Lasyapriya Sundaram (BOMBAY TIMES; July 14, 2017)

It has been a little over three years since Tiger Shroff made his Bollywood debut with Heropanti. Since then, he has delivered two box-office hits and a film that didn't live up to expectations. With his fourth movie Munna Michael all set to hit screens this month, the actor gets candid about being the hero of the single-screen audience, why he won't do an offbeat film anytime soon and how, despite all the criticism about his act ing skills and unsavoury com unsavoury com ments on social media, he intends to have the last laugh. Excerpts...

How do you approach a role? Was there a lot of preparation for Munna Michael?
I like to be prepared, but I don't over-prepare. Also, it depends a lot on my co-actors' performance; I adapt myself accordingly. I can usually pre-empt my co-actor's reaction in a scene, but Nawaz ji (Nawazuddin Siddiqui, his Munna Michael co-star) is an exception. He kept throwing unexpected reactions my way. It was wonderful because it made me up my game as an actor. I would feed off his energy. I learnt a lot from him.

Nawazuddin and you come from different schools of acting. However, while he may be more experienced as an actor, you are a far better dancer. Did you help him with the steps?
Heropanti was my pre-school and Munna Michael feels like being in high school. I have learnt everything on the job. On the other hand, Nawaz ji is a product of the National School of Drama, where they teach you theory, voice modulation and breathing technique. He comes with a lot of experience and I can't compare myself with that. Having said that, in Munna Michael, I could totally relate to him as far as his dance sequences were concerned. I taught him the steps the way a beginner would be taught, and for some strange reason, he would get the difficult steps right and not the easy ones.

In the past, newcomers were given multiple chances to prove their mettle, but that's no more the case. So, was there pressure to prove yourself right from Heropanti?
I was always aware that I had big shoes to fill. There is a lot of competition out there and I had to prove that I am not just Jackie Shroff ka beta. My dad was not holding my hand. The challenge was to create my own identity and my own genre of films. The only person I look up to is Hrithik Roshan. Whatever little I have achieved is because of what I have learnt by watching him on the big screen.

Most actors say that they go by instinct while choosing scripts. What about you?
I think about the audience first, they have accepted me for certain reasons. When I am offered an action film, I check if its emotional quotient and the incentive for the hero to save the heroine are strong. Otherwise, it just becomes a show reel. The audience will applaud my action sequences only when these factors fall into place.

Interestingly, you seem to choose films that would appeal to single screen audiences...
I hadn't planned on that, but I am thankful that B and C centres have accepted me as a hero. Many people tell me that appealing to the masses is one of my biggest achievements. My father told me that Salman (Khan) sir's and Shah Rukh (Khan) sir's fans include rickshaw drivers, bus drivers, kids, middle aged people, aunties, uncles and the elderly. I have a huge responsibility because I am catering to that audience.

So, would you do an offbeat film, which might not appeal to the masses?
I would think three times before saying yes to an offbeat film. Right now, the focus is on establishing myself, creating an impact and becoming a bankable star. I want my run rate to be on the higher side; I want to drive home the fact that I am a certain kind of hero. I can't forget what has helped me come so far. Luckily, my line-up includes Baaghi 2 and Student Of The Year 2, which will hopefully tap into a different kind of audience. And then, there's Rambo, from which there are a lot of expectations.

Considering you aspire for the kind of fan following that Salman Khan has, would you ever do a negative role? Salman has often said in interviews that he would never do one... Also, you have a huge fan following among kids...
I don't mind a negative role like Hrithik sir's in Dhoom 2 - an anti-hero. But, I will never play a villain because movies are powerful platforms to motivate, inspire and guide people. I have a huge following among kids and I don't want to misguide them. I do action films, but the violence is not gory. I am very conscious about it. It's more like what Jackie Chan does - stylised and fun.

Munna Michael pays homage to the King of Pop, Michael Jackson. What's your earliest memory of him?
I remember watching his performance in Mumbai during the History Tour. I was about five years old at that time. My father was carrying me on his shoulders and I fell asleep. However, even at that age, I could sense that there was a phenomenon in front of me. I couldn't fathom much, but I could feel the energy.

While your dancing skills are exceptional and you have clearly aced action as well, many critics say that your acting skills need improvement. What's your response?
I pay attention to the critics and I have immense respect for them. But, I only follow those who are unbiased - reviews help me push my limits and work harder. I want to prove them wrong soon. Also, they have to pick on something, right? Nobody is perfect.

What about offensive statements and derogatory remarks being made on social media platforms about you?
Everybody has the freedom of speech. It's up to them to decide whether they are right or wrong. Most of the people who have made derogatory comments - maybe I shouldn't be saying this - where are they in their lives? Instead of spending time talking negatively about someone, why don't you use that time to do something positive? As far as I am concerned, I am like a race horse and I only see the finish line. I have my blinkers on, I am focussed and the goal is to always have the last laugh.

What do the leading ladies bring to the table in your films?
The heroines are the heroes in my films. They drive the plot. In Heropanti and Baaghi, I was fighting for the girl. In A Flying Jatt, I was fighting for my mother. So, my movies have always been female-centric. Munna Michael is no different. He gives up his dreams for the girl and urges her to live her dreams.