We first saw the fab Taaha Shah in YRF’s cool, young comedy Love Ka The End. His character was an anti-hero, which was a first of its kind for a Bollywood film. He received fabulous reviews for his performance, and here at BollySpice we named him on our list of one of the best newcomers of 2011. Audiences have been eagerly waiting to see what he will wow us with next, and that is Sonam Nair’s Gippi, which opens this Friday. Once again, the actor is trying something new because Gippi, like Luv Ka, is not your average Hindi film, and from what we hear he has once again done an amazing job. It was a complete pleasure to talk with Taaha about his journey to Bollywood, his first day on a set, working on Gippi, and what’s next! Read on to find out what he told us in this exclusive interview!
Was acting something you’ve always wanted to do?
It was always somewhere down inside of my heart. It was hidden, it was a secret, and I wasn’t able to get the guts to actually go ahead and pursue my passion or my dream because I was so far away from it. I was all the way in Dubai and the acting field, the closest one to me was India, Bollywood, and I didn’t know anybody over here in India. So it was kind of difficult initially but at the end of the day I made my mind up and I joined it.
What made you say ‘Okay, I am going to India and I am going to try and become an actor’?
Well, what happened was I was doing business for like three years, back in Dubai and in 2008 when the financial crisis happened I had to take my hands off. I had to basically tell my parents that this business is not for me, I can’t handle all of this and I want to do something that makes me happy. I was already doing modeling since I was 16 years old, I was like let me just pursue performance. I wanted to act; I wanted to go ahead and try it. So I joined the Sherwood Academy in Abu Dhabi in 2009. From there I was about to head off to LA to complete the remaining 6 months of my 1 year course in LA, and my dad randomly just gives me a call and he tells me, ‘You know I think you should go to Bombay and try out your luck’. And I’m like, ‘Okay! If you say so’. So it was a very random thing that I even landed here in India, very random. I was supposed to be here only for 2 days – 5 days just to check out the place but those 2-5 days never finished.
Looking back at it are you amazed that you took a leap and now here you are?
You know when I first came into Mumbai I went into this one place it is called The FICCI Frames. And this FICCI Frames is an entertainment hub where people from all over the world come down to give speeches or talk about or delegate from industries all over the world. The first time I went there was in 2010, and I was like a lost puppy. I was running around, didn’t know who to meet, what to do. I was just so lost. It was just me and my father, who had accompanied me, and we are trying to figure out who to meet, who we can meet, and we didn’t meet anybody that time. The second year, 2011, somebody came along with me and I begged them to introduce me to one person, two people and then the third year, this year, I went and it was a bloody revolution! I met like 50 people.
So when I look back two years and look back at myself running around trying to get one contact, one network, one person, and nothing happened. And now it’s like from all over from Australia, from Bangladesh, from US, from UK, all the gates have opened up. It feels great that you know after two years of learning more things, it’s coming to pay-off.
I was doing some research and I read about your auditions for Luv Ka The End that it was kind of interesting. Do you remember and can you tell me a little bit about that?
The audition was basically two things; one was pretend to be the nice guy with the girl while you take her out. And the 2nd scene I auditioned with was that some girls had put itching powder in my pants, forget my pants, it was my underwear, let’s make it more specific and I was supposed to scratch myself in front of these people and at the same time be funny and at the same time, keep continuing the scene and at the same time, concentrate on the dialogues. So that was my audition. There was this crazy eye movement that I do, which the casting director said, it’s because of your audition but mainly because that eye movement was so funny that we had to take you.
Tell us about shooting for Luv Ka The End.
I was a newbie. They don’t film in order; you know they just jump scenes. So the first day, I went to shoot it was one of the climax scenes, and I forgot all my lines. And Bumpy, who was the director, took me to another room and he was like let’s do the lines and the lines just wouldn’t come out. It just stopped, it just said no I am not going to come out, do what you want. I was so nervous and I think it took me 2 hours to get over that. The camera was right on my face and there were like 200 people there and it was just that… this was not a joke anymore. This was going to be shown on screen dude! This is it. You shoot; whatever you shoot today is it! So that kind of made me feel nervous. I grew out of it and then we got what we wanted. But shooting on the film with Yash Raj you know, so first of all, you are guaranteed the film is going to come out. And working with such professionals, you know they’ve gotten the best of the best, they’ve gotten the top notch people and you don’t have to worry about anything, so that was one of the best factors of it.
Okay so now your next film is Gippi. Tell me why you chose to be a part of this film.
First thing was, you see, I am trying to build a foundation and the foundation is basically to build audience base. Now audiences will only appreciate or see you when you are in films that are actually going to be seen and films that are going to be internationally released. So when Dharma approached me and said let us audition you for this, initially I was like it is not really focusing on me. But then I realized that, look, you know if I want to make a career move then it’s better to stick to people whose movies are definitely going to come out. And Dharma Production is one of the biggest in India right now. Karan Johar is huge!! (Laughs)
So I decided that okay fine as far as the producer is concerned I am okay. As far as the script is concerned, the director Sonam Nair narrated the script to me and I saw the social message in it that every individual should be very confident in their own skin. They should not look down at themselves they should not de-motivate themselves. Many people look at themselves in the mirror and say I am not good enough to do this or I am too fat or I am too this or that. But this film makes you feel good about yourself. It makes you feel I am me and I am who I am and I am happy to be that. God made me this way and you know what, in every day and in every way I am going to get better and better. And your self-image, your way of looking at yourself increases because you are looking at yourself better. That’s why I stuck with the film. So one, because of Karan Johar and two because there is a social message to it.
