Bollywood actor Shahid Kapoor has been gifted with an incurably cherubic face which made him a natural fit for those yuppie, romantic lover roles in syrupy musicals in Hindi cinema. But we all know that looks can be incredibly deceptive, points out Kapoor wickedly in a Zoom interview with Gulf News.
Apparently, it was the National Award-winning director Vishal Bharadwaj, who gutsily cast him as an evil twin in Kaminey: The Scoundrels. He played the good and evil twin with aplomb, but it was his roguish act that won more brownie points.
“The parts that are most remembered of mine are the ones which are out-of-the-box, unexpected, and not run-of-the-mill. Juxtapositions always works when you take somebody who’s got a soft face to do something edgy,” Kapoor told Gulf News. “He was the first one who said: ‘you may look sweet, but you have an evil side to you that’s waiting to be channeled’,” said Kapoor with a laugh.
But it wasn’t just iconic filmmaker Bharadwaj who saw that kind of dark potential in Kapoor.
The genesis of ‘Farzi’
Dynamic writer-director duo Raj Nidimoru and Krishna DK, collectively known as Raj & DK of The Family Man fame, are staunchly convinced that there is an audacious inner-kamina [scoundrel] in Kapoor that’s still waiting to be unleashed. “Shahid, from inside you do look like a kamina, and we get that,” said DK with a laugh.
Enter Farzi, their new collaboration, which sees Kapoor make his web series debut on Amazon Prime Video on February 10. The crime caper series, also starring stellar talents Vijay Sethupathi and Kay Kay Menon, chronicles the travails of a small-time painter (Kapoor) who starts off making fake Van Gogh classics on the streets to make a quick buck and then graduates to making counterfeit currency notes at his grandpa’s printing press that’s gone nearly bankrupt.
With the help of his best mate, played by a sprightly Bhuvan Arora, the duo embark on a rather dangerous game of con involving fake bills and money laundering with some evil and murky businessmen.
“Such unconventional roles have become unconventional for me,” said Kapoor. But he isn’t a terrible and morally bankrupt guy,” the director-duo Raj and DK add.
“In fact, Sunny is a very likeable guy who turns into a bad guy, then he’s a likeable guy, then a bad guys .... He’s very relatable because he’s any other guy on the street who is filled with angst and wants to make it in life, but nobody’s giving him a chance,” Raj said.
“He has observed in life that people respect you only when you have money,” he said.
Farzi chronicles the lives of a couple of desperate young hustlers caught in capital greed and ambition.
Their fading moral radar makes them the perfect anti-heroes, who aren’t obnoxious or vile.
“Every artist, who is struggling to make money and wants to gain respect from others, may let their ego kick in where they want to show that they can do. But it never descends into this comic stereotype,” Nidimoru said.
The show is also a searing portrait of Indians and their ability to hustle for a living, according to the directors.
A character portrait
“We’re good at hustle. We’re good at shortcuts. We are ahead of so many people in the world in that respect … But the show’s more layers. It’s not just greed for money. Greed is just the first step. We go way beyond that,” said Nidimoru.
Director Raj chimes in that the show is fuelled by the thought that sometimes good people do bad and crooked things. They are not glorifying crime, but are exploring the frailties in human emotions to do unsavoury things when they hit a desperate spot.
Raj & DK are one of the finest filmmakers and writers in Indian history. Their unconventional films such as the zombie comedy Go Goa Gone and the crime thriller Shor In The City placed them among directors to watch out for. Their series The Family Man, starring Manoj Bajpayee as an anti-terrorism squad leader, made them a force to reckon with. Within a few years, these two writers and directors became a covetable pair to associate with. A point that Kapoor readily admits. Kapoor remembers keenly asking if the duo if they were working on a web series instead of a film.
Understandably, Kapoor – who has played controversial unlikeable characters like the toxic boyfriend in Kabir Singh with an endearing honesty – curried favour with Raj & DK quickly.
Even before superstar Vijay Sethupathi and seasoned actor Kay Kay Menon were pencilled in, Kapoor was on board to spearhead his career’s first series. And the son of legendary actors Nilima Pathak and Pankaj Kapur was chuffed endlessly to play the complex antihero which is both funny and intense at the same time.
“Farzi is a show that’s quirky and very deep at the same time. The first season is profound without it being all preachy and that’s the brilliance of this show,” Kapoor said. “The way they develop their characters, the way they feel about the society around them, their commentary is always without being too preachy. This show also has so many layers to it.”
Apparently, this director-duo have a rather zany way of extracting work from their actors.
“When we are filming an intense scene, they are telling to you find that little fun in it. And in an funny scene, they want you go a bit intense. They always go for the other note … The fact that they are looking for other layers is why their stuff is super-watchable.”
True to Kapoor’s well-articulated deductions, Raj & DK’s The Family Man was a masterclass in how a script can unravel like how you peel an onion. Their casting for their films and shows are always spot-on, too.
So how did they manage to rope in bonafide actors like Sethupathi and Kay Kay Menon?
“We just had to put the ‘acting superstar’ who’s out there re-discovering himself in here. He was totally up for the role just after a zoom call. It just took him 15 minutes to say yes,” said DK.
With Kay Kay Menon, who’s extremely choosy about his work, serendipity helped this team. One of his projects that he had signed on during the Covid-19 pandemic was stalled giving Farzi a space to get in.
For Kapoor, however, this was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.
“I am not just obsessed with being a star. I want to perform, act, and be a part of good stories.”
His only gripe? The wait for Farzi’s release was interminably long.
“I wanted to do something on OTT and it was on my mind for almost a year and a half because I love being ahead of the curve. But man, it takes too long for these shows to release. When I was thinking of debuting on OTT, I don’t think any actor was considering it. I felt the platform was on the verge of exploding and finding itself. As an actor, I wanted to be a part of it and I am glad we are finally here,” said Kapoor.
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'Farzi' is out on Amazon Prime Video