Exclusive: Face to Face with Taaha Shah!

Rashmi Daryanani , 14 May 2013
Taaha Shah
Taaha Shah

When he walked into our office for an interview, it was easy to see that Taaha Shah was perfect for the role of the aloof hottie, Arjun, in Gippi. I mean, to start of with, he is hot – you don’t even need me to tell you that – but he also confesses that he doesn’t believe in “friends,” and prefers not to have any expectations from people. We thought he was super in Gippi, and since you should’ve seen the film by now, let’s introduce you to the guy behind Arjun – he talks about everything, from breaking into Bollywood (with no connections!), to his thought process behind selecting a film, to whether or not the casting couch exists in the industry.

Team MissMalini (Team MM): Tell us about your character in Gippi.

Taaha Shah (TS): I play a character called Arjun, he’s a very reserved, very philosophical, aloof, carefree sort of a person. He’s supposed to be – as Sonam Nair puts it – someone on the lines of Salman Khan in his first film. Even the get-up, the costume is based on that. He’s a little older than everyone else, because he’s in 12th grade, but he failed a couple of times. Everybody looks up to him – not because he failed, but because he’s older, and everyone thinks he’s cool.

Team MM: Did it worry you to take a role in a female-oriented film?

TS: No, my first film Luv Ka The End was female-oriented as well. I think for an actor, especially a new-comer, his decisions are not only based on what kind of films, but also his image – where he’s being projected. Working with Yash Raj and Dharma has been a dream come true. And the character of Arjun in the film is so different than what I played initially, that I was like, okay. I’ve always looked up to Salman Khan, and when Sonam approached me and said you’re going to play the dream boy, it was very enticing. That’s why. I knew there was a very special social message that will be going out to the youth. I thought I’m a part of it and the message goes out from me – it was something even I faced when I was a youngster. I don’t think it’s about you being the lead, it’s about the role. If you can perform well in that role, people will appreciate you, and then there’s a long future out there.

Taaha Shah
Taaha Shah

Team MM: So since you play a teenager in Gippi, what are three things you wish you knew as a teenager that you know now?

TS: Um… never take failures as failures. Failure is just a feedback. Number two, don’t try to always fit into crowds. Try and make your own niche, and automatically the people who believe in you and support you will start falling in line. Number three… don’t rely on people. If you rely on or expect things from people, then you get hurt when it doesn’t get fulfilled. So don’t expect, always be willing to give, but don’t have a mindset of take.

Taaha Shah
Taaha Shah

Team MM: Since you had no connections in Bollywood, what was it that made you decide to become an actor?

TS: I always liked performing. Somewhere down there, I always had the small keeda to go out there and entertain people. But being an outsider, especially not from India, there was no way to achieve that. So I just strived to try and know things more. Acting wasn’t really a passion growing up, because I didn’t really know about it. But I did know that when my mother was young she was offered a role, but her mother said no because they had a very conservative family. So I guess it’s like a circle of life. So somehow when I said yes, she was very willing. She was like, “go, go, go, if you don’t go I’ll be upset with you. It’s your dream, we’re there to support you. Go ahead and achieve it.” I was very lucky to have a family like that.

Taaha Shah
Taaha Shah

Team MM: How difficult is it landing a role in Bollywood with no connections?

TS: It’s as difficult as you want it to be. It’s a way of looking at it. I’ll tell you, when I came over here, I asked actors who were studying with me in acting school what they were going to do after this, and they said they would become strugglers. I was like, that’s not the right word to use. I never said that. I said I’m gonna get a film. Like I said, it’s as difficult as you want it to be. It’s all about hard work, it’s all about understanding it and learning from not only your mistakes, but everyone else’s mistakes as well. Ask questions, be curious, and imbibe the answers in you.

Team MM: Are you still under a three-film contract with Yash Raj Films?

TS: Yes. It’s not an exclusive one, therefore I’m allowed to work outside. But when they do find a good role for me and they approach me, I’m definitely going to work with Yash Raj. They’re like my godfathers, they’ve given me a break. Without them, I don’t think I would’ve gotten my second film – or third film, or fourth film. I am forever in debt for giving me a debut, and I thank them for that.

Taaha Shah
Taaha Shah

Team MM: Now that you’re an actor, do your friends/family act differently?

TS: Not family. I never really stay in touch with my extended family… maybe a little bit here and there, but not close family, not at all. Friends… is a very dicey topic for me, because I’m a kind of guy who doesn’t believe in friends. I don’t believe in expectations. When I moved over here, I left everything behind. Now when I went back recently, people have changed… and they will change, it’s a good thing. Why not? But I still don’t have any expectations, and that’s the good part as well. You look at them as people, as individuals. My father always told me there’s no success like success – once you achieve it, everybody will be there. If you don’t, nobody will be there, whether you’re best friends or not.

