Every time Shahid Kapoor has ditched the commercial formulaic genre and tried something riskier, it has worked wonders for him. Be it Kaminey or Haider, niche films have brought him bouquets and box-office success. Udta Punjab is as niche as it gets. Two weeks before the film’s release, Sasha sits down with us to chat about films, fatherhood and more…
Whenever you have attempted a dark film, it’s worked for you. Agree?
Films that have been considered niche have done really well for me. When we started doing the film, we never thought about the target audience. It was a story that we all wanted to tell. Tommy Singh is an insanely exciting character for an actor. It’s probably rare and fortunate that a character as mad, psychotic and crazy like this came along. So I had to play him. But I didn’t think beyond that. The amount of curiosity it generated is way more than what I expected. So, what this makes me feel is there is no niche anymore. There’s good and bad. If you make a good film, it will maximise its potential and if you make a bad film, however wide its approach or subject or audience base might be, it will underperform. That’s just how things have been in the last few years. I would much rather do a film that performs better than the one that underperforms. And I think I’ve done both types. Also, Udta as a subject will definitely not be considered a film for all audiences but something is helping it reach out to a larger number of people. But I don’t want to talk about the money game.
So you are not bothered about the film’s box-office returns?
I didn’t say that! I meant I didn’t sign Udta Punjab for box-office success. You cannot do such a film thinking about how much money it will make. It might end up making money, but that cannot be the reason for you to do the film. It should be because of the role that takes you forward as an actor. At times, if you have too many reasons to do something then it all gets lost. So sometimes, you need to focus on the important and fundamental reason why you do something.
What excited you about Tommy Singh?
There were various reasons why I wanted to play Tommy Singh. First being the script which I loved because I felt it’s an original story. And I never felt it was a documentary or pseudo-intellectual. It’s relevant but I didn’t know how relevant it was till I heard the script. I was informed about it. I got information on it so that helped me understand the situation. I wasn’t aware as well. I hope this film helps create some awareness for a real issue.
Was it the madness of Tommy Singh that drew you to the film?
Tommy Singh is the maddest character I have ever heard of. The only parallel I can draw with him is with the Joker. That’s a character that does anything and you can’t guess what he is going to do tomorrow. He’s crazy. Obviously, that’s Heath Ledger and he had a legendary role, but I felt that this character had that off-ness in him which was interesting. Some of my favourite performances have been of people who played characters that do substance abuse. Whether it’s Requiem For A Dream or Dallas Buyers Club or The Basketball Diaries, these are some fine performances have come our way because it allows you to do so much as an actor. Tommy Singh has that layer. He is all out there and is definitely an exhibitionist which is absolutely opposite to who I am. I am a very private person, not open to expressing myself. And this is the maximum I will express myself because I am an actor and I have to do interviews. (Smiles) This is who I am now. Tommy Singh is nothing like who I am but he is a superstar who is extremely popular and he does everything wrong which makes him even more famous. There are international celebrities about whom you wonder ‘What is this guy all about? ‘Man, he is crazy!’
Is the character based on somebody?
No! Of course, we spoke about a lot of rockstars, popstars who have been into substance abuse and been out there. There are many references that you can get from there. But the idea was to try and find an original character. So if you see the silhouette of Tommy Singh or the way he talks or walks, I don’t think he is like anybody else. That’s something I am very particular about as an actor. I don’t like modelling myself on someone unless I am playing someone in say a biography. Then, my job is to be that person. But if it’s a fictional character, then let’s find a new silhouette. Otherwise, we are just getting inspired and recreating.
Do you think that the censorship methods for such films somewhere limit the audience reach for a film like this?
No, I think Udta Punjab should be an adult film. As far as the cuts are concerned, I cannot comment till a decision has been taken. Right now, everything is speculative because the process is on. Once that is over and the final thing happens, then I can tell you what I feel about it. All I will say is I hope that a film like Udta will be passed so that people can see it.
When you thought of Kareena for Udta, did you feel that this would generate a lot of curiosity?
When you are driving on the road, you need to focus on the road. If you worry about left, right, up, down too much then you will end up having an accident. Same is what you should do when you work in a film. So what I focused on was my part and I don’t think so much about other people or other things. These are things that other people think about. It’s not my job to think about them. I think she’s a good actor and she is great for the role. The fact that she is a part of the film is beneficial for the film.
Are you taking a paternity leave?
Yeah. I will be off work for some time now because I want to give my baby and Mira the time. I have planned that.
Will you be a hands-on dad?
I think I will be a bit obsessive. (Smiles) There are really cool apps today where you get weekly updates. Mira knew all about that, so she kind of downloaded one for me. It’s called Baby Center and my wife’s a pro at it. So I just get all the updates about what I should be doing all the time.
Are you already making some small changes in your lifestyle and routine?
The amazing thing is that mera bachcha ayega na toh main usko bataunga ki aise karna hai, waise karna hai. I have already started feeling it’s the other way round. Before the baby has come, you feel you need to adjust to being a father. So the parents change more and the child is going to be what it is going to be. So it’s difficult to talk about it. Maybe, I will talk about it in my autobiography.
Are you building a nursery for the baby now?
Nursery? (shocked) Listen, I am a normal husband, she’s a normal wife and our child will be a normal baby. So normal things will happen. I am not going to make a building for my baby. There will be room, a cot and that’s what will be there.
Your brother is gearing up for Bollywood. Wouldn’t you have loved to launch him yourself?
No, no! I will let people who are more capable, do that. Why should I? I worked hard, I gave an audition and got my first film. He’s fortunate that he’s getting opportunities, so he should work hard. He has me always for any advice he needs.