Shahid Kapoor on Batti Gul Meter Chalu: 'Mira told me the film deals with an important issue, I shouldn't let it go'
Shahid Kapoor talks about the rampant issue of electricity in underdeveloped areas, and how his character in Batti Gul Meter Chalu is not very likeable.
Anyone who has interacted with Shahid Kapoor in the past can vouch for the sea change in his current mannerisms. Marriage and fatherhood could be factors but a 'transformed' Shahid is the one who stresses on the importance of not taking oneself too seriously, a far cry from the past. He recalls an instance that transpired during the shooting of Udta Punjab to put forth his point. “I was shooting in Amritsar and was all alone. For 12 continuous nights, I had fever and sweated to the point that I had to change my T-shirt for those 12 nights. I got every blood test done and the doctor informed me that there is nothing wrong with me. Sometimes, you get into a character that has its own physical manifestations and today, when I look back, I can only think that I was so zoned into that role that it was manifesting through some kind of reaction.” The actor adds that after pack-up, or if possible, after every shot, one should take time to come out of it.
Apart from being relaxed, Shahid is also a conscious man these days. Batti Gul Meter Chalu will be his third film in a very short span that will have a social message wrapped around its plot, though not didactic. After having tackled a human rights issue in Haider and drug menace in Udta Punjab, his upcoming film will deal with electricity issues faced by small towns denizens. Shahid admits that to get into the groove of his character, he had to put in lots of effort to master the Kumaoni dialect. He cites the example of Udta Punjab while explaining the efforts he put in mastering the dialect. “My character of Tommy Singh was a random one. I did not follow the script completely and often improvised on things. I discussed my situation of not knowing Punjabi with my director Abhishek Chaubey and I often resorted to swearing expletives in Punjabi during the shoot. Sometimes, it’s very difficult to be real and raw when the nature of the film is to show exactly how it is.” He further mentions that he has witnessed many films when accent became part of the dialogue just for the heck of it and then it looked unreal. “When I started reading the script of Batti Gul Meter Chalu, it took me sometime to absorb the first two pages. Later, when I got hold it, I started enjoying the whole process. It helps you feel the places and the charatcers.” The actor credits his maternal grandparents, both journalists with an excellent command over Urdu, Hindi and English, for the ease with which he could muster the language for the film.
Batti Gul Meter Chalu deals with the issue of power cuts and inflated bills in a small town. Shahid vividly remembers his Delhi days when frequent power cuts were order of the day. “Electricity is something I could relate to because I have experienced it myself. Till I was 21 or 22, I was living a very middle class life. I did not have a car of my own, and lived in rented houses, and whenever electricity bill came, it was a lot of pressure. I myself have gone to offices of private companies and fought for bills. We have addressed all such issues in the film," he says.
Working on the film has also made Shahid an aware person. He rattles off data and informs that if showrooms and malls of Delhi were to switch off their electricity usage for a day, it could just lighten up 36 villages of Uttarakhand. Ask him why Tehri has been chosen as the milieu to narrate the story and he mentions that that it hardly matters if a person lives in the vicinity of a hydroelectric power station. “It’s not about how much electricity you are producing or where are you producing, the point is, 'Where is it going?'. It’s not essential that if you live one kilometer away from a power plant, you have access to electricity. The issue here is that a large part of electricity is sent, if not most, to metros and bigger cities, and we don’t use it with a sense of responsibility.”
Shahid also warns that there is every possibility that people might not like his character in the film. He informs that his role in the film is a 'not so-good' character who can do anything for money and has elements of grey shades. He also reveals that it was his wife Mira who was instrumental in him signing the film. “The initial script that was offered to me was bit different and it was later on reworked which generated a fair share of controversy too. It was Mira who had read the script first and informed me that the issue the film is dealing with is a very serious one. I remarked that the script should have certain changes to which she replied that whatever the case be, just don’t let this film go," he says.
Shahid’s younger brother Ishaan too has found his footing in the industry. Though his first film failed to set the box office on fire, was appreciated nonetheless for his performances in both Beyond The Clouds and Dhadak. Inform him that Ishaan often comes out as an obsessive brother when his elder brother is concerned and the actor reasons that it is all because of the age gap. “He is 14 years younger to me and I had emotionally blackmailed my mother for a brother. My mother was 21 when she had me and she was 36 when she gave birth to Ishaan so obviously, she had no plans. It was only my pressure which made her have Ishaan. I have paternal feelings for him and I don’t have ‘brotherish’ kind of energy while dealing with him. I am very happy and proud that he is a good actor, and want him to be good at whatever he does.”
Lastly, when he is asked about facing stiff competition from new kids on the block, he summariaes his reply in just one sentence, “Rear view dekhoge to gaadi thuk jayegi." (You will crash the car if you keep looking into the rear view mirror.)
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