‘IT WAS A RISK BUT I TOOK ON THE CHALLENGE’
He may have enthralled cinegoers and critics with his understated, yet powerful outing as Maharawal Ratan Singh, but Shahid Kapoor feels filmmaker Sanjay Leela Bhansali is “the real hero” of the film
Historically, not much is known about the king of Mewar, Maharawal Ratan Singh. Probably that’s why when Shahid Kapoor was offered to essay the king’s life in Sanjay Leela Bhansali’s Padmaavat, it felt like that of an “underdog”. But despite playing the least author-backed part in the film, he has shone bright with his regal, understated yet powerful performance in the film. And all of it is happening in the 15th year of his journey in Bollywood.
“I feel very happy because I knew it was a big challenge,” says Shahid, as he talks about playing Ratan Singh, completing 15 years in the industry, and more.
Are you content with the way your career has shaped up?
I have been working for 15 years now, during which I have mostly done mainstream solo hero films. But when I said yes to Padmaavat, I felt like an underdog for the first time because I knew that out of the three roles, mine — though it was a good part — was the least author-backed. I remember when I met Sanjay sir, he told me, ‘Shahid, I can’t do this film if you say no to it as I need all the three characters to be of a certain type. I need the love story to work and I need a hero in the film as I have a very strong anti-hero’. I told him, ‘sir, I am at a certain stage in my career, so, do you feel I should do this film?’ He said, ‘I wouldn’t have come to you had I not believed [that you should do it]’. I said yes, and didn’t even hear the script.
But wasn’t it a risky move?
I remember telling Mira [Rajput Kapoor; wife] that I have taken a risk but I will take on this challenge. This film has been a one-and-a halfyear long journey. In fact, she supported me a lot. I remember after watching the film, Mira hugged me and said, ‘I am proud of you. The character is so understated and underplayed. It was so difficult but I loved what you did in the film and this is your best performance’. Today, everybody is reaching out, giving me love, and are being very appreciative. I am sure everybody has been an underdog at some stage in their life. Also, I feel in today’s day-and-age, actors are very reachable so, people can experience their journey and connect with them.
You must have been in a really secure space to having taken the role up then...
I guess, maybe three to four years back, I wouldn’t have been able to do it. But today, I feel a certain amount of security as an actor. So, I guess I was ready to take up such a challenge. Even people from within the fraternity have reached out to me, and said that it was brave of me to do this film. I feel happy because
I knew it was a big challenge.
Comparatively, you didn’t have many crutches to hold on to visàvis Ratan Singh’s part. In that sense, how challenging was it come up with such a strong performance?
You know, something very karmic happened when I started shooting the film. It was December and we were doing night shifts. Due to some issues with the costume, I was informed that it may take more than two hours [to fix the problem]. So I went back [in my van] and watched Mughale-azam (1960). After watching it, I kept thinking about Dilip (Kumar) sir’s performance. There was so much dignity and power in his silences. His character was not loud, aggressive and he wasn’t very verbose too. But still he had so much presence and character, so I realised that Ratan Singh needs to be like that.
So, you held on to Dilip Kumar’s performance in your head…
Yes, that performance became like Bible in my head. I feel
if I hadn’t seen that performance at that time, maybe, I would have not known what to do. It was godsend. I learnt how to give power to dignity because it is difficult to be powerful when you are silent and show varied emotions just with your eyes’ expressions. Secondly and most importantly, he was the least known of the three characters. So, a lot of things that even you don’t know need to be communicated or else, you will not be able to experience the person. I felt responsible about that. The fact that I was representing the Rajput dynasty, and the qualities that they stood for, were so inspirational that I wanted to convey it to people. That’s the headspace I was in.
After watching the film, Mira hugged me and said, ‘I am proud of you. The character is so understated and underplayed... but I loved what you did in the film. SHAHID KAPOOR, ACTOR