Ahan Shetty and Tara Sutaria in 'Tadap'
Ahan Shetty and Tara Sutaria in 'Tadap' Image Credit: Supplied

Bollywood is in no mood to sever its ties with bloody, toxic love stories, so much so that actor Suniel Shetty’s son Ahan Shetty has cherry-picked a violent tale like ‘Tadap’ to mark his acting debut.

Yet, there’s more to this film than a pair of desperate lovers who suffocate each other with their collective desire and affection, or so claim the lead pair ahead of their film’s release on December 2 in UAE cinemas.

Tadap
Tadap Image Credit: Instagram/Tadap

‘Tadap’s’ trailer — disturbing on several levels — starts with a pair of passionate young lovers finding each other and ends with a blood-soaked, enraged Shetty’s face throttling his partner Ramisa, played by a gorgeous Tara Sutaria, against a wall.

The words ‘raging love story’ pops up in between these clips, prompting us to wonder whether the hero badly needs anger-management classes rather than an adoring girlfriend.

“I promise you that there’s a valid reason behind that scene and you will see that plot twist in the second half. There’s a lot of intensity in this wonderful and unique love story,” said Sutaria in a Zoom call with Gulf News.

Shetty, 25, agrees with his co-star and admits that ‘Tadap’, the re-make of the Telugu film ‘RX100’ by director Milan Luthria, is likely to polarise viewers. The Telugu version focussed on a hyper-masculine village boy who goes rogue when his girlfriend isn’t in his life anymore.

“I can’t tell you why I am so angry in this film, but I can tell you that it’s going to be a roller-coaster of emotions. You will come out of the film shaken and there will be this divide where viewers will struggle to call my character a hero or a villain. There will be a guaranteed divide,” said Shetty.

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Tara Sutaria and newcomer Ahan Shetty in 'Tadap', directed by Milan Luthria

Such films in the past hasn’t gone down too well with critics or a large section of viewers who have rejected the idea of toxic relationships being bottled and sold as ultimate romances.

But irrespective of how this bloody love story will be received, it has been a tortuous wait for these actors to finally see their film reach theatres.

Shetty and Sutaria, who began filming in 2019, had completed 80 per cent of the film when the global pandemic hit and scuttled their plans for a glorious release last year.

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Tara Sutaria (left) and Ahan Shetty Image Credit: Supplied

“It’s been such a long journey and wait. It was a two and a half years of patiently waiting. I was very anxious,” said Shetty, who speaks hesitantly and isn’t as media savvy as the usual talents who have been groomed to be in the spotlight.

Sutaria has a more well-rounded response when asked about her film lying in the freezer for over a year. Bollywood entered a dark phase with releases being held back as the COVID-19 contagion spread in India and led to the shutting down of cinemas. Only last month did theatres re-open with films such as ‘Sooryavanshi’ and ‘Bunty Aur Babli 2’ testing the waters again with cinematic releases.

The cast of 'Bunty Aur Babli 2' comprising Saif Ali Khan, Rani Mukherji, Siddhant Chaturvedi and Sharvari Wagh
The cast of 'Bunty Aur Babli 2' comprising Saif Ali Khan, Rani Mukherji, Siddhant Chaturvedi and Sharvari Wagh Image Credit: Yash Raj Films

“But to feel sorry for ourselves would have been really selfish on our parts. There was a huge amount of loss and upheaval in so many lives … So I consider it a huge blessing that this film, where we have put so much of love and attention, is releasing so soon after the cinemas in India re-opened,” pointed out Sutaria.

Their combined acting experience in Bollywood isn’t long and they just have three movie releases in total under their designer belts. Of the two young actors, Sutaria is relatively more experienced having made her acting debut with the glossy campus drama ‘Student Of The Year 2’ (2019) and is often described as top movie mogul Karan Johar’s discovery.

Tara Sutaria, Bollywood's newest star
Tara Sutaria

The former Disney darling, now 26, is a trained professional singer and a ballet dancer. The former child star was a VJ on Disney channel’s ‘Big Bada Boom’ and featured in ‘Oye Jassie’ (Indian adaptation of American sitcom ‘Jessie’) and ‘The Suite Life of Karan & Kabir’ (Indian version of ‘The Suite Life of Zack and Cody’).