Team MM: Did it ever bug you that you didn’t see overnight success with your first film?

TS: I don’t believe in overnight success. I believe in doing my work. I have never tried to become the best star. I believe that it’s important to do your work really well and be appreciated by the people you’re working with, because those people talk about you. If they talk about you, then you get another opportunity, and at the end of the day it’s always about the next opportunity. It’s all about what kind of a human being you are… if you are a good one, you’ll get good things, and if you’re dedicated and persistent, you’ll get it. It’s not about the success – success will come, if you do something you’re passionate about. And all I’m passionate about is acting more, now that I’m getting opportunities to do that and explore myself as an actor, as a human being. It’s a growth process, I guess. It’s going to take some time, but that’s alright, I guess.

Taaha Shah
Taaha Shah

Team MM: Any projects lined up that you can talk about?

TS: Nothing I can talk about. I do have a few projects in mind, which I’ve been approached for. But it’s key to make the proper decision. One wrong decision will push me back twenty steps, and that’s not something I can deal with at the moment. I’m very fresh, I have no connections, no godfather… so each decision that I make has to be very calculative. Each step and decision is very crucial. There are some things that I really want to do, but I’m waiting for Gippi to come out and see the feedback.

Taaha Shah
Taaha Shah

Team MM: So what do you look for when deciding on a movie?

TS: First of all, when I look at the script, I’m not supposed to put it down. I’ve done a couple of courses on screenwriting, so I add the basic knowledge of that with what kind of a personality I have. When you read a script, you have to understand whether you fit in – am I gonna see myself on screen? Do I want to go for this film, or do I not? At the end of the day, this bound book is the foundation of what’s going to be shown one year down the line. If I keep reading that book and I can’t put it down, then I want to do it. My second category would be the production house. I think it’s very important for any creative artiste to not only understand the creative aspect of it, but also the business aspect. If he’s not able to sell himself in the market, then you have nothing. So the basis is always the script, the production house, the director, and then finally me.

Taaha Shah
Taaha Shah

Team MM: So what made you say yes to Gippi?

TS: Dharma Productions. I’m not gonna say no to Dharma Productions. I enjoyed the script – like I said, the foundation is the script, and then Karan Johar on top of that which is a bang yes. Karan is such a person that he will only choose a person when he believes in their skills. He has launched so many people in the industry, and he believes in them. Why does he believe in them? That he knows. But he knows what he has to achieve, and what he needs to project in the market. He knows what he’s doing, and if he believes in Sonam Nair, I believe in Karan Johar, therefore I believe in Sonam Nair.

Rapid Fire

Team MM: The best part about Mumbai is…

TS: The people.

Team MM: Your favourite destination.

TS: Woah, I don’t know. I’ve not travelled too many places, but it would definitely have to be the US.

Team MM: One place you’d like to visit.

TS: Vatican City.

Team MM: Which Bollywood actress would you like to go on a date with?

TS: I think I’d like to go on a date with Priyanka Chopra.

Team MM: The best pick-up line you ever used.

TS: The best pick-up line? [pauses] I don’t know, I’m quite a direct person, I just go and ask them out.

Team MM: Have you ever faced the casting couch in Bollywood?

TS: Sometimes. It’s alright. It’s all part and parcel of the game.

Taaha Shah
Taaha Shah

Team MM: Where do you see yourself in the next five years?

TS: I see myself sharing screen space with Mr Bachchan.

Team MM: Other than him, one actor and actress you’d like to work with?

TS: Mr Aamir Khan and Ms Vidya Balan.

Team MM: The funnest part of shooting for Gippi was…

TS: We all became very close, and the fun incident for me was being with such young kids and seeing what it’s like nowadays with this generation. Just spending time with them and realizing that, oh man, they have grown up quick. The entire scenario was really funny because I was just quiet and watching these kids talk all the time. Some of them are so smart, and they’re like what, thirteen, fourteen years old? When I was twenty, I must have known what they know now.

Team MM: One reason everyone should watch Gippi.

TS: Because you can relate to it. It’s your past. Go and see yourself, go and start reminiscing. That’s what’s going to happen. You’re going to start thinking about your past, your childhood, your teenage life, your growing up stage, your first crush, your heartbreak, your parents, sibling rivalry, everything. You’re basically going to become nostalgic.

Pix: Amruta Khatavkar for MissMalini

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