Shahid’s meter chalu

The actor joins the dots between ‘serious’ films & mainstream entertainers

By Noyon Jyoti Parasara
  • Published 10.09.18
Shahid Kapoor

Shahid Kapoor is often referred to as a complete package — good actor, great look and a fantastic dancer. He almost has something for everyone to like him. And yet Shahid has managed to upset enough trade guys in Bollywood with this tendency to take up films that are not considered commercially viable.

With his next film Batti Gul Meter Chalu though, however, Shahid seems to have got everyone cheering for him in what seems to be an out-and-out “mainstream” entertainer.

The Woods chatted with the actor about the film and more.

The Woods: The trailer of Batti Gul Meter Chalu was launched to a lot of cheer among the industrywallahs. All of them seem happy that you are back with a “commercial” entertainer. People seem excited to see you in what is believed to be a proper commercial film and want you to do more of such films.

Shahid: I am playing a front-foot character in Batti Gul. You know this character is going to entertain and you know there are going to be things that are exciting to watch on the big screen. Like he is going to be funny, a bit of a romantic, he is going to dance around the trees… and that’s something I love doing over the years. Of course, sometimes you have to sacrifice things you love because they are out of context. When you do films like Udta Punjab, Haider and even a Padmaavat for that matter, the character was a certain way. You cannot force something into the world of that character that does not match. I am happy because this was also one of the reasons I did this film after doing something that was very restrained and quiet. I wanted to do something that was a lot more quirky, jumping out of the screen and calling for your attention — as opposed to being stoic or introverted. So, it’s a great reaction to have when you make a film like Batti Gul Meter Chalu, where you are talking about a serious issue and people say it looks commercial. ‘Badi serious lag rahi hai’ is not what you want to hear.

• The film talk s about problems in the power sector. As a child growing up in Delhi, did you face any such problem?

• I have faced very high bills in Mumbai also. Ever since electricity was privatised, the rates have been hitting the ceiling. People thought after getting privatised it would be more organised and professional, but then you see the bill. Now, you get used to it because there is no option. The problem is seen everywhere, irrespective of big and small cities. Our film is set in a smaller town because then you can dig deep into the issue and actually get to the core of it — the impact on people of that strata is larger than on someone from a city.
• Any reason to choose Uttarakhand though?

• To be honest, it is a pan-India problem. But the director and writers wanted to discover a new milieu with a new tonality — the language and the accent is fresh. And that brings in a freshness and appeal to the film. Especially when you are making a film about a cause which is so real. These kinds of stuff usually add a lot of feel and vibe and that’s exciting. I loved the fact that they chose an accent and state which has not be showcased before. And it is getting tougher with every passing year because we have made films with so many accents that almost all states, languages and cultures have been represented. It is good to find something that is not represented yet.
• Compared to Padmaavat, Batti Gul is a far smaller film in terms of budget. How does the transition work for you?

• For me as an actor, the budget of a film has only to do with the subject of the film and the scaling. How the world looks and feel must be true to how it needs to come through. This film is scaled to make the world look real. I personally don’t feel those things make a difference. What matters is that the story should be told right. And the world of the film should be represented correctly. The scale of a film is not always the hero of a film. Sometimes the dialogues are the hero, sometimes it is the issue depicted. Sometimes it is a character and what he does that connects with the people. There are various ways in which you showcase a story.

• Batti Gul adds to the list of movies that are made on issues that we see in our day to day lives. Do you think issue-based films are the new “romance” in Bollywood?

• I think making films which are content-driven and telling stories about us is definitely something that people are enjoying. And I am happy about it. Because I feel that those stories have more to say. There is more to discover in those stories. They are not superficial or unrelatable. Those stories have something real and true to share and that is connecting with the larger audience today. I think the time of watching stupid entertainment is not over, but it is not the only thing that makes big movies. Today a film is big on the basis of its connect and not necessarily on a big budget.
• There was a time in the 50s and 60s when people were making films on issues that the society faced. May be electricity was not talked about then, but they had their own issues to highlight. Today Akshay takes up a Padman, you do Batti Gul… do you believe we are entering a phase where we are again talking about the society as a whole?

• I think we are paying writers a little more. So they are feeling inspired to go out there and spend more time researching. And we are opening our doors and our minds to making content that is not predictable and ‘safe’. People are open to taking risks.
• Are you open to taking risks?

• I am only taking risks…

• If your role in Batti Gul was to be real, would you like to be friends with him?

• No! he is too unpredictable. I would not make friends with somebody as radical as SK. He is all about himself.

• Finally, your character in Padmaavat was underplayed. Do you think people misunderstood the character because there were a lot of people who talked about you not having much to do in the film?

• Not really. I actually got a lot more love than I felt I would get after I watched the film. I got a lot of positive reaction while I was actually expecting lesser. I got a lot of messages and calls. The nicest thing that happened during Padmaavat is that people understood that my character was a massive underdog. And after doing so many years of work, you rarely get to be the underdog. I got a lot of support and love because I had the conviction to play that character. It was a difficult choice. Maybe not everybody but people who have a little bit of depth and sensitivity to them really felt it. It was a personal reaction that I got. It was not just about my performance, but my journey as an actor. And I felt very touched.