'My Father is My Best Friend': Vivaan Shah
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'My Father is My Best Friend': Vivaan Shah

Baby-faced Vivaan Shah has that special something that makes him a true star

Strong-headed and opinionated, Vivaan is like a breath of fresh air. It seems as if a new contender in the list of superstar actors has finally arrived! The fact that Farah Khan and Shah Rukh Khan cherry picked him to play a pivotal role in Happy New Year speaks volumes about his potential. What makes him even more unique is the fact that he has an incredible legacy to live up to – that of being acting powerhouse Naseeruddin Shah's son. Will he cope with the pressure?

People have high expectations of you as you are the son of Naseeruddin Shah and Ratna Pathak-Shah. What are your thoughts on this?
Well, you could either feel pressurised by it or you could be motivated by it. There is pressure but it also serves as a huge motivation to make my parents proud of me.

What was working with Shah Rukh Khan like?
Shah Rukh Khan is like a teacher on the set. He is involved in every aspect of filmmaking and is also extremely hard-working. You have to watch him on set to know what I am talking about. Working with him has been a life-changing experience because we have all grown up watching Shah Rukh Khan films. As an actor, he is embedded in the psyche of every Indian cinemagoer. I am a huge fan of his and to see how he actually works and practices his craft was...(pauses)...like a dream come true for me.

What about your other co-stars? Whom did you enjoy working with most?
I enjoyed working with everybody. We've really become like a team despite being so different in our own ways. More than being an ensemble film, this is like a caper movie in the realm of The Dirty Dozen,The Magnificent Seven and The Wild Bunch. What's so interesting about them is the team they make. The genre is not new. If you see any of our favourite movies in the history of cinema, they always have this bunch of people, all kinds of colourful characters, going together on a mission. That's what makes it so interesting.

What does your father have to say about your debut?
My dad keeps saying, 'I don't understand anything about commercial cinema and I am really happy that he is in the hands of Shah Rukh and Farah (Khan) who are the best people to teach him about it.' But, having said that, I think he is wrong in saying that he does not know about commercial cinema. I think a lot has been made about him being an art house actor, but people don't seem to realise that when he did commercial cinema work, he was a rock star. He did it as well or even better than probably the best in the business.
I think he is an all-rounder and good at everything he does be it art house or commercial cinema. And that is my aim in life – to be good at all kinds of cinema.

Did you enjoy participating in all the dancing in Happy New Year?
Absolutely, it was beautiful. I think dancing is an expression of joy and love and I think everyone should do it. It should not be limited to commercial Bollywood cinema alone. I think every actor should dance. It's a very important part of being an actor. My parents always say that you have to know how to dance, that's how you get an expressive body.

You have expressed an interest in directing a film in the future...
Well, I was talking about the distant future or maybe even the near future. That's actually not in my hands but it is something that I already do. I have already directed plays on stage. I am working on a couple of productions right now. I do hope to direct a film too though.

Is this one of your main interests, apart from acting?
Absolutely! It's an ambition of mine.

Your brother Imaad Shah is also in Bollywood but specialises in offbeat films like your father...
I don't think he is that interested in Bollywood. It's not that he gets stereotyped; I think he just isn't interested in working in Bollywood films. His primary area of interest is his music. So yes, he does films and no, I don't think he is stereotyped.

How similar are you two?
We are very similar. The difference between the two of us is that he is a rebel and I am a conformist. I am someone who has subscribed to the Bollywood machinery and he is someone who hasn't. It's as simple as that. Otherwise, we are completely the same. I share everything with him and he is a person I can talk to about anything.

What kind of cinema interests you?
I really like old films. I have a huge interest in the history of cinema and in particular, the golden age of Hollywood including Warner Brothers musicals or gangster films of the classic era; movies by James Cagney, Humphrey Bogart and the like.

Tell us one thing about each: Shah Rukh, Deepika, Abhishek, Sonu, Boman?
Shah Rukh: I think Shah Rukh sir's curiosity about people and life in general is inspiring. He knows so much about life. I was told that in school he was an all-rounder and excelled at sports and academics. You can talk to him about history, geography, English literature, maths, science; he knows about everything. I think he is a genius. He is the most stimulating person to spend time with because you learn so much from him; not just about films, filmmaking and acting, but also about every sphere of life.
Deepika: Deepika is one of the most sensitive and beautiful people in the world. She has a heart of gold and that comes across in all her performances. Although she is such a big star, she is very real. When you see her performance in Finding Fanny you see traits of her own personality. Deepika is an inspiration to actors of every generation.
Abhishek: Abhishek is like a tough older brother. He is one of those guys who is always looking out for you. He is always trying to cheer everyone up. He's trying to keep everybody on their toes in the right move. He is a tough guy but has a heart of gold. His presence on set makes a big difference. Working with Abhishek is truly an amazing experience. He's such a fun person. I think the word to describe him best is that he is a fun person to work with (laughs out loud).
Sonu: Sonu Sood has been an inspiration to all of us in Happy New Year. His dedication to his work, to his craft, apart from just having a phenomenal body, he is also a brilliant actor. He is a gentle giant. Although he seems so tough on the exterior, he has a heart of gold, authentic and very funny.
Boman: Boman Irani is one of those actors whose genius cannot be described. You have to see it to believe it. He is like Jack Nicholson. His acting truly special, magical. When you see Boman Irani acting, it's like seeing a rock star playing a guitar.

Rumours suggest that you seem intimidated by your father's success...
I think that was taken completely out of context. I share a very comfortable relationship with my father. He is the person closest to me. He is like my best friend; I can talk to him about anything. When I said I was intimidated I meant it in another context. I was talking of the effect that people like my dad, Mr Bachchan or Shah Rukh Khan have on people; they get slightly in awe of them. But my dad and Shah Rukh like people being comfortable and open with them. My dad keeps saying, 'Why are people so intimidated by me? I don't like it. Why can't people be free with me and talk to me however they want?' He wants that kind of freedom.

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