Each time I met Tiger Shroff – once at his apartment, and once at GQ’s cover shoot – he spoke in a measured tone, called me “sir” even though we’re the same age and was always up for homilies like, “It’s a surreal feeling...” and “I’m just so grateful...”
It shouldn’t have come as a surprise. 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.”
It’s not an unfair assessment. From his debut in Heropanti in 2014 to the super successful Baaghi franchise (a third film is forthcoming), he’s rehashed the role of a shirtless Good Samaritan with a sixpack. On the odd occasion his characters start seeming vulnerable, his directors get him to say things like, “Ye jo tera torture hai, woh mera warmup hai.” It’s all textbook Bollywood, but he makes it work, courtesy his martial arts prowess and sick dancing skills.
Shroff ’s home in Mumbai is a sea-facing four-bedroom apartment, one he shares with his parents and sister. The living room is well-lit, spacious and centrally air-conditioned, featuring numerous portraits, oil paintings and fan art dedicated to the father-son duo. There are shelves crowded with numerous “Best Actor” trophies. Are any of them more special than the rest? I ask. “The Nickelodeon Kids’ Choice award,” Shroff says, which he won in the “Favourite Dancing Star” category. It’s a hat-tip to one of his most loyal audiences, who see in him a homegrown Michael Jackson. “I owe them my stardom,” he’d said shortly after receiving the award in 2016.
Today, Shroff is wearing a nut-brown tank top and navy-blue trackpants. There’s a Fitbit on his wrist, and two red streaks on his right shoulder. 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. Their on-screen battle is for glory, and the affections of its only female lead. Off-screen, it seems to be for the title of Mr Congeniality. 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.”
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