‘A film should create an emotional impact’

Shahid Kapur on his upcoming film Udta Punjab, his stance on drugs, and his love for dance.

June 08, 2016 08:05 am | Updated October 18, 2016 02:26 pm IST

Mumbai: Actor Shahid Kapoor and actress Alia Bhatt during a promotional event of their upcoming film "Shaandaar" in Mumbai  on Wednesday. PTI Photo (PTI10_21_2015_000174A)

Mumbai: Actor Shahid Kapoor and actress Alia Bhatt during a promotional event of their upcoming film "Shaandaar" in Mumbai on Wednesday. PTI Photo (PTI10_21_2015_000174A)

Shahid Kapur stepped into Bollywood as a background dancer. One might recollect that in ‘ Kahin Aag Lage ’ from Subhash Ghai’s Taal . It was Kapur, a dancer in the film, who draped the last bit of the white cloth over Aishwarya Rai Bachchan. From that scene to being recognised as a mainstream actor, Kapur has come a long way.

Coming up next is Abhishek Chaubey’s Udta Punjab , a film he chose to act in owing to the director’s own emotional involvement with the film’s subject. “The film is very close to his heart. When someone makes a film that he is so emotionally involved in, it resonates as a final product,” says Kapur.

The movie is now caught in a political storm with the Shiromani Akali Dal over the portrayal of drug abuse in the State.

Kapur essays the role of a druggie rock star, Tommy Singh, in the movie. He feels it chose to address a relevant topic in current times.

‘A brave film’

“It is a very brave film. I think makers shy away from talking about subjects that are as strong.” He himself was unaware of the rising drug trafficking in Punjab until the script was offered to him. Kapur’s respect for Chaubey grew as he was attempting to make a film that spoke about a rarely addressed issue.

What is Udta Punjab ’s ultimate aim? Does it stop at portraying lives of people who are closely associated with the drug problem or does it even try to hint at a solution? Neither, says Kapur. “I think the purpose of a film should be to create an emotional impact,” he says. “Everybody will be able to relate to the four characters in the film and their stories will hopefully create an impact.” He believes that the last thing a film should do is preach. “Let’s consider a classroom scenario. Why is it that people often find classes boring? It is because lectures are often just unemotional conversations. On the other hand, time flies when in conversation with a friend, and you have an emotional take-away from it too.”

Kapur believes that Udta Punjab will give rise to dialogue about substance abuse, while engaging and entertaining the audience. “Entertainment will come in different ways from the characters. Tommy Singh is an exhibitionist, his job is to shock you and make you laugh. Kumari Pinky [played by Alia Bhatt] is the heart of the film,” he says. “Dr. Preet Sahani [played by Kareena Kapoor] is the conscience of the film. And lastly, Sartaj Singh [played by Diljit Dosanjh] is the corrupt cop who needs to realise that his actions will have consequences. He is like any other guy, stuck in a grey zone.”

Tommy Singh’s behaviour intrigued Kapur. “Ten minutes into the script and I was wondering, ‘What is it that this man wants? What is he going to do next?’” he says. “My character is dark and he is an addict. As exciting and fun he seems to be, he actually has no problem. He is his own problem. It’s all in his head.”

What is Kapoor’s own stance on drug consumption? He points at the film’s poster, gestures to its tagline, and reads it aloud: “ Drugs Di Maa Di .” He clarifies his stand, but does so without acknowledging the sexism in the statement.

The lone hurdle

Preparing for the role of Tommy Singh was an uphill task for Kapoor, who is a teetotaller and has never consumed drugs. A lack of knowledge about life of an addict was not the only hurdle for the actor. “The shoots were very tiring. My trainer didn’t let me eat much because I had to look a certain way,” he says, pointing at his chiselled abs in Udta Punjab ’s poster. The actor is hoping to do a more relaxed role in the future.

“With back to back roles in films like Udta Punjab and Rangoon , I need a light-hearted role next.” He would also love to do another dance film. He began his career with this passion — dance — and just can’t seem to get enough of it.

The writer is an intern at The Hindu

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