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PHOTOGRAPHER: NUNO OLIVEIRA (DEU CREATIVE MANAGEMENT)

ART DIRECTOR: AMIT NAIK FASHION DIRECTOR: KUSHAL PARMANAND

JUNIOR STYLIST: NEELANGANA VASUDEVA

HAIR: TEAM HAKIM AALIM

MAKE UP: GLADWIN JAMES

LOCATION COURTESY: HOUSE OF NOMAD, TAJ LANDS END, MUMBAI

 

Exploded checks grey virgin wool suit, white self-textured cotton shirt and silk handmade bow tie by Giorgio Armani

 

Would you believe Shahid Kapoor has been around for 14 years? It’s true. He was that baby-faced chap in Ishq Vishk all the way back in 2003. The sleeper hit had everyone asking who the “chocolate boy” was, till they discovered he was veteran actor Pankaj Kapur’s son. That he inherited his father’s acting chops didn’t become evident till much later, though. A couple of flops followed his debut, so Kapoor had to wait till 2006 to deliver his first big hit, Vivah, and then finally established his stardom the following year, with the colossal success of Jab We Met.

Years later, one can say this remains a pattern in Kapoor’s filmography. He’s hit some high notes post Jab We Met — notably Vishal Bhardwaj’s Kaminey and Haider, Udta Punjab and the somewhat unexpected success of the commercial potboiler R… Rajkumar — but they’ve all been saddled with films that didn’t quite cut it at the box office. The thing with Kapoor, though, is that every time he’s down — and God knows it’s been that way every few years — he’s anywhere but out. That annoyingly catchy Chumbawamba track, ‘Tubthumping’ (you’ll know it better by its lyrics – ‘I get knocked down, but I get up again, you’re never going to keep me down’), may well be the soundtrack of the actor’s career. In the enviable position of being an old-timer while still looking young enough to romance Alia Bhatt, he knows a thing or two about turning the tide. In an industry where fortunes change every Friday, he’s managed to stick around for the long run and repeatedly remind filmmakers of his skill in front of the camera — the latest being Sanjay Leela Bhansali’s upcoming Padmavati.

Self textured black virgin wool tuxedo suit and shirt by Giorgio Armani

Long in the making, Kapoor’s first period film sees him as Maharawal Ratan Singh — the neglected-in-history-textbooks ruler of Mewar. Over a call in between patchwork for the film,
Kapoor tells me he’s put his heart and soul into this role for over a year, and is struggling to verbalise his emotions in the days leading up to its release. He won’t put it down to nervousness, though. He’s been around way too long for that.

Kapoor knows exactly how he wants to work, and fortunately for him, it’s how things are falling into place. He’s taking up only one role at a time, giving it everything he’s got, and then starting afresh on the next one — and because he’s managed to follow up flops with hits multiple times in the past, he’s confident about doing it all over again (Rangoon, earlier this year, sank without a trace).
That might not be the only reason Kapoor’s a happy guy these days.

His friends will tell you a lot changed when he got married in 2015, and the birth of his daughter Misha last year has brought out the more affable side of the actor. The success of his athleisure label, Skult, is further validation that Kapoor’s fans love him, despite his topsy-turvy career trajectory. “I didn’t think I was capable of this. Early in my career, I was a fashion victim who didn’t know what to wear. In the past few years, I’ve finally become confident about my choices. Growing up, I never knew where to get this kind of stuff, so I wanted to make something cool and relevant that is easily accessible in India,” Kapoor had said to me on the eve of the brand’s launch. Today, he proudly tells me they’ve done better than the best case scenario they forecasted before the launch.

Clearly, Kapoor has a lot going for him at the moment, and while we’re going to hope his latest
release is a cracker, we’re definitely not going to write him off if it’s not.

Raw-edge cashmere-silk T-shirt and terry effect cotton jacket by Canali

The trailer of Padmavati received a great response, and we finally know more about the role you’re playing. What was it like shooting the movie?

Yes, a lot of people had been asking why I’m doing the movie, because they didn’t know much about the character. Maharawal Ratan Singh, for me, is a character that is waiting to be discovered. He hasn’t been written about as much as Padmavati and Alauddin Khilji, but once I read the script and understood everything he had done, I realised he is quite a guy. I’m extremely moved by his valour, and getting to know more about him enlightened me about the courage of the Rajputs, the culture they represent and how they managed to sustain a kingdom for so long despite so many invaders and other forces coming into the country. Khilji himself was a barbaric invader who they managed to fend off for very long, simply because of their skill, bravery and culture. Also noteworthy to me is how much respect the Rajputs showed to their women. This role is close to my heart, and I’ve given my character everything I’ve got, because he demanded that of me. I felt that he needs to be represented properly and the world needs to know of him. I consider this my homage to the Rajputs, to their dynasty in Chittor and Mewar, and to their bravado. I am inspired by their culture as well as the dignity displayed by their people.

