As we sit for the interview at the Dharma Productions office, Tiger Shroff notices the food on the table. He instructs the staff, "Yeh samose le jaao!" (Take away these samosas), to laughter around him. After all, this actor is admired by fans for his high fitness levels and dance routines, so how he can give in to temptation?
This sets the tone of the interview with International Business Times, India on a cheerful note. Cheat days are only on Sundays for Tiger Shroff, who mostly has chocolate and desserts on the day with Disha Patani, his reported girlfriend. On other days, the 29-year-old actor only smells the forbidden food and satiates himself, he tells us.
Read excerpts from a chat with Tiger Shroff about his fitness, his film Student of the Year 2 and his co-stars Ananya Panday and Tara Sutaria, his crushes in school, his rumoured girlfriend Disha Patani, of handling success after Baaghi 2, his goal in life of becoming a truly global movie star, and his forthcoming films Hrithik vs Tiger and Rambo.
How are you able to be so dedicated to fitness? Do you enjoy your cheat days?
It's a part of my work. Everybody nowadays is so health conscious. The film heroes are meant to look a certain way and have a six-pack. I workout, including dancing, for six hours a day. Sundays are my cheat days. You guys must've seen my paparazzi pictures with Disha (Patani). That is one of the highlights of my life. I love cheating...(pauses and laughs), cheating as in, with food! I have a sweet tooth, so I have chocolates. But sometimes I have vada pav, samosas, fried food...everything and anything that tastes good, 'cos what I eat (for a diet) doesn't taste good.
So, any comments on the reports on your relationship with Disha Patani?
It's a part and parcel of the game. It's fine. She makes me look good; she's such a good-looking girl!
Does the craze to be fit put too much pressure on you? In your father Jackie Shroff (Jaggu Dada)'s time, there was no such pressure on heroes.
Jaggu Dada was natural. He just used to stand in a frame, and people would start going crazy. We, in turn, have to struggle a lot. That's the difference. You don't find heroes like that these days. That was the golden era in Hindi cinema. Now, the trend has changed and everybody has to look a certain way. For me, luckily, I've always been into sports. So, it wasn't that difficult.
Was it easy to do Student of the Year 2, because it's a sports film with kabaddi, and you're into sports?
It was easy. It was a breeze. It's not a Baaghi, it's not a Hrithik vs Tiger or a Baaghi 3. SOTY 2 mein thoda aaram mila mujhe (I could relax a bit). I'm playing somebody who is a young character, closer to my age. I never got a chance to go to college, so I lived that dream also through the film. SOTY 2 is like a romantic film, which has got sports and a little bit of action. This film is for my young fans.
Does SOTY 2 encourage sport in schools and colleges?
The film will definitely encourage people to play some sport and have healthy competition. Especially in schools, I feel not just studies but also sports should be encouraged, so that a child goes through a more holistic experience. Nowadays, in a tech-savvy world, to get out for an hour and play some sport, get some Vitamin D in some outdoor activity should be good.
How was the experience shooting for the film, since you didn't go to college in real life?
Bahot mazedaar experience raha (it was fun), kyunki isme toh padhai hain nahin (since the college in the film does not show students studying. The focus is just on girls and guys, and music and dance. It's just a fun film. It's not a preachy film. Just come, have fun and be entertained and I promise you'll go home with a smile.
Did you play kabaddi before SOTY 2?
I've never played kabaddi in my life, so I had to really work hard to learn the game, to learn the body language and make it look correct. Also, I had to bring in a little bit of 'Tigerism' into it to make it look spectacular for my audience. It was great fun.
How has life changed for you post the success of Baaghi 2 (2018)?
I was very lucky. I didn't expect Baaghi 2 to do what it did. Suddenly, it had a Rs 25 crore opening at the box office! For a kid like me, it was a big thing. I was like, 'Is this really happening?' Then I reflected that for the film to have made Rs 165 crore, it couldn't have been just the last 15 minutes of action that I did. There must've been the story, the characters and the layers that caught on. So, it's so important to get a good combination of the emotion along with the action. The question is: Hero ka maqsad kya hai? What is the hero fighting for and why is he fighting for it? The script, I realised, is the most important in a film. The action is just a decoration.
But have the expectations from you really gone up after Baaghi 2?
