After receiving critical acclaim and many an award for his role in Abhishek Chaubey’s Udta Punjab last year, Shahid Kapoor returns with Rangoon, a directorial venture of Vishal Bhardwaj with whom he has done two much-admired movies–Kaminey and Haider—in the past. In conversation with Prachi Pinglay-Plumber, Shahid talks about his new film, his association with Bhardwaj and sheer good luck to get great, content-driven films, from Haider to Padmavati, in the past three years.
Yet another film with Vishal Bhardwaj, Rangoon looks interesting. The terrain, the time.
Yes it’s a love triangle against the backdrop of war. I am very happy with the response to the trailer. It’s my third with Vishal sir and very different from the first two (Kaminey and Haider). Each of them is different from the other. As the title says, the story is largely set in Rangoon. For this, we shot in Arunchal Pradesh and parts of Assam and then we finished the rest in Mumbai studios.
How difficult was it?
Unbelievably tough. Very tough. It was not just about the terrain. I think everything put together, Rangoon was the most difficult working experience so far in terms of what it demanded.
More than Haider?
Yes. A lot of nights, it was sporadic shooting for me. Arunachal is not an easy place to shoot, although it’s extremely beautiful and the people are really nice. It was about the logistics and co-ordination. It was a lot.
How was the research? And the preparations…
Surprisingly, we don’t do that much research and prep. We work on it for a couple of weeks and we get into it. I feel, to truly discover something you have to leave something to discover. You need to have as much information as you need and then just go along and discover it. Otherwise it gets stale. You know, it’s like you need to be really hungry and then get a meal—then discover the joy of eating it.
You should be just waiting for the film to start. It shouldn’t be overdone. You shouldn’t feel that you have already done it. The journey actually starts when you get there. That’s when it comes alive.
Was it taxing?
The taxing and demanding part becomes irrelevant because you are so involved with whatever is being created. You don’t focus on that side because you are creating. You need to get up and do more every day. That becomes a loop. After you finish a film, there are huge levels of exhaustion. I fall terribly ill after I finish a film. For a week or so I am out.
Your last film, Udta Punjab, was extremely gritty. How was working with Abhishek Chaubey, compared to Vishal Bharadwaj?
That is probably the darkest film I have done yet. Abhishek is essentially mentored by Vishal sir. But they are very different. Abhishek is very new, extremely talented. Vishal sir is a legend. But working on Udta Punjab was great, very different, extremely edgy. It was a brave and a very relevant film. Tommy Singh is the worst guy I have played, I had the most fun playing him. It was extremely tiring, but I was loving the fact that I got the opportunity.
The jail scene was quite something.
We actually shot in a real jail there.
How much space does a period drama like Rangoon have? The detailed Bombay Velvet wasn’t received very warmly by people.
People are receptive to good films. They are not receptive to bad films. I think it is as simple as that. Rangoon is fresh content, simple. All three roles are fantastic. Kangana’s role is excellent.
Your gritty, dark films have done much better than the previous ones…
The sweet romantic films, what the first ten years of my career were all about. I can’t say I am ecstatic about them. There’s more to me than this, I said for ten years, but nobody believed me.
I don’t think films, which are weak on content, will be green lit anymore. The entire fraternity is feeling that. Everybody is a little careful, which is a good thing.
Is content the driving factor now?
I have been pretty lucky in last three years, there has been Haider, then Udta Punjab, now Rangoon and I’m also doing Sanjay Leela Bhansali’s Padmavati. All of which have great content. I think it will be like that now. I don’t think films, which are weak on content, will be green lit anymore. The entire fraternity is feeling that. That’s the energy. Nobody is in a hurry. Everybody is a little careful, which is a good thing. The audience has been pretty straightforward—“Don’t give me crap. I am not interested,” they say.
Do you still get offers for run of the mill stories?
The percentage always shifts. It’s more a process. Everything that you do is sending a message out. It’s communicating. People receive that and react to that. The work speaks for itself. If you want to do something different you have to say it, you have to show it.
I don’t think the audience listens to what we say, audience is not interested in what we say, they are interested in what we do. They are interested in what we say maybe when they run through Instagram or Twitter. They will give it 30 seconds of time…
Do you enjoy being on social media?
Yes. It’s a part of everyday life. Everyone is on their phone all the time. If you think you need a detox from something, it means it’s relevant.
Would you want to do a light-hearted, frothy film now?
What’s a frothy film? Does La La Land qualify? I don’t look back for references of the future. I don’t say yes or no to a genre based on its bad films. It’s about how you make a film. It’s the interpretation and representation of these genres, which define how people view them. It’s the filmmakers who are relevant, whatever genres they are making.
Which filmmaker would you like to work with? Would you like to do a musical?
I will be working with Mr Bhansali, but we will talk about it when the time comes. Yes, I am dying to do a musical. I would love to do a musical.