“In the last few years, I think most of the things I have been doing have been challenging, or have been firsts of some kind — Haider, Rangoon and Udta Punjab are all different from anything I’ve done before.

It’s your first period film, and your first time working with Bhansali. Those who have been in your shoes will all agree that it’s quite a challenge. Were you nervous?

Honestly, in the last few years, I think most of the things I have been doing have been challenging, or have been firsts of some kind — Haider, Rangoon and Udta Punjab are all different from anything I’ve done before, so that’s something I’ve gotten used to. I don’t know if nervous is the right word. I would say I’m very interested in knowing how people receive the film and what they think about it. We’ve worked on it for a year, so obviously it’s a huge part of our lives. I tell everyone that I feel like I’ve had two babies this year — Misha and this movie. Our hearts, souls and all our energy went into this film, and it’s all over my mind. As for working with Bhansali, I think satisfying him was my biggest challenge with this role. His standards are very high, and everyone needs to work very hard to make him happy. That was my only goal. Now, so close to the release, I can’t tell you if I’m happy with my performance and things like that. I’m too emotional about it right now, so I’m not in the right headspace to answer this question. I’d rather people watch the film and answer that question.

Have you ever invested so much time in the making of any other film?

Padmavati has taken us a year, and we’re still not done. Sometimes, films take just 3-4 months to make, but Mausam, for instance, took a year and-a-half. In the last five years, I’ve only done one film at a time. I don’t invest my energy elsewhere while doing that film. I feel that’s the right way to work — to immerse yourself fully in whatever you do. You have to give yourself completely
to it, and there’s no other way I know to discover different characters and create new looks. Every silhouette deserves that sort of respect. Why do a film if you don’t think it worthy of that amount of time and effort?

Is that also a way of ensuring that you get breaks and family time, to re-energise between each project?

How easy and lovely you make it sound. I wish life was like that — all worked out. I don’t think about going slow or fast. The direction in which you’re heading should be right, and it should be something you like. I don’t break it down mathematically in my head; I am a creative being, so I do everything instinctively and from my heart. The only thing I try and do is to give a role everything and be truthful to it in its entirety. Beyond that, I don’t try to analyze things and make smart plans. I don’t think that works. The way I see it, it’s plain and simple — just give every opportunity your best.

You’ve just signed your next film with Shree Narayan Singh, who made Toilet: Ek Prem Katha. What can you tell us about it?

We’ll be starting early next year. It’s a social entertainer, so to say. It’s a funny, entertaining movie but at the same time, it talks about a very relevant issue – electricity. I don’t want to get into too many details at this point, but it’s an issue that plagues the entire country.

Bi fabric pure virgin wool knitwear by Emporio Armani;
Shaded striped suit in wool by Canali;
Black overnighter calf skin private bag by Giorgio Armani;
Dust grey woven embossed velvet slippers by Jimmy Choo.

What other films do you have lined up?

It’s just this one for now. If I like a script, I’ll probably do it right after this one. I don’t have anything in mind, as such. No wish list either? Not really. I don’t want to limit myself to my wishes. Sometimes, there’s more than you can imagine that lies in front of you. That’s true for all the creative fields. We tend to limit ourselves with small aspirations. But if you set yourself free, you never know how high you’ll fly.

You turned entrepreneur with Skult this year. How has that turned out?

We’re barely half a year old. When we started off, we had envisioned a best and worst case scenario respectively, and we’ve done better than the best case scenario. Abof.com, the portal with which we started off online, has now closed down, but Skult is very much alive and will continue. We’re in department stores now as well. It usually takes new brands that start online two years or so to get to that stage, but we’ve managed it very quickly.

Having said that, I think the online market is humongous and for any brand that is growing today, it’s important to understand that the future of clothing, or even any other kind of retail, is going to be a combination of physical and online sales. That would be the smartest way to go ahead, so that’s what we’ll do. I really think athleisure and wearable, comfortable fashion that is natural to movement has been taken up by youngsters in a big way. The thought has connected with them. We’re thinking about women’s wear, but I don’t want to make any commitments right now. There’s a lot of R&D to be done.

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Shweta Mehta Sen

Associate Editor
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