So what is your character in the film, can you tell me a little bit about that?
The character’s name is Arjun and he’s a very carefree guy. He’s failed a couple of times; he’s repeating the twelfth grade again. A typical 19-year-old guy who wants to have some drinks and doesn’t care about studies, he is all about his friends. He’s a reserved person. Arjun is also a very philosophical person and he thinks about why; why is it there, why is it not there? So he’s a very curious person and that’s what Arjun is.
Tell us about working with Riya who plays Gippi.
She’s a baby. She’s just 16-years-old, yeah? So it’s like I’d go on set and see her for the first time and I’m like ‘Oh okay, so she’s going to fall in love with me… she is going to fall in love with me… All right, okay, so that doesn’t put me in the bad light at all’. (Laughs) The thing is because she’s so young and I’ve done a film and I’ve got a little more experience than her and I am older than her for sure, when she actually came up to me trying to do those scenes, the nervousness that was supposed to come out in the scene came out through her because she was already nervous with me. That really showed on camera that she was actually nervous and that came out and worked in the character and that kind of benefited her in the relationship we share in the film.
Working with director Sonam Nair?
She has this funny way of whenever she gets the shot, whenever she gets what she wants she’s like ‘Cut itttttt!’ (said in high falsetto) and every time it’s like ‘Ok cooool!’ (Again a high falsetto). (Laughs) She has this chirpiness in her which shows up every day when we interact with her, every time she gets a good shot. She is so chirpy. I’ve never heard her shout on set. All I’ve heard her say is please and requesting. And especially working with kids, it’s not easy. You know kids are running around here and there and you want to do this and that, to actually control them and keep them in one place. I think she’s got a lot of patience in the film. Also working with her she didn’t come and impose her viewpoints on me. She let me as an actor and let everybody else as an actor, do what we have to. If she wants to add here and there then she will come and say see I want you to add this emotion or I would want you to decrease this and that’s all that she would come and say, she would not say what are you doing? She will never say you know I want to do it this way, what you are doing is not right. Many directors would do that. It was a great opportunity to work with her. Even my previous director Bumpy, both have been fantabulous.
What have you learned as an actor in your two films?
Well, in the first one since it was my first film, I was a little scared about how I am going to perform, how will my performance look on screen. I wanted everything to be so perfect and I was memorizing the script back and front. Literally, any line you tell me… I know it, without looking, I know it. For this script, I knew all the lines but I think the character itself was so chilled out. In Luv Ka, my character was more of an anti-hero, more of a plotter, more of a manipulator – okay I am going to do this, I am going to get my points in the Billionaires Club. This guy Arjun in Gippi is more reserved, more relaxed, more of a person who basically doesn’t care. From both these guys I’ve learnt more about myself. And I have learned that I can use this part of my life in this role, I can use this part of my life into this role. I think it gives you lot of time to introspect every time you do a character and that’s the best part of it. You get to learn so much about yourself.
Hopes for your career as an actor?
I want to be in world cinema, that’s my real goal. I want to do couple of films over here, I want to be a commercial hero here. At the same time I want to take my talent and my skills outside and try and do world cinema, try and do films in the UK, in the US, try and do films even in Iran if I have to. I want to do world cinema, that’s my passion and that’s what I dream of.
What will we be seeing you in next?
Well, there are a couple of things, which are on. I really want to come in an action role because I do a lot of martial arts and acrobatics and so I am really, really, really planning that. There are a couple of films in line. One of them is action, one of them is not. But I really want to do an action film I think will really set me apart.
Do you have any advice for young actors out there who are just starting out?
Yes I do. I am all ready to give advice because I’ve been through it. Two things, one if you are an actor don’t care about your looks. As an actor you have to look as bad or as good for that character. Don’t base your acting based on your looks. Secondly, one of the main things is why are you doing it? Why are you getting into the arts – whether it be painting, acting or whether it be anything, why are you getting into it? It can be a mindset that I want to earn a lot of money, another can be I want to gain a lot of success, some people want recognition, but whatever it is you need to have a clear path. I believe that. The only reason I stepped into acting was because I had option of business and I said look there is no plan B for me, there is only plan A and A is just for acting. When you are thrown into the pool or lake and told to swim and you don’t have anything to save you then you’ll learn faster. Why? Because you are in a fight or flight situation. When there is no plan B, then you are going to work hard and really, really work your ass off and try and learn everything possible. You know everyday I read my Hindi book, then I go into lumnoisty.com for brain training, then I go to the gym or I go to my martial arts classes, then I go to my singing classes or my acting classes, then I come back and do my meetings and come back and read a book. All these things are planned. I play my guitar. I do my own riaaz (practice) at home. I do weaponry outside on the beach. I keep learning. I got a certificate in paragliding. I’ve got a certificate from the school of scuba driving. You keep growing. I think every time, as long as you keep growing, whether languages or in art or anything it is going to make you, somewhere down the line, a better person and will show the confidence on your face. So never just base you acting skills on acting. Everything else you do in life will make you a better actor. So go and learn. Learning will never fail you. That’s what I tell people.
As you can see it was a fabulous conversation with the actor! We wish him all the best and look forward to seeing in him many more films, including that action film! Gippi is in theaters on May 10th!