Even though real life heavily influences reel life, the artist on-screen vs. off-screen often tell a different story. On celluloid, they are mediums that transport us into the lives of the character and only once the war paint is wiped clean, does one understand the blood & sweat that goes into building another persona.
Over many cutting chais with Bollywood’s phenomenal blue-eyed wonder, we get chatting with Vicky Kaushal to find out more about his craft and celluloid choices. With standout hits like Masaan and Raman Raghav 2.0, Kaushal has recently wrapped up Ronnie Screwvala’s Love Per Square Foot, a project like none other he’s done, “I am finally doing a commercial romantic role and am very excited to see how it turns out,” he says. As we look forward to seeing him in the new avatar, he continues to shoot Rajkumar Hirani’s much-awaited biopic on Sanjay Dutt, and will soon begin work on Meghna Gulzar’s next, Raazi, which is based on Harinder Sikka’s book Calling Sehmat. Working with the industry’s most coveted filmmakers and actors, Kaushal is making his presence in the industry more profound with each stroke.
From playing a simple Benaras boy to a drug addict cop, Kaushal’s choice of roles has proven that ‘meaty over massy’ is an ace game plan in a noisy landscape. With a short but already impressive tenure, his patience and relentless character-research is making the industry sit up and take notice. Contrary to popular belief, being the son of veteran Action Director, Sham Kaushal, did not mean filmfare on the dining table; acting was not the dream Kaushal had growing up. “My father left film sets behind before heading home every evening,” he says, adding that cricket, movies, and worrying about academics defined life back then.
However, the acting bug soon came to bite, and he started taking active part in theatrical productions in his neighbourhood, school, and college. The then-shy kid discovered the stage to be an outlet to be unabashed and free. He cherished the liberation that the stage brought, but never with the intention of making it a full-time career one day. But as destiny would have it, the charm of the 9 to 5 life soon wore thin and the regularity of life soon started to bite. “As soon as I stepped inside the office, something within me choked. I was on the cusp of becoming an engineer, but I did not want to be one for the rest of my life,” says Vicky. When self-intervention became indispensable, he realized that it was acting where his heart lies. “On the sets of Fiza, the star struck me nagged my dad to show me Hrithik Roshan in flesh and blood. I was in awe of Hrithik, I still am, and will always be,” says Vicky with a chuckle.
Fast forward to a decade later, he came back on set for an innings that promised to be a long one. “I wanted to go back on sets, this time for myself. The only way I could understand that acting was not just a hobby, was by being around the sets and getting under the skin of it.” But being the son of a crew member comes with its own inabilities; he was bent on finding his way out of the inherent privilege. This is when the role of Assistant Director caught his eyes. “An AD works with different teams, helping with any and every aspect of filmmaking. It also helps one to get away from the false delusions of the glitz and glamour of the industry. It forces you to get rid of the infatuations and see things for real,” says Vicky.
The year of 2009 was the defining year in Kaushal’s life where he was drawn to the magnetic world of Anurag Kashyap, with an opportunity to assist on the sets of Gangs Of Wasseypur. With Kashyap as mentor, Kaushal’s approach to build his craft started taking shape. Minor, yet impactful roles in Luv Shuv Te Chicken Khurana and Bombay Velvet came his way and Vicky took them up with all his heart. “I am not a man with a plan. Big or small parts make no difference. I believe in Anurag Sir. When he approached me with the roles, Yes was the only answer I knew,” he says. Since then Vicky has not let any audition or opportunity pass by; and that is how Zubaan landed in his lap. Not many know that Zubaan, not Masaan was Vicky’s first major role, but the latter released first. Recognising how atypical and non-commercial Masaan is, Vicky never once fails to count his blessings. “For me, a movie is a director’s medium and the film has to be its own hero. To think of things in a textbook manner, Masaan is not the ideal debut an actor expects. But we were sure of the story we wanted to share and went ahead with it,” he shares. He is quick to point out the role of the audience in the film’s massive success and the shift in viewership was the secret for the movie’s reception. “Its success was as much the audiences’ as the team’s, as people are no more shying away from socially imperative issues. It was a time when a Vicky Kaushal could enter and get registered,” adds Vicky.
Interacting with talent-pools like Nawazuddin Siddiqui and Richa Chaddha early in his career exposed him to the infectious world of theatre; that on one hand triggers the artist in you, but on the other grounds you more and more into reality. When asked what goes into navigating through this roller-coaster industry, lines from a famous Kipling poem If joined our conversation, “If you can meet with triumph and disaster, and treat those two impostors just the same.” With a philosophy to never let go of opportunities because of the fear of failure, Vicky’s idea of life is to take things one step at a time. This is perhaps one of the major reasons why his mindful craft has put all eyes on him. When asked about some advice to upcoming young guns, his answer is honest and uncompromising, “Don’t sit at home. Get out of your house. Nothing will work sitting at home. As actors we tend to camouflage our insecurities behind the romantic ideas of watching ten films a day and learning. If you have dreamed it, audition for it. It is our responsibility to be at the right place at the right time.”
Ordering our sixth and last glass of addictive cutting chai, Vicky lets us into his father’s pool of wisdom to help navigate the industry. “As an actor you can be 9 on 10, but as a human being you don’t have an option but to be a 10. People will work with you for the person you are,” says Vicky emphasizing how talent can be acquired, but a character made is a character made for life.
Disclaimer: The opinions expressed in this feature are those of the interviewee and do not necessarily reflect those of DSSC & its affiliates.
Featured Image Courtesy: unboxedwriters.com