Even many years after Shahid Kapoor’s star dims or he starts playing dad roles, he will be remembered for the stirring and prescient monologue from Vishal Bhardwaj’s Haider (2014). “Hum hai ki hum nahin… hum the bhi, ki the he nahin”. Bang in the centre of Lal Chowk in Srinagar, he channels the rage of a generation of Kashmiris born under the shadow of militancy. He also channels the angst of future generations denied the existence of a state by the abrogation of Article 370.
Kapur’s career has been a study in the inconsistent life of an actor. Merely one of several who make a movie happen, actors still occupy front and centre of our imagination, embodying our hopes and aspirations, deepest dreams and darkest nightmares. Kapur’s body of work has the very best and the very worst of Bollywood.
In some movies such as Jab We Met (2007), he has been the perfect foil to the story of a young woman’s search for herself. In others such as Kabir Singh (2019) he has embodied a particular kind of toxic masculinity that believes stalking a woman is true romance. And in yet others such as Kaminey (2009) he has had truly showy opportunities to display his versatility.
At 39, he still looks youthful enough to pass off as a student in Kabir Singh, and sometimes tough enough to play a drug addicted rapper in Udta Punjab (2016).
He has not always made good choices, but when he has followed his gut instinct, he has usually done something substantial. Breaking into the industry via dance, and the boy nextdoor role in his debut film Ishq Vishk (2003), he has always been more than just his father, the excellent actor Pankaj Kapur’s son.
He has kept himself somewhat aloof from the media, choosing to focus his energies on a string of relationships with some very strong women, among them Kareena Kapoor and Priyanka Chopra. Now a householder with a proud homemaker wife, he has evolved into a fine actor. Now it’s just a question of what movies he chooses or which movies choose him.