In 2001, the movie Kuch Kehna Hai played a brutal, fresh-faced young boy next door, a remake of the Telugu hit Thali Prema (1998). Kareena Kapoor has changed a lot since Tusshar Kapoor played the role of that boy. From starring in beautiful characters like Tushar Khaki (200) and Shootout at Lokhandwaller (2007), Rohit Shetty has played complex roles such as being part of the Golmaal franchise. Today, he has created a niche for himself as a comic hero. He became the first single male celebrity from the industry to become a parent through surrogacy. Although Mrs. Kapoor is not there, Tushar loves to be both the father and mother of her target son Lakshya who was born in 2016. Last year, he also became a producer with Lakshmi. The film received rave reviews from critics, later becoming the most-watched film on OTT. Quotes from a free-flowing interview with the star whose motto is to move forward in life.
How does it feel to complete two decades in the industry?
Two decades is not a short time. I’ve got about one release a year so I haven’t really taken a break since I started twenty years ago. There have been many ups and downs. It’s a part of every actor’s life. I cherish both sides of that coin. Success comes after making many mistakes. I learned from them and then, like the movie, got a happy ending. It has been a fulfilling journey. I want to revive it until the film is still being made.
What were the biggest lessons and biggest regrets of your career?
There is really no sorrow. Of course, there is always a learning curve in the early stages that we all have to overcome. You have to fall, make the wrong choices and then collect your thoughts and experiences and learn from them. I’ve learned that sometimes it’s okay to say no, to speak for yourself and sometimes to do something that initially makes you dissatisfied. This is the best way to do your best. That’s why I turned my career around with khaki and it has been pretty stable ever since.
How was your first day on set?
My first day of shooting was at Mehboob Studios. I remember I went to Siddhivinayak temple with my father that day and he dropped me off at the set. I think I was very nervous even though I didn’t show it. This is a sequence where I had to walk with a stick because I had an accident. I then had to go to Kareena Kapoor’s house to propose to her and she refused me. Then my character woke up and it was all a dream. So my character decides not to drown this. It is a dream sequence that was eventually executed due to the length of the film. And it was a good thing because I was still learning ropes and it was like a warm day for me. Only a few days later did I realize that acting was something I could get, something I started to enjoy. The first schedule was like your first day at school. But the first day was quite a bad dream.
How did it feel to win the Filmfare Best Debut Award?
I still remember that day. I was very nervous because I didn’t know if I would win. I went to the event with an opportunity and got it. I was so excited. I remember thanking my co-stars, Kareena and Ringke Khanna. Kareena even said on stage that she did not see any hero thanking any heroine when she won an award. We had a party at home. My parents took the opportunity to invite some friends and we also joined and also celebrated the awards. Those days were innocent, quite stressful. We valued the prize a lot. It’s such a big deal then. Even after winning, we want a hangover of the anxiety of being in such an event. Multi-tasking was not such an easy thing that day.
How did you deal with a setback or failure early in your career?
I was very young when I started. Every actor at that age has fun when a film doesn’t get well in the first few years. So it has been with me. It was tough and I didn’t know how to deal with it. Gradually I realized it was inevitable and you would have to keep working and make better choices. I had no idea how to deal with failure or failure. We didn’t talk about this emotion then. We had to struggle and we had to fight on our own. I will get up the next morning and go back to the set. Today we have many devices and people to talk about stress. Then there were your parents, who would tell you it would be okay. This is the end. You had to wake up and just have to put up with it. There was no one else to help you in your failure or frustration.
Your first film as a producer, Lakshmi was released as an OTT due to the epidemic. Were you disappointed that it didn’t get a dramatic release?
I was a little disappointed at first that we had no choice but to take the OTT route. But I’m glad it happened because otherwise we would still be waiting for its release today. We did the right thing. The picture was ready so why keep it to yourself? I kept myself positive and it was okay to do what everyone said. When it was released online, it received mixed reviews but then gradually we found out through the number of views and ratings that it did well on OTT. Then, when it was published on satellite, the record was set directly with TRPs which is synonymous with a hit photo of Akshay Kumar. Of course, if we had released it in theaters it would have been a week or two of excitement. We’ve got fairly otherwise legitimacy.
Did you choose Lakshmi as your first production?
My co-producer Shabina told me to watch Kanchana and the day I saw it, I knew I wanted to remake it. Either I want to act in it or I want to produce it. I just had to be a part of it. It was a long process after many long ups and downs. But it’s all worth it because I love this genre and once you settle your heart on something you shouldn’t give it up. This has become the motto of my life now. You have to read, get up and move on.
How would you imagine co-existing OTTs and theaters in the future?
I think theater, OTT and television will all be together. OTT has become a great option. I started watching online shows right after the lockdown. Now it has become a great option and I didn’t really miss the movies. But we all know, when the theaters reopen, we will all go back to them. That culture is in our blood. Although we have a way for our daily entertainment with OTT, the truth remains that when the theaters reopen, people will crowd the cinema hall and the box-office will break down. It will be a storm.
How was family life for you in the lockdown?
I have been doing online schooling for over a year and a half with my son Target. I sat in her class and it lasted half my day. Then I go to the gym and after that there is a meeting. In the evening, I came back with my son, we had dinner and then I went back to reading scripts, checking mail and doing things I couldn’t do during the day. So it’s a non-stop day and I can’t find time to get bored. I’ve made a new habit of watching something before I go to sleep so I never get bored.
What is your biggest way out of paternity?
In my journey as a father I could write a book. In short, the time you spend with your child is the greatest gift you can give him. More time than money or gifts, it is more valuable. That’s what brought me closer to her and we do a lot of things together now. He is a balanced child because I was with him on this journey and I balance my work to spend enough time with him.
What are you doing next?
My next film is both producer and actor. It is called Marich. It’s a thrilling and dark, much different from what I’ve done before. It is likely to be published in OTT but I have not yet created the details. As the title implies, it’s scary, mysterious and it’s the first of its kind for me.
What would it be like if you had the opportunity to offer some advice to your 20-year-old?
I wouldn’t change anything about myself personally because I was raw but it worked for me. I will just tell myself not to worry and God is always by your side if you are willing to take on the challenges that come your way. Don’t worry about things that are out of your control. Even if you screw up occasionally, don’t worry if you can’t do anything about it. You will meet all kinds of people, some are nice to you and some are not. Take everything with a pinch of salt. Concentrate on life and work and see everything fall into place.