Shahid Kapoor: Changing what's perfectly good is recipe for disaster
Shahid Kapoor on the challenge of winning loyalists of Arjun Reddy with his act and interpreting Kabir Singh differently from Vijay Deverakonda's treatment of the character while retaining the rendition of the original
When we meet Shahid Kapoor, he is sitting on the floor of his suite in a five-star hotel, dressed casually in black pyjamas and a hoodie, finishing his lunch. Evidently relaxed, presumably from the good buzz around the film (Hindi remake of the Telugu blockbuster Arjun Reddy), he talks to us about why he agreed to do this remake, how he altered his process and his production plans.
I am an Arjun Reddy fan, and I am guessing you are too, which is why you agreed to do the film.
I am a big fan of the film. The script didn't come to me. I watched Arjun Reddy and loved it. It ticked most of the boxes for me as an actor. He is an emotionally distraught man. Vijay [Deverakonda] and I had our own take on being a self-destructive surgeon. Because it is a love story, the inherent emotion is very beautiful. It has its dark moments but overall the film gives a viewer a wholesome experience. I went back to playing a college guy after Ishq Vishk [my debut film]. I felt the film has pathos. The texture and the way the filmmaker made it, surprised me. South films have a different tonality usually — it's massy in energy, louder in pitch — which is often a disconnect from how films are made in Hindi. Sandeep [Vanga, director] made the film with great balance and gumption. It felt real and transports the audience to their world. I was sucked in by Arjun Reddy. When I met Sandeep, he was easy to have a conversation with and I knew, he is the only one who could make the transition from Telugu to Hindi effortlessly. Our film is considerably shorter.
Usually cinephiles say cult films shouldn't be touched. Isn't remaking a film like that scary?
Scary, no. But challenging, yes. When you recreate a film like this, the toughest to please are the ones who are loyal to the original film. I wanted Kabir Singh to have a wider reach than the Telugu film. I am privileged to be that actor who is taking the film a notch higher. And the character itself is a tough one to play because he is soaked in a multitude of emotions.
Isn't Kabir/Arjun similar in template and design to Tommy Singh of Udta Punjab?
Tommy and Kabir have a basic difference — the former is selfish and the latter is all heart. Fundamentally, Kabir has the ability to get destroyed in love, something Tommy can't imagine having. The arcs are different. Angst and destruction could be common. Tommy was an empty addict. Kabir is a lover, who has given his all and destroyed himself in the bargain. Kabir loves purely and takes to alcoholism, but Tommy has no clue about love till he meets Mary Jane [Alia Bhatt].
Why does Kabir Singh look like a replica of Arjun Reddy?
It was designed to be that. Re-rendition doesn't always mean the film will be different. Arjun Reddy is a different person culturally than Kabir. The biggest difference will be the performance — Vijay and I have different takes on the narrative and the character. We never wanted to change the film. Changing what's perfectly good is recipe for disaster. Rehashing classics are forbidden only because filmmakers have redone and rehashed them to recreate the impact. The toughest is to not fix something that ain't broke but to make it from scratch again. On paper, it's same, on set, it came alive for the first time again. I forgot Arjun to find Kabir. The interpretation of the story was so beautiful and that was my cue.
Since you were remaking the film, why didn't you work on the criticisms — the physical aggression primarily?
Right now, people are judging the film based on the promos. Don't assume till you watch the film. There is great pathos in the character and you can't depict that without showing the complete picture. His intent is not wrong and therefore, he is behaving the way he is. How it is represented is what should be questioned. He is an alpha male who brings on his own doom. You see his flaws take him down one by one. We could be criticised if we had seen an alpha male who had gotten away with his rage and aggression. He hits rock bottom and then some more.
Did you meet Vijay?
No, I haven't. But we want to show him the film. I loved him in the film.
When you were preparing for Tommy you would lock yourself up. Was it a similar process?
I can't do that anymore. I have two kids [Misha and Zain]. I grew up. I am no longer a boy. I can't say — I will do what I want and everyone has to figure it out around my schedule. I am responsible for them now, so I can't bring work home. I remember it had become incredibly dark and angsty when we started the film's shoot. I had grown out the beard, looked like an alcoholic and the mind space was such. But I categorically can't bring that energy home to the babies. It's tough to emotionally cut off when you are that invested but that's what being a parent entails. When I was doing this film, I realised I was taking myself too seriously before. It's possible to compartmentalise if you have the will for it.
You have the rights of Dingko Singh's life story for a biopic.
Raja [Krishna Menon] and I are in talks to make Dingko among others. It is being scripted, but it will happen next year. Production is on my mind.
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