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"Being typecast has given me an identity"

Tiger Shroff has established himself as the quintessential action hero of our time but with Student Of The Year 2, he walks a new path. In conversation with Titas Chowdhury, Shroff talks about feeling the weight of living up to the first instalment, the turning point in his career and more

You started your career in 2014 with Heropanti. Are you happy with the way the last five years have panned out for you?

Oh yes! I am very happy. I feel extremely blessed that I received acceptance with my first film itself. I have seen ups and downs. And then, I saw a very big up recently with Baaghi 2. So I think I have been all over the place in terms of the graph of success. Right now, I am in a very good phase in my professional life. I have no complaints. I am very happy with what has happened in the last five years and with the way my career is shaping up.

We have seen you in high-octane, actions films. Student Of The Year 2 (SOTY2) is quite a departure for you.

Yes, you are right. It is an altogether different world for me. I feel like an alien in this world. But it was so much fun shooting for this film. It was such a breeze.  It is a light-hearted, fun film. And that is all we have to offer the audience. We want them to come, get entertained and have a good time.

And what prompted you to take this detour?

It was not like I wanted to do something I had not done before. It was just the fact that I wanted to cater to my audience, which is primarily the youth and kids. I thought it was the perfect chance to reach out to them.

Speaking of your audience and fans, do you think social media has helped you connect with them?

Yeah. The youth is on social media. But we have to be aware that social media is not even 1 per cent of India. India is massive. With the kind of films that I do, I want to reach out to our heartland. My films do not only serve niche audiences in a particular part of the country. I want to reach out to the whole of India.

Does social media put any kind of pressure on you, considering it is part and parcel of being a star in today’s times?

Well, it is both pressure and a strength. There are both, pros and cons. You are obviously sharing your life with a lot of people out there on social media, so you have to be careful. You cannot be sensitive about everything that you read and see.

What was it like working with two newcomers? Did it take you back to 2014?

It did not take me back to the time when I started out because Ananya (Panday) and Tara (Sutaria) did not seem like newcomers. When I started out, I was very raw. These two are on the ball, well-prepared and confident. They, along with Punit, call me a ‘diva’ and a ‘bully’ but that is completely false. In fact, I was the one being bullied! Not once did I throw my weight around or boast about my stardom. (Laughs)

You, Tara and Ananya share a great camaraderie as is evident from the trailer, the songs and the promotional events. Tell us something about your on-set dynamic.

Tara, Ananya and I are very comfortable with each another. We had a great dynamic on the set and this has translated onto the big screen. That is why it feels organic and natural whenever we are performing with each other.

Earlier, there was a script written for SOTY2 that had no dancing or action sequences. Then they rewrote the script because those elements are your forte. How do you feel when scripts are written with you in mind?

It felt so good, yaar! I mean, people are tailoring films for me. It makes me feel like I have definitely made it, somehow. People see the potential in my audience. When they write something keeping me in mind, they are catering to my audience as well. I think that reflects positivity.

Your director, Punit Malhotra, told us that despite being a born star, you are very humble. In an industry like this, where people are prone to being swayed by success and attention, how do you manage to stay level-headed?

I guess my father helps me stay grounded. He has not changed through all these years. His background and where he comes from has helped us stay humble. He has given me a great childhood. In fact, both he and my mother have helped me stay level-headed. I do not take anything for granted. And my goal in life is to give them the best life possible. (Smiles)

At the song launch of Mumbai Dilli di kudiyaan, Punit said that SOTY2 is based on sports and sports is something that should be promoted more through our films. What is your take on that?

I absolutely agree with him. Since we live in a tech-savvy world, it is even more important to get off our chairs and our phones. The sedentary life that we lead today is not the best thing for the human body. It is important to take part in some sort of activity, whether it is dance or sport.

After doing so many action films, do you worry about being typecast?

I have already been typecast. And I love that it has given me an identity. There is so much competition today. How does one stand out? Whenever people hear the name ‘Tiger Shroff’, the first thing that pops into their minds is ‘action hero’. Akshay Kumar is known as ‘Khiladi’, Hrithik Roshan is known as the ‘God of Dance’ and Shah Rukh (Khan) sir is referred to as the ‘King of Romance’. All these megastars have an identity. The fact, that people have already given me an identity in my short career means that I must have made some sort of an impact and I have touched some people in some way.

Do you plan to break the mould if an opportunity presents itself?

That is what I am trying to do with SOTY2. I am not playing a one-man army. I am not playing a superman. You will see me bleed and cry when people bully me. I am the underdog in this film, where I am fighting a battle to come back. I am praying that it works.

Tiger, which was that one moment when you felt you had arrived?

(Pauses) Baaghi. It was not like Baaghi was my first hit. Heropanti was also a hit. It is just that people started taking notice of me after Baaghi. It is not like it went into my head. I wanted to work harder to believe that there was more to myself. With Baaghi, I got to explore my potential. It opened to `12 crore, which is huge for a newcomer. Sajid (Nadiadwala) sir and a lot of other people who have been in the business said it was unheard of for a newcomer to clock these numbers.

Will we get to see you sharing screen space with your father, Jackie Shroff, any time soon?

Yes, if we get the right script.

A lot of your contemporaries are foraying into the digital space. Will we see you doing that?

No, I am not open to that. I want to do large-scale cinema and heroic films; the kind of films I grew up watching. I want to play larger-than life heroes.

As you mentioned, Baaghi 2 was a huge success at the box office. Do you feel pressured every time a film of yours releases?

Always! I realised that with Baaghi 2. I did not have any expectation from the box office at that point in my life. After earning `25 crore on day one, and a lifetime collection of Rs 165 crore, I realised that people around me had suddenly changed. I started getting a lot of respect from them. It felt great. They were showering adulation and appreciation on me. While I was shooting for SOTY2 in Dehradun, there were thousands of people who had gathered there shouting, ‘Ronnie! Ronnie!’

That must have been such a high.

Oh God, I cannot explain what I was feeling! I could not control my tears. When I was alone, I was crying and thanking God for giving this to me. I cannot tell you how much effort I put into my work and when it comes back like that, it feels surreal. It was a beautiful feeling. (Smiles)

What about SOTY2? Do you feel the weight of living up to the first part of the franchise?

Definitely! SOTY was a hit. It is a huge franchise now. There is the pressure of making fans of Varun (Dhawan), Sidharth (Malhotra) and Alia (Bhatt) content and carrying the legacy forward.

What is next for you?

I am doing a film with Hrithik Roshan. It will release in October. After that, I start Baaghi 3.

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