Underrated Yet Relentless: Shahid Kapoor is a Wondrous Oddity.

Author:  Kanishk Yadav.


A look at Shahid Kapoor’s last five onscreen outings.

Padmaavat. Rangoon. Udta Punjab. Shaandaar. Haider

He pulls off a finely calibrated performance as the restrained Maharawal Ratan Singh inPadmaavat and is doggedly convincing as the tattooed, gun-toting perennially drugged and delirious rockstar in Udta Punjab. He is surprisingly straightforward in Rangoon and makes you marvel at his rambunctiousness in Haider. As for Shaandaar, we are all allowed our share of mistakes.

In being a part of one ambitious project after other, Shahid has cemented his position as one of the most bankable actors in the industry currently. But the sparks of brilliance were visible since the beginning.
conventional chocolate boy, making a conveniently safe debut as Rajiv Mathur in Ken Ghosh’s romantic comedy Ishq Vishk. His chiseled body, solid screen presence and incredible dance moves landed him all the major debut awards next year.

But as we found out, there was more to Shahid than his irresistible good looks. But alas! It took a slew of duds and several shaky performances before Jab We Met salvaged Shahid Kapoor. In between, there was Vivah which ushered us into the rose-tainted universe of Sooraj Barjatya, but as the sophisticated Prem, Shahid was hardly more than a charming presence. That notwithstanding, Vivah will go down as a crucial film in Shahid’s career, the one that kept him cinematically relevant.

It was Jab We Met in 2007 that gave his career a new lease of life, for here was a pulsating love story that almost instantly struck a chord with the cine-goers. The film, which became the template for a new age romance, wasn’t woven around a novel concept but a done-to-death opposites-attract kind of romance. But it was an exercise in effortless storytelling. The unparalleled quirk of the filmmaker coupled with uniformly excellent performances by the cast weaved magic on the screen.
Just when he dazed us into believing that the mushy love story is where he belongs, Shahid broke the mold by attempting Vishal Bhardwaj’s deliciously darkKaminey. He flits between Charlie (who lisps) and Guddu (who stammers) with astonishing ease. In fact, this edgy, gritty film is where Shahid not only undergoes a grueling physical transformation but also matures as an actor – a welcome maturity which gets foisted on his persona and reflects even in his romantic films later.

Bhardwaj needs to be duly credited for Shahid Kapoor’s reincarnation just as he helped us see Saif in a new light through Omkara.

Kaminey followed a flaky phase. The jury was out on Shahid’s career. We, of course, love to react a bit too much too soon. But amidst the cacophony of noise, Vishal Bhardwaj happened, again.

This time Bhardwaj transports you to the devastatingly beautiful landscape of Kashmir in Haider, and gives you a character who grabs you by the collar and leads you from scene to scene. In a convoluted saga of death and deceit, you have a hero who is fighting the demons of his past, which wreak havoc on his present and make uncertain his future.
Shahid sinks his teeth into the meaty character with untethered sincerity. You let out a sigh when Haider lets loose a barrage of conflicting emotions. I was possessed by his maniacal immediacy in the hauntingly breathtakingBismil. Even after the song ends, the madness lingers on…

It, perhaps, finds a befitting expression in Abhishek Chaubey’s Udta Punjab. The story catapults you into a world deluged with drugs with a self-absorbed Tommy Singh (played by Shahid Kapoor) at the heart of the mayhem. He is a fractured soul inhabiting a fractured universe. The surface is gleaming but an emptiness gnaws inside and it is this emptiness that crawls on you as you see a tormented Tommy tripping around. Though the film boasted of some brilliant performances, it was Tommy’s maddening frenzy that stood out.
He followed Udta Punjab with Rangoon, his third collaboration with Vishal Bhardwaj. Shahid Kapoor is electrifying as Nawab Malik – nothing over the top, just a restrained fierceness. That is also because perhaps Bhardwaj gives him the most fleshed out character. Rangoon tanked but I couldn’t help but marvel at the ambitious audacity of the project where every frame is breathtaking.

In Padmaavat, Shahid rises above the role apportioned to him and is in fact, a calm restraint to Ranveer’s overzealousness.
In the words of Baradwaj Rangan, “pop culture doesn’t always welcome the deserving and the worthy but sometimes the sideshow carnivals that make modern life such an entertaining merry-go-round.” That’s true of every actor’s work and some very heartfelt projects, sometimes, fall through the cracks. Shahid is no exception to this with Mausam and Rangoon – two of his most ambitious projects – failing to set the box office ringing.

In Mausam, Pankaj Kapur creates an unforgettable love story, throwing every color of passion there is, weaving a wondrous tapestry. Even the songs are wedged beautifully in the narrative with the likes ofPoore Se Zara Sa Kam Haiand Ik Tu Hi Tu Hi staying with you much beyond the end credits. The lovers (played by Shahid Kapoor and Sonam Kapoor) pine for each other and their agony pierces your soul. I rooted for them to be together – despite some of the film’s meaningless meandering – not because we are conditioned to do so but because the throes of passion tugged at my heartstrings. Damned, by the machinations of the brain!

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