6 films that shaped Shahid Kapoor's acting career — Birthday special

With Rangoon, the actor has arrived at the stage of his career where he is no longer a poster boy for the 'new Shah Rukh', but an actor of his own style. On his 36th birthday today (25 February), it is necessary to look at how Shahid Kapoor's transformation took place over time. 


Shriram Iyengar

With Rangoon (2017), Shahid Kapoor has finally reached the position in his career where he is confident of making his choices. A new father, Shahid has now well and truly established himself as one of the leading faces of Indian cinema in the post-Shah Rukh Khan generation. With Ranveer Singh, and Ranbir Kapoor, Shahid heads a new triumvirate set to take over the throne from the three Khans. However, this transformation was not always obvious from his debut in Ken Ghosh's Ishq Vishk (2003). 

Having made an impact with his dancing abilities, and later in a number of superhit music videos, Shahid finally made his debut with the teenage romance, Ishq Vishk. Starring alongside Ayesha Takia and Amrita Rao, Shahid played the millenial Archie trying to find his true love. Made on a budget of Rs5 crore, the film went on to make more than Rs10 crore in its lifetime. With a combination of catchy music, a good looking star cast and a charming storyline, it was the perfect launch for any new heartthrob.

The parental lineage of Pankaj Kapur and Neelima Azim has had an effect on Shahid. As he says himself, "Since a very early age I’ve been heavily influenced by my father — specifically acting being discussed, not just being a star." This influence is visible in his choice of films ever since. After making his debut, Shahid took up roles that varied in character and intensity. The obsessed lover in Fida (2004), the manipulated disciple in Shikhar (2005), the comic romance Chup Chup Ke (2006) were all signs of an actor searching for his forte. 

It was in 2006 that Shahid had his first big hit, Vivaah (2006). Being cast as a replacement for Barjatya staple, Salman Khan, in the role of Prem was a statement of intent. Playing the obedient, idealistic son of a rich household, Shahid brought to the film a certain sober romance that is beyond Salman. It also proved that Shahid could play a romantic lead. Made on a budget of Rs8 crore, the film more than tripled its revenue by earning Rs31 crore in its lifetime. It is no coincidence that Barjatya never managed another hit, even though they attempted the same storyline with the sequel, Ek Vivaah Aisa Bhi (2009) with Sonu Sood. They had to wait for Salman to take them to the peak again in Prem Ratan Dhan Paayo (2015).  

While this was a steady rise, the true breakthrough came in Imtiaz Ali's beautifully scripted Jab We Met (2007). Playing alongside then girlfriend Kareena Kapoor, Shahid brought out a nuanced performance as the quiet, introverted, suicidal Aditya who undergoes transformation by love. While Kareena stole the scenes with her performance as the loud, mercurial Geet, Shahid's Aditya provided the subtextual layer on which the film stood. In fact, the two stars broke up while the film was in its final shooting schedule. This adds another perspective to the almost poignant performance of Shahid in the film. The film won him his first nomination in Filmfare for the category of best actor. Sadly, he lost out to Shah Rukh Khan in Chak De! India (2007). 

It was just after Jab We Met that Shahid signed on for the man he calls 'my Scorcese'. Vishal Bhardwaj's Kaminey (2009) was the moment Shahid transformed from boy-next-door to man. The noirish pulp fiction thriller was a throwback to the masala entertainers of the 70s, but with a Vijay Anand twist. Playing twins with speech defects, Shahid thrilled and charmed in equal measure. His ability to transform from the docile Guddu to the vicious, manipulative Charlie remains one of his most enchanting performances. With scene stealers like Chandan Roy Sanyal and Priyanka Chopra at her best, it was a commendable performance from Shahid. In a recent interview, he said, "Just to play a character, to play a new silhouette, to surprise the audience, to do something different and to be bold and brave and fearless of all the trappings that come with the want to be a hero. So, he brought that out from me in Kaminey..."

Kaminey marks a watershed moment in Shahid's career. Since then, the actor has frequently chosen roles that have pushed the boundaries of his own talent. Most of the times, it did not work. Films like Chance Pe Dance (2010), Badmaash Company (2010), Teri Meri Kahaani (2012) and Phata Poster Nikla Hero (2013) were sad attempts at commercial success that failed. 

It was with Bhardwaj's Haider (2013) that Shahid attempted the dream role for every actor, Hamlet. As he describes it, "Playing Hamlet is something that’s extremely exciting and at the same time, it’s a little scary. It’s a big ask from any actor, and every actor has said that, from the greatest actors who have performed it." He played it with aplomb. Despite the presence of vintage talent like Tabu, Irrfan Khan and Kay Kay Menon in the film, Shahid managed to make an impact as the rebellious, crazy and obsessed Hamlet. His methodical obsession into getting the character's appearance right (shaving his hair off, growing a beard) only added to the depth of the character. The performance won him his first Filmfare Award for best actor.

Since Haider, the actor in Shahid has been on a roll. With Udta Punjab (2015), he took his method fetish to a new level. For the vegetarian, teetotaller to play a drug crazed rockstar in Abhishek Chaubey's film was a test. It was Shahid's own 'Fear and Loathing-Hunter Thompson' moment. Surprisingly, the film did not make a commercial impact, but it won him the Filmfare Critics' Award. 

Now, with Rangoon, and later Padmavati, Shahid has grown confident enough to share screen space. Both films, set in the past, are large in scale, design, and have talented actors competing for screen space. While Ranveer Singh and Deepika Padukone join him on Sanjay Leela Bhansali, he shares screen space with two National award winners, Saif Ali Khan and Kangana Ranaut in Rangoon.  In a recent interview, he mentioned that he is not bothered by the competition. He said, "A star will get the importance and the focus that they would on the basis of their stardom, right? What is there to be insecure about?" 

At 36, there is nothing Shahid fears on screen. Not anymore.