Tiger Shroff is usually shy and distant but I was in for a surprise when he suddenly dropped his guard for me to discover that he was a big foodie. He is seen looking keenly at the pizza, samosa and dhokla spread. When someone frisks away the food items one by one, his eyes follow the food plates till the door. “I really get tempted. But I have to be conscious of my diet. I can’t control sometimes. The problem is that I am half naked half the time so I can’t eat these junk food,” he says, and hastily adds, “Listen, when I say half naked, I mean topless. I have really got screwed in the past so badly for not clarifying what I am saying,” he laughs. Tell him about his picture with a huge Gujarati thali kept in front of him that recently went viral, and he says, “That was all naatak ya, I was only posing.”
The go-to action star, who is currently gearing up for the sequel of Karan Johar’s campus caper Student Of The Year 2, is a bit nervous to take the franchise further, especially since the first instalment was a box office success. It was also a launch pad for three newcomers — Alia Bhatt, Varun Dhawan and Sidharth Malhotra — giving them a good landing in Bollywood. Secondly, his action flick Baaghi 2, that released last year, made him a worthy member of the prestigious Rs 100 crore club, raising the bar much higher for him. “Baaghi, in a way, is home ground for me whereas I am an outsider with Student Of The Year. I’m taking somebody else’s franchise forward and praying that it becomes a blockbuster so that the franchise can live on for future generations. Also, it’s Karan sir’s baby. So in that sense, there is more pressure and expectation,” says Tiger. But he is happy about the family support that he is getting and smiles thinking about his dad and veteran actor Jackie Shroff’s reaction to the trailer — “Bindaas, exam pass ho gaya tu!
However, Tiger considers Student Of The Year 2 to be a nice break for him before two “heavy” films, including the one with Hrithik Roshan under the Yash Raj Films (yet untitled) and then Baaghi 3. “Yes, this was a nice break for me,” he says. But how was it playing a student when his fans are so used to Tiger kicking butt? “Yes, I am getting my butt kicked for a change (laughs). Here, I am not a superman or the one-man army. But I do get to kick some butt in college and in sports. But it was fun because I have never had a college life. After school, I directly got Heropanti and my career started. Just imagine we haven’t gone to college and we have done this film. Even Ananya (Panday, co-star) has not been to college. Tara (Sutaria, co-star) is the only one who you can call padhi likhi (educated). But I got to experience a very different kind of college with Student Of The Year 2,” says Tiger. “I really wish I was in this college (laughs) where I am basically studying romance, how to woo girls, how to do action, and how to play sports,” he says, laughing heartily.
While some people might think that Tiger is getting stereotyped and that how long he can sustain with action and dance, the actor, in his five-year-old career, is pretty clear about the path he wants to take, his immediate goals, and how he can physically express differently each time as per the given emotional drive. “This is like my life, so whenever I am not shooting, I keep practicing, wanting to learn new things every now and then. For instance, kabaddi is one of the sports in the school for competition in Student Of The Year 2. So I practised a lot to get the body language of kabaddi but at the same time, I tried to keep my athletic ability in mind because I have a certain audience who likes seeing me do my ‘Tiger-ism’. I have mixed both and that is how I went about doing this film,” he explains.
When asked if he wants to break out of the action genre and try something different, he says, “I’m very blessed that I have an identity because of the little things that I can do. And just because I am doing action doesn’t mean there is no story or purpose behind it. It is not my show-reel. Otherwise I wouldn’t believe that Baaghi would have done Rs 165 crore at the box office. It wasn’t just me killing people. I have to play the hero with a purpose whether it’s saving the heroine, fighting for my country, or taking on the baddies. There has to be a motivation to everything that I do on screen. When I decided to become a hero, I looked up to Michael Jackson. I also admired Jackie Chan, Sylvester Stallone, Arnold Schwarzenegger and Bruce Lee. Why are these guys such larger than life celebrated heroes? They have one thing in common: they are all action heroes. Action is a universal language. Everybody wants to look up to someone, or be like someone.”
“When kids look at me and say, ‘Mujhe aap ki tarah banna hai, mujhe yeh seekhna hai (I want to be like you, I want to learn from you), it is the best feeling and I feel the same way about these action stars,” he says. “It is a responsibility and I am very lucky that I got lucky with kids. Today I was promoting the film on Super Dancer and kids as young as four to five years of age are so fond of me, and I don’t know what I have done to deserve that. I am very blessed that I have got their attention and appreciation,” Tiger adds. Tiger also feels that the fondness for him among kids gets extended to their parents. “Because of these children, their mom and dad have to like me. So for me, it is one plus four ticket at the box office. Probably that is why I got lucky with Baaghi and other films.”
Tiger has a Plan B ready because he knows he will reach a stage when he will face a burnout. He does admit of getting exhausted. “Yes, I do get exhausted but I want to use my youth right now to the full potential and when my legs start giving up, I will start changing my genre,” he says. Tiger accepts that he is handicapped without rehearsals. His Student Of The Year 2 director Punit Malhotra confirms that if the actor is not called just for one rehearsal, he would have an argument with him. “I have to rehearse because I am not an actor like Alia (Bhatt, who makes a cameo in Student Of The Year 2 with ‘Hookup Song’ with Tiger), so I need rehearsals. I don’t want to be unprepared with that dumb expression on my face while everybody knew what they were doing. I am handicapped without rehearsals,” he says, adding that he had a good time shooting with Alia. “Initially, I was a bit nervous because she is such a superb actor. I was worried about giving too many takes. But she is so hardworking and focused, and gives her 2,000 percent to each shot. So that inspired me to give my best. She might be saying that she was nervous matching steps with me, but all that is naatak,” says Tiger.
Talking about the competition with his two co-stars — Ananya Panday and Tara Sutaria — over who would grab more screen space, Tiger says, “Probably it (competition) was between the two actresses. I had nothing to do with it. But strangely, the two girls who were being launched in the same film were very friendly with each other and I would wonder how. If I was one of the girls, I would definitely feel insecure because it is my launch, will she shine more, or will I shine more, I would keep wondering throughout the shoot. I am that kind of a person. But they were very cool and got along very well with each other. Luckily, their characters are so contrasting so it wasn’t a problem,” says Tiger.
So, who are the actors he feels insecure about, and he immediately says, “Thank god, Hrithik Roshan wasn’t launched now or else nobody would have seen me.” Further, Tiger reveals that he and Hrithik are supposed to have a dance-off in the film they are collaborating on, which is yet to be shot. “I hope I survive. I’m 100 percent insecure in front of Hrithik.”
Finally, did the absence of ‘ex-students’ — Varun Dhawan and Sidharth Malhotra from Student Of The Year — make him happy? “Ya ya, thank god. Otherwise who would have seen me? Anyway, their fans must be upset that I am doing the film,” he signs off, laughing out loud.