After a short lull, 2018 has been an eventful year for young actor Vicky Kaushal with favourable buzz around his Netflix film Love Per Square Foot followed by the big success of espionage drama Raazi. Even though Kaushal did not have the author-backed role in Raazi, he has been noticed in equal measure as his co-star Alia Bhatt. The box-office hit has provided the welcome respite that showbiz oscillations between success and disappointments necessitate.
Kaushal nattily turned out for the interview, confesses that being part of a Dharma film has proved to be rewarding. “When Karan called me and said, ‘There is this film Meghna is making and she finds you suitable for a part in the film so why don’t you come to the office and meet her?’ It really felt nice.”
This was the actor’s first visit to the Dharma office, an ambition that most newcomers hope to realise someday in their movie careers. Vicky Kaushal recalls the excitement of meeting Raazi director Meghna Gulzar. She gave him the gist of the story, narrated two scenes from the film and conducted a quick screen test. To his surprise, co-star Alia Bhatt joined in the screen test just to give the cues, which he agrees was rather sweet and magnanimous of her.
The rest, of course, is history what with Raazi celebrating a commercially successful fortnight and Kaushal’s role as Iqbal Syed having earned him tremendous praise for its genteel restraint.
Vicky Kaushal, son of ace action director Sham Kaushal, broke into our consciousness with Masaan which, incidentally, was the second film he signed after Mozez Singh’s Zubaan.
Although his father was associated with the movies, Kaushal and his brother Sunny barely made any set visits. The two occasions when they made an exception was once to meet Hrithik Roshan on the sets of Fiza and the other was for the film Ashoka.
The trip to the sets of Fiza was driven purely by fan frenzy. Kaushal, a huge admirer of Hrithik Roshan, wanted to meet his idol and he was briefly misinformed by someone that the actor only met fans who had mastered his famous dance steps in Ek Pal Ka Jeena. He rehearsed the song assiduously and to his great joy, got an opportunity to meet with the actor who happily posed with him and his brother. The second occasion was when their father was facing the camera in Ashoka, a mega production headlined by superstar Shah Rukh Khan, an occasion that merited the family’s presence on the sets when the rule was broken once more, he recollects laughing.
Originally trained for a career in engineering, Vicky Kaushal took a while before launching into a full-fledged acting career. One of the early signs of his tilt towards movies was his delight at performing at building society’s talent competitions, where he thrilled in both the adrenaline rush of the performance as well as the applause that followed it. However, instead of a reckless pursuit, the actor completed his graduation first and only then put his passion to test.
He pulled off his first playacting when he decided to fulfill his longstanding dream of enacting a scene from the film Golmaal. “I am a huge fan of Amol Palekar’s classic movie called Golmaal and I had this small dream. I wanted to give an interview. I wanted to live out this scenario – wear a tie, formal clothes, slide down my resume and just give the interview. By the time I had decided that I wanted to pursue acting so how would I fulfill this dream? So I was like ‘ok let me crack some campus interviews’. And then for Patani computers, I passed and I was really thrilled. Everyone was anxious and nervous but I wasn’t nervous at all because I had nothing to lose. Finally, when my turn came, I went inside (the room) where these three faculty members sitting in front of me. They asked me some technical questions, which I somehow managed to scrape through. In the personal section, for my father’s occupation, I had mentioned that he works in films as an action director so this guy asked me – ki ‘to tum hero ban jao na, why do you want a job?’. Now that was the time when I was watching this series called Prison Break and the protagonist is an engineer so he gives an interview and he’s asked why he wants to be an engineer and he gives a very kickass kind of answer saying that a layperson can only walk on the streets and admire the architecture and the cars etc but an engineer can say ‘I can make it better’. That was the first script of my life. This was my first audition. And he asked me the same question and I just narrated that. And out of those guys, there was this one guy who was not interested and he was just doodling on the paper and when I said that line, his head just came up in 48 frames, like ‘Who’s this guy’. To my surprise, I got the job!”
On the film front, he got off to a few disastrous auditions but it did not wash away his desire to become an actor. And herein lies an intriguing tale of serendipity – Kaushal who co-assisted on Gangs of Wasseypur with director Neeraj Ghaywan who helmed Masaan, struck a friendship. They met long after when Kaushal was working on Zubaan and Ghaywan was in the pre-production stage for Masaan and as fate transpired, the two ended up working together in a film that went to receive much love at Cannes film festival as well as back home.
Vicky Kaushal admits to putting in time to hone his skills – he did not want to be in front of the camera till he had understood the technical aspects of cinema. “I always wanted to become an actor. I went up to Anurag sir and told him I want to be an actor but I first want to learn and see how a film is made. I don’t want to dive in and stand in front of the camera not knowing the technicalities involved. I want to see people come together and work and make a film. How does it translate from words on a script to this movie,” he explains.
The reality of what it took really hit him when during the filming of Zubaan, during an action scene, his father who was directing the scene asked him to fall and roll down the steps as demonstrated by the stuntman. Kaushal being the lead actor in the film expected to be padded up or harnessed in order to avoid bruises but his father would have none of it. No one was an exception to the rule of professionalism. One of Kaushal’s proud moments during the film shoot was when his father said to him, “I was excited about working with my son but I am even more excited that I worked with a good actor.”
Given his humble beginnings – the family started out in a chawl and kept moving to better places in life because of his father’s success makes him value his close-knit family. Kaushal admits he loves to see the smile on his mother’s face. He still travels light and can be spotted occasionally making people stop and stare. But for the most part, life has changed for the better.
“Acting is a practising art, it is a privilege. I learnt from observing all the great actors on the sets of Gangs of Wasseypur. I started doing theatre with Naseer sa’ab, Manav Kaul. You become so aware of yourself as an actor. And the beauty of this industry is that you fall more and more in love with it,” he says.
With the success of Raazi and films like Manmarziyan and Lust Stories (on Netflix) in the anvil, it’s a love that’s unlikely to die out anytime soon.
Priyanka Sinha Jha is a senior journalist, author, and digital-media specialist.