He's sprung back into the reckoning with Sooraj Barjatya's surprise hit Vivah that's taken him into worlds that he did not even know existed. Still, Shahid Kapoor's in no hurry to return to the studios. Picky and choosy even when it comes to endorsements, he's created a quality control for himself.
And as he patiently waits for the "right" films to come along, he's making plans for his birthday and Valentine's Day
Vivah has gone from strength to strength and as it races towards a 100-day run what are the thoughts uppermost in the mind of Sooraj Barjatya's newest Prem considering you were always pretty confident that it would be a turning point in your career?
Vivah was an honest film and everyone who was a part of it, led by Soorajji himself, worked really hard. Soorajji is a director who creates a world of his own and it's important for him that every actor is comfortable in that space. He will go to any lengths from spending two hours on a shot to explaining individually to 20 actors on the set, what happened before and what will come next so they can "live" the moment. I was very sure such sincerity would not go unacknowledged.
Not many shared your optimism though
Yeah, soon after the promos went on air I was deluged with complaints about how the visuals were too simple and the music not contemporary. After its release several critics panned it as "regressive" but the audience's reaction has proved that Vivah is not the look or the music score that decides whether a film is progressive or regressive. Maybe Vivah did not boast of the obvious trappings of glamour like expensive locations and extravagant sets but in the end it is the story and the performances that hold you...The message that remains with you. The last 20 minutes elevated this simple film. On Soorajji's instructions I'd made a deliberate effort to play down Prem and so his momentous decision to marry a girl who's gone through a major mishap that has left her physically scarred, comes as not just a surprise to the viewer but also makes a bigger impact given his youth, his quiet, introverted nature and lack of worldly experience. At a time when life is becoming increasingly frivolous, Vivah, returning us to our culture and reminding us of the need for commitment in a relationship, has struck a chord.
After Vivah your fan-mail must have doubled...Tripled...
(Smiling) I now have a new set of fans. Earlier, my films worked in metros, multiplexes and with youngsters. Vivah's helped me reach out to families. While I was on a promotional tour with Soorajji, in the course of many telephonic conversations I had older ladies fondly reminiscing about their courtship days with me. Even my driver recalled how soon after his rishta had been fixed by his parents, he had quietly called his fiancee to the terrace so they could spend some time together, alone. Vivah's taken me to places whose names come as a surprise when I read them in the trade magazines, because I did not know they even existed. Soorajji has a very loyal fan following, especially in small towns where people still live in joint families and are very proud, even protective, of the values projected in his films. Vivah is the kind of film they want him to make because it strengthens their conviction in how life should be lived.
Has Vivah changed your definition of love?
May be not the definition but it's certainly made me realise the seriousness of intent...the commitment...that comes along with the feeling. Soorajji's films highlight those small moments that make a relationship beautiful. I've realised too that it's not the big things that make a difference but the little touches that make love precious.
So what plans have you made for Valentine's Day?
(Laughing) Honestly, none, yet. Valentine's Day is a beautiful concept but you don't have to wait for February 14 to celebrate. When you are in love everyday is Valentine's Day.
But you have made plans for your birthday?
Well yes, it will be a family occasion in Bangkok. Kareena and I were there earlier together and we had a good time.
You're not going back to see the Golden Buddha or the Emerald Buddha or...
No, that's not why we're going back. We can only take four days off and since Bangkok is close by it seemed a good choice. (With a grin) It was pretty much Kareena's decision and frankly I think it's the cheap shopping that's the big attraction.
It's been 13 weeks since Vivah hit the theares and you're still chilling out at home. What are you holding out for-banners, solo hero projects, big bucks...
(Shaking his head) Only good scripts...Good roles...In the last four years I've been fortunate to have worked with makers like John Matthew Mathan, Abbas-Mustan, Priyadarshan and Sooraj R.Barjatya. They've made me realise that only I can create a quality-control for myself. When you work around-the-clock you get used to working as opposed to doing the kind of work that you want to do. I'm dying to get back to the studios. I'm happiest when on the sets. But I don't want to go back just for the heck of shooting. It should be a film worth doing.
Like Aziz Mirza's next?
I've always loved Aziz uncle's films and this one is a cute combination of romance and comedy. It's a young, feel-good love story in the genre of Ishq Vishk and I'm very happy with the character I'm playing. There's an element of novelty in the script which is very important today. If you review the films that worked last year you'll see that all of them had a certain refreshing freshness...
One of them was Vivah that fetched you a Screen Award nomination in the Best Actor category. Are you disappointed that you lost out on the coveted award for the second year running?
I bagged the Best Debut Award, didn't I? And I'm only 25. I'm sure there will be many more opportunities to come up with performances that merit the honour. It's enough for now that my name features in the elite list with actors I've grown up watching, some since I was in school.
So you weren't nervous on the night of January 6?
Not for myself, because I wasn't expecting to win. But I was praying for Kareena because Omkara was a special film for her and I knew how much she had put into the performance. It's not easy for an actor from whom you've come to expect glamour, to do away with all the usual support systems like huge sets, a hip wardrobe and perfect make-up, and play a character like Dolly with so much conviction. It's the kind of challenge actors who are past their prime and nearing retirement take up, but Kareena's still in the thick of things and has been experimenting with such off-beat roles be it Refugee, Yuva or Chameli since the beginning of her career. She's a clean-hearted, emotional girl who's very passionate about her work and an actor of high calibre. Unfortunately, she's had few roles that have exploited her potential. In the circumstances, Omkara was a milestone.
So you thought she stood a good chance of bagging the Best Actor (Female) Award?
I believe a Best Actor performance should be rated on quality rather than commercial standing and unlike other award functions, Screen has always ranked performance over popularity. So yes, I was confident she stood a chance at the Screen Awards.
There's talk of Sanjay Dutt and Sanjay Gupta wanting to remake Chashme-Buddor with you and Kareena?
Yes, we were approached. I think they're working on the script now before getting back to us again.
Are there any other films in the pipeline?
There are a few films I'm zeroing in on but till I've signed the dotted line it would be presumptious to talk of them.
What about TV? Your father Pankaj Kapur is returning in and as Karamchand.
I'm always game for experimenting. I have age on my side so I'd like to attempt anything and everything, from love stories to family dramas, from musicals to negative roles, then leave it to the people to decide what they like to see me in. If there's something on TV that suits me, that I can carry off well, why not?
So can we hope to see you on KBC's Hot Seat?
I don't know, I'm not too good with quiz shows. If the questions are related to cinema may be I could answer a few but my knowledge in other areas is somewhat limited. But I've enjoyed watching the first and second episodes of the new KBC with Shah Rukh Khan as the anchor.
Kareena and you have had Koffee...with Karan recently.
Yeah, and I appreciated the fact that Karan was really thoughtful, not asking me questions that would have made me uncomfortable. He's a very dear friend of Kareena and I've been meeting him often at social occasions and for quiet dinners. Koffee With Karan was like an informal chat. There's so much of affection between Karan and Kareena that it was nice just sitting there and listening in.
One can understand you waiting for the right film to come along but in the interim one would have expected you to do more shows and grab some ads, thereby making a quick buck?
I'm open to shows but I'm being picky-choosy about endorsements. I am 25 and I want to be around for the next 15 years. I believe that if an actor is seen everyday on TV why would people spend good money to go watch him on the big screen? It's important that you maintain some amount of exclusivity. (With a grin) Of course, there are several bigger stars out there who have proved this theory wrong. You see them everywhere, everyday, and still want more of them.