Shahid Kapoor: How This Movie Became a Game-Changer For the Actor

Shahid Kapoor: How This Movie Became a Game-Changer For the Actor

Shahid Kapoor is known for his versatility. He is an artist who wants to do challenging roles. He wants to keep pushing his boundaries by playing unusual and rather difficult characters. 

In 2016, he stepped out of his comfort zone completely and made the fictional believable and organic. He poured every drop of authenticity into the character that today nobody else can be imagined in. Yes, I am talking about Tommy Singh from Udta Punjab.

Tommy Singh is a musician - rockstar- who suffers from severe substance addiction. Through the film, he goes on a journey of self-realization when he understands the catastrophe of drug abuse.

When the exemplary actor was offered the role, he felt worried and excited at the same time. While on one hand, the role was extremely exciting and commercial because it seemed entertaining and exhibitionist in nature. It was fine-tuned with the depth and layers that are gratifying for a performer. Tommy Singh was loud and reckless but also had quieter and subtle nuances. Thus, being a meaty portrayal.

The actor took no time on agreeing to do the part because it was so unique. However, in retrospect, he was filled with apprehension.  The genuine concern came from the realization that he had a setback in terms of artistic tools. He didn't know how it felt to be intoxicated and high in any form.

While he did find it challenging, he held onto the role using it as fuel to outdo himself in the performance. He decided to use the challenge as an acceleration. He said to himself "karte hai yaar zyada se zyada log kya bolenge ki tujhe nahi karna chahiye tha" 

Translation: Let's do it, man. What is the worst that will happen? People will say you shouldn't have done the role.

The role of Tommy Singh was extremely challenging to play, both mentally and physically. Mentally Shahid Kapoor had to reach the level of an intoxicated person without taking the aid of any substance. However, he cracked that by understanding that it's a state of mind. Yet, he has admitted that he used to be very nervous before every shot.

Physically, he had to transform into a person who has a great persona thus having an amazingly muscular body yet looking depleted because he consumes drugs on a regular basis and high quantities of it. Therefore, Shahid used to consume only 20℅ of his daily food requirement and train for three hours to achieve the look.

Thus, the filming process took a heavy toll on him. He lost a lot of weight and fell ill halfway through the limited 31-32 days schedule. Fortunately, this worked well for the film because he looked perfect for the character.

Shahid Kapoor revealed that the most memorable moment for him was when they were shooting the last shot on a road very close to the airport. He could see the plane that was supposed to fly him out ready when he finished his last shot which was the most relieving moment for him.

In the initial stages of collaborating on the film, Shahid was really engaged in the process of deciding Tommy Singh's look. He believed that Tommy wasn't a real person. He belonged to a different universe, the one that existed in Tommy's head. To be able to provide a glimpse of that universe to the audience, it had to be extended to the look.

When Shahid had first suggested his thoughts on Tommy's look with director Abhishek Chaubey, the latter was highly concerned. He thought that Shahid had lost the sense of the plot and would turn his very realistic film into a celebratory funky film. Later, after creative deliberations and experimentations, the look fell into place.

Shahid Kapoor: How This Movie Became a Game-Changer For the Actor
Shahid Kapoor as Tommy Singh. (Credits: Indian Express)

The hairstyle was curated to extend the exhibitionist personality of the character. The hair had to look bizarre, dark, edgy, cool, and exciting all at the same time. Aalim Hakim deserves appreciation for styling that hairdo.

The body donned 14 tattoos with each having its own story. For example, there is a number printed onto the body in case he was found passed out somewhere. There are tattoos of wings with "born to fly" written below it on his back and a crown with the word "king" written on his chest to exemplify Tommy's free-spirited and "I am royalty" personality.

Apart from the look, Shahid spent a lot of time with the film's music director Amit Trivedi. He wanted to be a part of the process because he envisioned the music and the character to have the same tonality and soul. Shahid has said in public forums that he likes the song “Chitta Ve” a lot because he believes that song hit the same mark as the character of Tommy Singh.

While talking about audience reaction to the promo of the film, Shahid said that he was happy that people bought into the fact that he is playing a drug addict despite never having been high. When he spoke about reactions, he revealed how Mira Rajput, his wife, reacted to Tommy Singh.

When she saw his film, she saw it before the final cut in the editing room. When the film started, Mira was sitting next to Shahid but by the interval, she was sitting a foot away from him. She was shocked and slightly scared about the kind of man she had just got married to. However, about a month later, Mira told Shahid that there was no similarity between him and Tommy Singh which he takes as a huge compliment. It is indeed impeccable that he was able to play that role so flawlessly despite not being able to relate to the individuality of Tommy Singh.

Shahid has called it his toughest and most shocking character. But he takes pride in the fact that Tommy Singh isn't derived from a real personality. Tommy Singh is an authentic person who happens to be a Punjabi rock star. While Shahid might have been inspired to include finer details of various people, the character isn't a caricature of any existing personality. How he puts it is "everyone might have met a guy like Tommy but they definitely haven't met him".

These are Shahid's words describing Tommy Singh, "Tommy Singh'[4] s character is about self-realization. He is a rockstar who consumes cocaine on a regular basis in problematic amounts and writes songs about drug consumption. He feels like the king of the world living such a fast life where he is constantly high. Until he realizes that the musician in him has been killed by the addict in him. There is no essence of honesty, innocence, soulfulness left in him. All that there is, is substance. So, it was necessary to show the obnoxious behavior to show his transition and period of self-realization."

Shahid has reflected and stated that the film worried him about his younger siblings and his then-to-be-born child. The film nudged him to look closely into the drug addiction problem and the lack of awareness among the youth regarding the consequences of substance abuse. Therefore, it eventually connected him to a bigger cause beyond the capacity of an actor performing an interesting character.

Therefore, Tommy Singh has been a monumental role in Shahid Kapoor's acting trajectory. It shook his career and re-established him as an impactful and highly talented actor capable of going beyond the boundaries.

Author Biographical Note: Vanshika Lakhani is pursuing her degree in Mass Communications and Journalism from Jai Hind College. She is also an alumnus of St. Xavier’s College from where she studied Arts. She reviews films, web-shows, books, and music. Her reviews have also been published on other portals like Film Companion and Café Dissensus Everyday. She is a huge content enthusiast and enjoys talking to people who tell her about new content to consume. Now she is associated with Explore Screen: The Cognitive Dialogue as an intern.

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