But acting in a Bollywood film is a different ballgame altogether than being a child artiste, observes Sutaria.

“Film acting is more specific and it’s a tricky, demanding job … Being an actor has made me self-aware and it forces you to use your brains. Just remembering your lines, and thinking of a hundred other things or looking pretty with make-up on isn’t the only boxes to tick as an actor … But acting has superseded my expectations,” said Sutaria.

Initially, the actress claims she was sensitive to remarks that came her way and used to take everything personally, but she has now has learned to make those weaknesses her strengths.

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Tara Sutaria, Tiger Shroff, and Ahana Panday in 'Student Of The Year 2'

For Ahan Shetty, the struggles were of a different nature. He was born to an acting family with his father Suniel Shetty and sister Athiya Shetty being resident actors, but the newbie claims that he never sought career advice from them. He seems to enjoy a slightly different father-son dynamic.

“My father has not given me any advice but he has taught me to do whatever I want to do. He lets me make my own mistakes and allows me to learn from them. But the one advice that has stuck with me is: ‘if you are not known as a good actor, then be known as a good human being’ and I want to stick by that,” said the younger Shetty.

While his father Suniel and sister Athiya have checkered acting careers in Bollywood with hits and misses, their goodwill among their peers is legendary.

Suniel Shetty
Ahan Shetty's father and actor Suniel Shetty Image Credit: Supplied

Shetty, on the other hand, has yet to build himself a career in Bollywood and describes himself as a “shy and introverted” man who tends to “keep a lot of emotions within myself.”

While he may maintain a low profile compared to his famous family, there’s no ignoring the elephant in the room — doesn’t his Bollywood debut reek of privilege and nepotism?

For those in the dark, the Indian film industry — specifically Bollywood — has been marred after a telling pattern of hiring star kids emerged highlighting its hostility to outside talents with no industry connections. But Shetty claims that star kids also need the audiences’ support.

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“I feel star kids have access to meeting directors, but at the same time in this age and time, unless you are talented no director or producer will want to make a film because you are someone’s son. The audience decides whether you make it or not,” said Shetty.

The new face claims that he’s in acting for the love of the craft and nothing else. But he admits that his father being an actor may have influenced him “subconsciously” to lean towards the world of films.

“Acting to me was therapeutic and I am grateful and thankful every day for joining this film industry,” said Shetty.

His co-star backs him entirely.

“I didn’t know about his journey when I signed on this film, but in the last two and a half years we have learned a lot about each other. He’s extremely focused. He’s shy and vulnerable, but he’s tough as nails on sets. He worked very hard at his Hindi diction to sound the part … And to be fearless on a bike when you have not ridden before is not easy,” said Sutaria.

‘Tadap’ is most definitely Shetty’s proverbial launch vehicle, so what’s in it for Sutaria who was hired after Shetty was signed? Most violent Bollywood love stories such as ‘Kabir Singh’ starring Shahid Kapoor and ‘Darr’ led by Shah Rukh Khan as a serial stalker were notorious for giving their on-screen women very little agency when compared to their male co-stars. Will ‘Tadap’ be any different?

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“Trust me, there’s so much as a woman that you can explore in my role as Ramisa … ‘Tadap’ is a violent love story but there are so many million different shades to Ramisa. She’s an extremely strong woman. Young love stories in Bollywood don’t usually do that with their women but this film explores various shades of my character,” said Sutaria.

While there is no denying that this pair of on-screen lovers are not a healthy portrait of a wholesome relationship, the two actors who may make ‘Gone Girl’ makers look meek are confident that ‘Tadap’ will stick and endure.

“It’s a turbulent, crazy, wild, murky love story that you will all love,” said the pair.

Don’t Miss it!

‘Tadap’ is out in the UAE cinemas on December 2

Did you know?
As soon as the trailer of ‘Tadap’, co-produced by Sajid Nadiadwala, was released, it has been compared to Shahid Kapoor’s toxic love story ‘Kabir Singh’. But the makers are intent on divorcing themselves from the comparison. Proof? The video transcripts of the interview sent to Gulf News had expunged references to ‘Kabir Singh’ and the edited transcript was sanitised to suit protocol. But reference or no reference, don’t beat yourself in the head like the hero if you are reminded of ‘Kabir Singh’ when watching the trailer of ‘Tadap’. It’s all in the name of entertainment.