Yes. Even the expectations that I have from myself. Because I have seen how my life changed after getting those box office numbers for Baaghi 2. People started looking at me in a different light, as a bankable star, giving a lot of respect. I walked on to the set of SOTY 2 and there was so much respect and love. People older than me were calling me 'Sir'. It felt really nice that people were appreciating me. Earlier also, they gave me respect. But that was probably because I was a kid and Jackie Shroff's son.
I remember we were shooting in Dehradun at FRI (Forest Research Institute), and people heard that I was coming. There were around 3,000 people screaming 'Ronnie, Ronnie!', which is my character's name in Baaghi 2 – and that was the best feeling. When somebody screams your character's name, that's the biggest high for you.
How do you handle success so well?
It's not at all going to my head, because I have grown up seeing my father's journey, from where he came and where he went, again he came down and again, up. I have too much insecurity in my head to let that success go to my head. I still feel that I have a lot more to do. I wanna prove so much!
In SOTY 2 you are romancing two girls. Were you ever in a similar situation in real life?
Kaash, yaar! (Oh, I wish.) Dekho main Shraddha (Kapoor) ke peecche paagal tha school mein (I was crazy about Shraddha Kapoor in school), as everybody knows. We went to the same school (American School of Bombay. But I was very shy, so I couldn't really approach anybody. I used to think she should come and talk to me. I was the hero in sports in school, so girls used to be impressed. The opposite school was Dhirubhai Ambani International School, so the girls there used to like me. I used to love the attention! I used to act all cool, but andar se matlab jo Diwali ho rahi thi... (but I was nervous as hell).
What did you learn working with newcomers Ananya Panday and Tara Sutaria in SOTY 2?
I learnt how to enjoy life's moments from them and not to take life too seriously.
How was it dancing with Hollywood star Will Smith in SOTY 2?
Oh man! So cool. Will used to ask me to tell him the dance steps. I used to show him but couldn't believe it that I was teaching the steps to Will Smith! I have watched his Men in Black when I was a kid. So, it was a huge high to shoot with him, although we didn't get to interact much. But it's something that I'll treasure forever.
People perceive you as an action hero mostly. How do you take to that?
I'm not versatile at all as an actor. I look at the bright side that I have an identity already. When people think of action heroes, then one of the names could be a Tiger Shroff. That makes me feel good. In a world where there is so much competition and so many new actors being launched every second, how does one stand out and have an identity? It's so important. Just being typecast or termed gives me an identity. I'm very happy.
The action heroes in Hollywood or in India are the aspirational heroes. You wanna be them, you admire them... you have their posters at home. Similarly, my goal in life is to have some sort of meaning. I want to inspire through my work. Not preach, but inspire. That's something I'm crazy about doing. My idols are Michael Jackson, Bruce Lee, Sylvester Stallone – all these guys are extremists in their fields. They speak through their actions, apne kaam se jawab dete hain. Similarly, I want to touch every person and every country. That's my goal. I just don't wanna think of serving just one part of the globe, but the entire world.
But as an actor, you're good at both action and dance? What do you prefer performing?
I have to say dance, because in action (while performing) you might get hurt sometimes.
Tell us something about the faceoff in your film with your idol Hrithik Roshan (working title Hrithik vs Tiger).
(Reminiscing the faceoff with his idol) Arre, yaad mat dilaon yaar! We've almost finished the film, including the action sequences. We won't be shooting in the summers, so the dance sequences remain to be shot. It's been an amazing experience! Many a time, shooting with Hrithik Sir I used to forget my dialogues because I'm looking at my hero. I used to just go blank! He would say, 'Darr gaye ho?' I used to say, 'Sorry! I can't believe I'm looking at you'.
Who wins in the end in Hrithik vs Tiger?
What is that? (Chooses to ignore the question.) The idea is to have Tom Cruise's Ethan Hunt from Mission: Impossible versus James Bond, and put them together in a film.
You say you have global goals. Have you planned to try in Hollywood? What about your upcoming film Rambo?
I've gotten offers; I haven't signed anything yet. I'm just very lucky that people have noticed my work. Maybe there is a void of young action heroes in the West. As for Rambo (the official remake of Sylvester Stallone's Hollywood movie), it's in a different terrain altogether. It's something which people won't expect.
With that, we bid adieu to Tiger Shroff and wished him all the best. After some selfies, of course.