Interviewing Shahid Kapoor in his Mumbai apartment, dressed in track pants and a baseball cap worn backwards, you almost expect him to break into a dance routine mid-conversation, especially after he’s just finished a giant mug of black coffee. Instead, he speaks about his roles as the good guy in Vivah and Jab We Met and the kamina (rascal) Charlie in Kaminey that made audiences, critics and colleagues regard him in a new light. Edited excerpts from a conversation with the actor on his turning a new corner:
How has life changed since ‘Kaminey’?
When you do successful films you get a strong commercial positioning, more confidence, people talk about you more and look at you differently. More important is being part of a successful film in which you do something new which presents you differently. For me, those films were Jab We Met and Kaminey, which shocked people who did not expect me to do anything close to Charlie. When you have debuted in a college romcom (Ishq Vishk), you are seen like that. It has always been an endeavour to break out of the box. I failed many times, but I got it right with these films.
Are you getting the kinds of films you want to act in?
It’s a constant struggle. Four-five films over a period of time will define you and your career. I feel fortunate to have had two-three such films already. The constant attempt is to do good films—some you get right, some you get wrong. I am an actor—a spoke in a wheel. I am part of the process but the director is the captain of the ship.
My priorities are very clear: I would rather do a successful film than a good film because I believe only when I am successful will I be in a position to choose the parts and films that I want to do. Aamir Khan and my father (Pankaj Kapur) have achieved this. I look up to them and hope to create a space that is respected and popular.
From a ‘kamina’ to a ‘badmaash’ in ‘Badmaash Company’.
Yes, Badmaash Company is the big one. I am happy with the way it has turned out. I love doing these edgy parts. Charlie was muscle, power, aggression, madness. This character uses his head. This guy is a con artist, quite unlike me.
Your next release is ‘Paathshaala’, in which you play a schoolteacher.
I play an English teacher in a middle-class boarding school. The film basically is about the struggle of understanding the commerce of education and balancing that with the requirements of the child. Students and parents will connect with the story...But it is not a Shahid Kapoor film—I am not the hero. I shot just seven days for the film.
What else is on the 2010 calendar?
Regular Joe: Paathshaala, Kapoor plays the role of a teacher in a middle-class boarding school.
Milenge Milenge should release this year. And I am in prep for my father’s film Mausam, which is a love story in which I play an air force officer. People think I play a depressed man because I am growing a beard. Are all people with beards depressed? This is the only film I am working on this year but I will start hearing scripts soon.
You are in a niche of mainstream star actors, with perhaps only Ranbir Kapoor for competition. How do you feel about that?
My journey started down there and I am somewhere in the middle on the path upwards. I am very happy and thankful to be where I am. Every morning I ask myself: Am I deserving of this; can I do more, work harder, keep improving? In the last three years I have given it my best. For four years before that sometimes I was interested, sometimes I wasn’t. But in the last few years I have started doing films I believe in. I am prepared to sit at home if I don’t find the right project.
You are 29 now. Do you feel you are entering a new phase of your life?
I am going to stay 25 in my head for the next 15 years and then I would have just turned 30!
Paathshaala releases in theatres on 16 April and Badmaash Company on 7 May.
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