it. Honestly, I feel failures make you a man. Even boys can do well when success is under their feet but when that carpet of success get pulled away, only the men can stand up and survive. The boys get knocked out. So, I feel all the failures that I have seen have made me who I am today. I am very thankful for the fact that it took so long for success to come my way, as I know it could have never happened.
Talking about fatherhood [with kids, Misha and Zain], what has it done to you?
You forget yourself to a large degree since you are so much in love with your kids, and just observing how they grow every day. It’s so fascinating and beautiful that you feel very satisfied. Nahi to life mein it’s like, ‘mujhe yeh karna hai, mujhe woh karna hai.’ Also, when kids are young, they are available to you. So, I would want to spend as much time as possible with them because I know after a point, they won’t have time for me, even if I have all the time for them. So, sitting at home after Kabir Singh was possibly a good thing as I got time for my children.
Rumours are floating around that you have increased your price…
There’s always something floating around (laughs). I have to sign a film first for any kind of price conversation to happen. But the fact of the matter is that obviously, my price will change, simply because it’s [the industry] driven by commerce. But let me sign a film before you start assuming.