Living a dream

Living a dream

He’s Haider now, the counterpart of Hamlet in Vishal Bhardwaj’s adaptation. The success of Shahid Kapur’s last film, R…Rajkumar, and the hype and anticipation surrounding his new film finds him in jaunty form, full of small talks and guffaws even when we ask him sober questions. He deviates into wisecracks and funny comments, and finally says, “You keep asking, otherwise I will keep talking.”

The venue is the UTV conference room, and his excitement level is so high that he accidentally knocks down his coffee while making a sweeping gesture with his right arm.

He confesses that he never ever imagined doing this kind of role. “Who would have ever thought that I would get to play Hamlet, say the line ‘To be or not to be’, get to hold a real skull in my hand, shoot in Kashmir and that too with artistes like Irrfan Khan, Kay Kay Menon and Tabu? Tabu m’am, incidentally, has a killer role and to cover that up, goes around saying that I have carried the film on my shoulders,” he says with a wink.

Comfort zone

According to Shahid, this is precisely what makes acting a “great adventure — different people see you in different ways and so want to mould you to their vision. An actor is always surprised at the way filmmakers perceive him.”

On a serious note, he adds, “Now, every time I start work on a new film, I go in with a completely clean slate, unlike in the past when I would plan my ways of etching out a character. Today, I realise that any film is the journey of that filmmaker. Only when he starts downloading information on me do I start the process of understanding and processing it.”

Which was more challenging to play — Rajkumar or Haider?

“Both were challenges, but more than R…Rajkumar, this film has liberated me. It is not easy to go bald and act for hours. Just moving from a Prabhudheva to a Vishal Bhardwaj is scary enough, but it was fun too. I am ready for anything today.”

He does add a disclaimer: “Haider is Vishal-sir’s version of Hamlet, because everything in the original may not have connected with the Indian audience. And Kashmir has given it freshness and a completely different subtext. Besides, when the temperature is -10 or less and you have to shoot an emotionally intense scene standing in the snow, believe me, it’s a tough deal.”

Shahid admits that R…Rajkumar too gave him lot of challenges. “I am not this tall hunk who looks as if he can throw 30 villains away, and I wondered whether I could carry it off. Prabhu-sir’s conviction carried the day,” he admits. “Now that people have accepted me in that genre, if I do another good masala film, it will make even more money. Yes, the film did open up a genre for me. And people did not laugh at me for doing that character!” A naughty grin follows. 

Dream a little dream

On the other hand, Vishal Bhardwaj always sees him in dark roles, and makes such kind of films too. “He offered me the double role in Kaminey, and now we are doing Kaminey 2 as well,” he says.

“An actor has borrowed dreams, not his own,” he goes on. “It is about participating in someone else’s dream. Right now, it is Haider and I am now going to be a part of the world of Vikas (Queen) Bahl’s Shaandaar. They convinced me to participate in their dreams. We are like kids in a candy store offered a choice of colours and flavours we would like to try. The films I sign are those candies the kid in me loves,” he grins again.

But he stresses that actors must do a film only if they are ready for it, not because some others are also doing the same thing. 

The major change that has come in Shahid, and made him ”a better actor and human being” is that he understands now that he cannot take full responsibility and stress about how the borrowed dreams shape up! 

He smiles, “Earlier, for me, it was about disappointments when a film did not perform well, but now I think that I should not think along those lines at all. The old-school theories have been blasted in the last decade when only a specific kind of film was supposed to work. So I am freer in my thoughts now, and in a happy space.”

So what does he have to say about the fact that on October 2, the birth anniversary of Mahatma Gandhi, we have got two violent films — Haider and Bang Bang! ? Putting on an expression of mock-hurt on his face, he wrings his hands and pleads, “But my film also has family emotions.” 

Shahid is confident that his film will recover its investment, thanks to the way it is structured. “If both films are good, both will run, and vice-versa. The lack of a second release does not affect any film positively, except maybe by 10 per cent. We cannot offer what Bang Bang! does, and the converse is also true. In a five-day weekend, moreover, there is more than room for two movies.”

Shahid is more than shaken by the Kashmir floods. “I remember some of those areas from pictures sent by one of our team members. It’s shocking and I hope things settle down soon.” And he recalls the crowds in Kashmir with affection. “They would come in hundreds and watch us patiently all day. And if they got bored with a phase of inaction, they would scream at us, “Naacho (dance)!”

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