Shroff’s public persona seems carefully cultivated. “In public, I’m my mother’s son,” he once admitted in an interview with Karan Johar. “[With friends], I’m my father’s.” Such grooming is in sharp contrast to his more garrulous father, superstar Jackie Shroff. “The challenge has been to carve out my own niche,” he says. “I think I’ve done a fairly decent job so far.”
For the past few days, he’s been rehearsing non-stop for a promotional dance number for his upcoming action flick War, also starring Hrithik Roshan. The movie, Shroff says, is “like an Ethan Hunt-meets-James Bond” flick. When he’s working opposite Shroff, Roshan said in a recent interview, he can’t afford to be complacent. “He’s so hardworking... He’s going to be untouchable for the next 50 years.”
“I don’t believe it [Hrithik’s praise], to be honest,” says Shroff, “He’s too big a personality. You know how in videogames you choose characters and [then] see their powers? He’s got every power.”
The trailer for War racked up a whopping 20 million-plus YouTube views in 24 hours. It’s slickly produced, and promises some serious rip-roaring action. But isn’t it also more of the same: a two-hour-long chase sequence spanning exotic locales across the world, starring chiselled torsos and bikini bottoms?
“I love being typecast because it gives me an identity,” Shroff says. “You think of Shah Rukh sir, you think ‘Romance King’. You think of Salman Khan, you think ‘Bhaijaan’ and swag. Each one of these guys has a label. That’s important in an industry that has so much competition.” Shroff pauses. “Every time I do something offbeat, it’s not been as kind to me. Take A Flying Jatt or Student Of The Year (SOTY) 2. In A Flying Jatt, I was a bumbling superhero, afraid of heights, fights and of using his powers. In SOTY 2, I was a college guy getting bullied. It didn’t go down too well with my audience. I don’t think they could digest me coming from Baaghi 2 to being beaten up by college students.”
But doesn’t he beat them up at the end of SOTY 2? “I do, eventually, but it was like... After taking down an army, I’m taking down college kids.”
Shroff’s journey into Bollywood is a serendipity afforded to many a star kid. He’d started getting offers ever since he was in school.
“My father was at his [professional] peak when I was in the 4th standard. I used to get a lot of attention. The teachers would treat me differently. They’d use me as an example whenever the [other] kids were naughty or made noise. ‘Look at Tiger,’ they’d say, ‘He’s such a big star’s son but he’s so quiet, so simple.’ Then some bullies at the back would be thinking, meet me outside. I’d get thrashed.”