It’s a proper summer evening, the wind is in the right direction, the coffee beans have never been so aromatic and Costa is buzzing with strangely a lot of women today. What could’ve been the reason? In a couple of minutes the ‘reason’ walks in – Taaha Shah. Relaxed and studiously cool, the actor is dressed in denims from top to toe looking rugged and holding a bit of swagger. It’s not just the stubble, which creeps over his chops like someone’s dipped him in iron filings up to the ears, it’s the attitude that he wears that makes the girls go ga-ga over him. To his credit, the Middle East import has had just two films – Luv Ka The End and the recently released Gippi. Now Shah is not the first actor who comes to mind as an off-the-wall leading man although he certainly looks like one. Having said that, he is of course in the lead than most of the leading men who haven’t got a chance to work with YRF and Dharma Productions. Taaha’s genius lies in unpredictability. He tells me, “The next film I want to do is a full on action film where I can showcase my raw jaw crunching abilities”. The actor is highly trained in martial arts just like Akshay Kumar and Vidyut Jamwal and is waiting for that one big opportunity that would knock on his door. For the moment, it’s Gippi which is ringing the bell. Here’s Taaha Shah opening up his door to Gippi, his love for women and commitment to movies.
With how you’ve treated women in your first film, you should ideally have a hate club. I heard you also broke Gippi‘s heart?
(Laughs) It’s about the characters I play. They are just so lovable. I don’t consider myself to be that handsome but I then do have a fan club. I am a very average looking actor. I feel it’s about the performance that you do that garners your fans – be it grey or good.
What’s that decisive movie you saw and wanted to take a plunge in the acting world?
There are many films that I saw as a kid and as a teenager and decided to pursue acting. So I joined the New York Film Academy. After one and a half months I watched Scarface. I saw Tony Montana. I saw Al Pacino. My teacher told me that I used a lot of hands and I should watch Scarface for it’s a pivotal film for an actor like me. The movie changed my acting career. I was all alone in the screening room watching the film. That’s when I decided that I am going to die as an actor.
How high can you climb now after having worked with YRF and Dharma in Luv Ka The End and Gippi?
I feel right now I am at the bottom of the spectrum. All these actors who’ve been launched and are now more than ten films old are experienced actors. I have just started off. Yes, it’s a blessing to have worked with YRF and Dharma. I have got my mother’s blessings and the blessings from the whole of the Middle East and today I am here in B-town. I have seen the crowds going berserk for Bollywood actors out there. I was a part of one such crowd too. I’ve seen SRK coming down in Parachute and it did cause a stampede. I went ballistic and so did the crowd. I want to get that high. I want to continue doing bigger films and better films. Ten years down the line I want to contribute something to the world cinema, huge commercial cinema and doing parallel cinema.
Would you actually date a girl who is like Gippi?
I’ve been through many phases in my life and you do like different kind of girls in different phases. So I do feel there is a phase where you like Gippi. In the film, I like Gippi because she has a big heart. She hasn’t got anything easy on the platter. Gippi has that want, that desire to look beautiful, to shed weight, to look fashionable, etc. Gippi wants to change and show that anybody can be a head girl, anybody can find love, anybody can have a good family life and that’s what Gippi‘s about. Gippi is about everyone.
I’d rather ask you – you’ve understood women more than any man has. What makes them special?
Women bring a different perspective to their life and films because they’ve never been understood by men (laughs). They are still a mystery and that’s why men are so attracted to women. They know everything. Women are the best actors (laughs). Women see the world in a very different way. Sonam Nair has done an exceptional job by directing Gippi. Some say it’s a bit bold but it’s not. It’s exactly what a thirteen or a fourteen year old girl would do. Boys or men haven’t seen that side of that teenage girl. Gippi is special.
As a senior, any word of caution or an advice you gave to Riya Vij?
Being a senior to Riya Vij, I didn’t have to give her advice in acting. Sonam Nair was too good to do that part. But there were times we used to talk about the next day of the shoot while having dinner. I’d tell her about a certain movement. For example, your voice will come out in a different way depending upon the position you are in. If you are sleeping and talking the voice will sound different. I did tell Riya to just feel the scene and be herself. Riya’s age is such that she’ll absorb it real quick. She isn’t conditioned. There are couple of kids who are really good in the film. There is no inhibition. Be it thin, fat, etc they didn’t care.
Did Karan Johar turn up on the set for a much needed motivation?
Karan Johar is a very respected individual and he respects the director’s vision. We all wanted him to come on the set once and see us. But once he makes the decision of Sonam Nair directing Gippi, he’ll make sure that he lets that person creatively execute their responsibility.
What’s goes through your mind when you see yourself on the big billboard hoardings?
The first time Luv Ka The End came out, I saw myself upside down (laughs). I go head over heels whenever I see my films poster on the billboard. It’s not really nostalgic. I am looking for the brightest future and I feel it’s the team work that takes us ahead. Gippi is the result of such team work. I see everyone’s future to be growing and seeing myself on the poster is just one step closer to that.
Name five directors you’d like to work with post Gippi.
I’d love to work with Karan Johar, Sanjay Leela Bhansali, Aditya Chopra, Zoya Akhtar and Steven Spielberg.