MUMBAI — He’s the newest cub on the star-son block. Jackie Shroff’s son, who never wanted to be an actor, opens up to India-West on his life and career at a meet at Sajid Nadiadwala’s office. Tiger Shroff, aka Jaihemant Shroff, is cool, humble, affable.
Now that he is into this profession, he would like to be the best, and not disappoint fans of his dad in a profession where children have rarely outshone parents. “My main aim is not to let him down,” he says simply about his father.
Excerpts from an interview:
Q: Your father would always speak of you as a champion footballer of the future, someone definitely not interested in films.
A: (Nods) I wanted to be in sports professionally. Yes, I loved football and I even did an IB diploma in biology to enhance my knowledge of the human body to become better at that sport. However, I soon realized that there was no scope in sports as a career in India, unless you are a cricketer.
Q: So how did the dice fall in favor of acting?
A: My friends would tell me that I had the looks and physique to become an actor. Tu hero ban jaa, they would tell me. So I finally decided to explore this viable option.
Q: Deciding on acting is one thing, being a good actor something else. Did you train for the profession or thought that genetic skills were enough?
A: “Heropanti” was physically, mentally and emotionally draining. The script was amazing but challenging in these aspects. I would go to Badlapur (a satellite town 90 minutes away from Mumbai) to learn dance from Paresh Shirodkar, who is known as India’s Michael Jackson. From ballroom to hip-hop and more, he has taught me so much. I trained for three full months for a single parkour sequence, though I have always loved martial arts.
As far as acting is concerned, I did several informal classes and workshops with my director, Sabbir Khan. It was basically to understand his take on the film and my character.
Q: Did you take any tips or advice from your father?
A: No, he just told me to be “bindaas” (without fear). I think that the first rule in the rulebook of acting is to be “besharam” (uninhibited)!
Q: How prepared are you for the inevitable comparisons with your father, in an industry that is quite unsparing to star-children?
A: My father is the big shadow in my life and his shoes are really too big for me to fit in. Still, he’s my strength, my inspiration. But I do not want to give the audience any chance to compare the two of us. “Heropanti” will show how completely different we father and son are!
Q: And yet there is a deliberate hangover – the similarity in the film titles, “Hero” and “Heropanti,” and the song “Whistle Baja” inspired by the famous flute riff from your dad’s debut film.
A: (Shaking his head) The similarity in titles is coincidental. It fitted the story, that’s all. Yes, the song was taken deliberately because of “Lambi Judaai” becoming a cult number. However, I loved the way the melody was converted into a dance track!
Q: Is the story about your name Tiger true? That you would bite people when you were a small kid and the name given then stuck?
A: (Grins) Yes, it is!
Q: What do you think of your father’s image, and how is your relationship with him?
A: My father commands attention by his sheer presence, and of course everyone adores him for what he is! The best thing is that he is so unaffected and unspoiled by his success, and is so humble, carefree and bindaas, while I get very tense about small things.
As a father, he always managed to be there for me at every important point in my life despite his hectic career when I was growing up. He would travel or fly long-distance from his shoots just to be there at bedtime when I was very young. Now, he’s a brother, a friend.
Q: Are you closer to him or mom?
A: My mother (Ayesha Shroff) is my emotional anchor and we think alike. Look, I have the best parents in the world, who always gave me unconditional love, independence and support.
Q: What is the truth in the stories that before “Heropanti” it was Subhash Ghai and later Aamir Khan who were to launch you?
A: (Laughs) My father tells me that Subhash-ji gifted my father a “signing amount for your son” on the day when I was born! (Laughs) He would have loved to launch me, but nothing concrete came up. Aamir Khan invited me to join in his gym workouts when he was preparing himself for “Dhoom:3.” Dad and he go back a long way to the “Rangeela”days, and since then they have always kept in touch. I was honored when both of them came to my film’s first-look event.
Q: How ambitious are you now, and what have you signed?
A: I have not set any goals. I am new and I have to be accepted first. Then I will see! Some stars are born with the X-factor that defines stardom before they come in, like a Shah Rukh Khan. But people like me need to be nurtured into stardom. And no, I have not yet signed any film.