Shahid Kapoor says Kabir Singh is one of his most challenging roles: 'It was difficult to come back home'
'I didn’t want to bring that kind of intensity back home,' says Shahid Kapoor, on playing a lovesick alcoholic doctor in upcoming release Kabir Singh.
It may have been tough for Shahid Kapoor to break out of the ‘chocolate boy’ image but once he shed that with his “sheer hard work and perseverance”, there was no looking back. He traded that image for darker onscreen characters in films like Kaminey (2009) and Haider (2014). After his critically acclaimed portrayal of a drug addicted singer Tommy Singh in Udta Punjab (2016), he now steps into the shoes of a lovesick alcoholic and self-destructive surgeon as the titular character in Kabir Singh. Written and directed by Sandeep Reddy Vanga, the film is a Hindi remake of Reddy’s 2017 Telugu film Arjun Reddy (that starred Vijay Deverakonda and Shalini Pandey), which was an instant blockbuster.
“I like playing characters which have enough meat in them so that you can feel insecure and feel the need to up your game, or raise the bar for yourself to be able to achieve them. And then, I have some blood of my father (Pankaj Kapur). I have grown up watching those movies and performances,” says Shahid, who looks skinny as he had to lose over 14 kilograms to essay the role of a young medical student in the film. “I wanted to look boyish for the younger portions but I didn’t want a perfect chiseled body because that is not how college-going boys look. The look was achieved more through the diet and not so much in the gym. Now putting back weight again is so damn difficult,” he laughs.
While there have been repeated comparisons between his roles in Udta Punjab and Kabir Singh, Shahid found the latter to be much more challenging. “Playing Kabir Singh was definitely more challenging because when I did Udta Punjab, I was single and I used to live alone, so there was not that kind of responsibility, whereas for Kabir I had to come back home to a very normal homely environment and I couldn’t be the way I needed to be. I didn’t want to bring that kind of intensity back home. I wanted to come back as dad to my kids. They are very small right now and I was very concerned about that. In fact, I was wondering whether this was the right time in my life to take up a character like this,” says Shahid.
"Secondly, Tommy’s a very empty character. He is self-absorbed, self-obsessed. He only thinks about himself but Kabir is someone who loves so deeply that he becomes self-destructive and that is a very deeper emotion than Tommy Singh’s emotion. Also, there is much more graph in Kabir’s character but Tommy was in one space throughout. In Kabir Singh, you see him as a medical student, you see him as an alcoholic doctor, then you reach the climax, so there is a bigger emotional arc. I had to keep making that flip every day. I had to go in and then come out again. I couldn’t just go in and stay there,” explains the actor.
Shahid will be seen in three avatars in the film (a college-going boy, one with short hair and in angry mood, and a bearded look with ruffled hairdo). The toughest challenge for him though was to retain what was good in the Telugu version and then to make an original film with the new character Kabir Singh, given that it was directed by the same filmmaker. “It is not that somebody is coming with a very different take. You have to be able to make something which is similar but it is original and it is different, that was very complicated. I had to deal with that on a daily basis,” says the actor, as he reveals that the film largely constitutes director's personal life. “The director is emotionally connected to the film because lot of it comes from his personal life. As they say, life is stranger than fiction. That is why there are all these crazy and quirky elements to this character because it has actually happened with him. Hence, he is very passionate about the character and the film,” he says.
Shahid is often asked if he has his kids in mind when taking on a new project and his answer is a clear ‘No’. “I don’t think like that. I need to be a good father in my personal life and I need to be an actor on the big screen. Today, if I do films only for my children, when they will turn 15-16, they will turn around and say, ‘Something was wrong with you or what? You did films only for children?' At different phases in life, your kids will see you in different roles and I have to explore myself as an actor if I want to leave a legacy for them once they turn adults. Some of the finest performances that we have seen have all kinds of shades and I have to do those. Wouldn’t have Al Pacino done Scarface?” says Shahid.
The actor also admits that while his professional and personal spaces are completely different, he does not mind being open about his family. “In 2019, there is nothing that you can conceal from the public eye. Everything is out there for people to see. Earlier, we were told to go for a long walk or work out to vent out our anger but today, you have to just announce it, and that too to total strangers by going on the social media. Why should you hide things? I used to get shocked when people would tell me that there are actors who are married, have kids but people don’t know about it, and I would wonder that how did their spouse and children feel. This is so much nicer. I have a family and people want to talk about it. I don’t have any problem with that,” he says.
Meanwhile, Shahid is all praise for his co-star Kiara Advani, who plays a quieter character in the film. “It was a very difficult role for her and I can understand because I have been in that position where the focus is not always on you because there is a character who is a bit more loud. It is always tougher to play those characters and you always end up getting less appreciation sometimes for doing more and sometimes, somebody could be doing less gets more appreciation because that character is more out there. I give her full credit in holding her own,” he says.
Shahid says that he is in that phase of his career when he is beyond the pressure of box office collections and is enjoying the film promotion process more than ever. “I am enjoying talking to everybody about the film but there was a time when I didn’t probably because I am happy with the kind of films I am doing now,” he says. “Kaminey, Haider... I did these films few years back but I think the audience is more accepting and mature of genres like these today. So it is a good time for me. Who knew then that there will be a bigger audience for such films today? You can’t predict these things. I used to enjoy watching these kind of films and discover myself as an actor. It was a selfish choice. But I have also done some films in the past which I didn’t know how to sell once it was all over. But, of course, I am anxious and nervous. As many films that you might have done but that 10 to 15 days before the release, you are all stressed,” he concludes.
Kabir Singh is slated to release this Friday on 21 June.
All images from YouTube.
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