Interview Movies

'Bhoot Part One: The Haunted Ship': Just Vicky Kaushal and the 'silence'

Vicky Kaushal in Hyderabad   | Photo Credit: By arrangement

Both director Bhanu Pratap Singh and actor Vicky Kaushal are poring over their mobile phones. The former has pre-release issues to handle before his first film, Bhoot - Part one: The Haunted Ship, opens across the country. And the actor is selecting a photograph from his visit to the Charminar earlier in the day, to post on social media. “During promotional tours I end up posting pictures only towards the evening; I’m trying to change that today,” he says, before we get talking during his brief visit to Hyderabad.

Bhoot is a horror film from Dharma Productions with a fictionalised story Bhanu had written, intrigued by a 2011 incident of a ship that was stationed in Mumbai for 21 days without a crew. In the film, Vicky is the only character on the ship, which happens to be haunted.

“It’s just him and the silence,” says Bhanu, referring to considerable portions of the film where Vicky is the only actor. The work process was new for the actor and the crew. The silence has to draw the audience into the situation the character faces. While working on those scenes, Vicky decided he had to give in to the moment and not over-think his part. “I took one scene at a time, understanding the character, his grief and mindset, and played it with utmost honesty,” he says.

Bhanu pitches in, discussing the actor’s method, “If we were shooting, say, page 23 from the script, he would read only till that page so that he stays in that emotional zone. He had read the script initially while agreeing to do the film, but he wouldn’t read more than what was required for the day’s shoot. It was a smart way of staying in the moment.”

  • View from Charminar: Vicky recalls his visit to Hyderabad a few years ago to perform a children’s play: “We performed to an audience of around 1000 children; they were a naughty bunch,” he remembers. Returning to the city now, as a Bollywood star-actor who makes heads turns in the Charminar, he’s eager to explore the city further, “I wish I had the time to climb up the Charminar and view the city.”
  • Conquering hydrophobia: For Bhoot, Vicky trained for a week with scuba divers. “I can swim, but I feared water. I could barely stay under water, I would panic and come up when we shot an underwater scene on day one. Even if I did the shot, the fear would show on my face,” he recalls. For the next few days, he would go to the bottom of the six-feet pool in his building and spend more time, to get comfortable under water. “Then we made him jump into a 25-feet pool to get over his phobia,” laughs Bhanu.

The shots were designed in a manner that the audience travels with the actor to explore the ship. With no precedent for such situations in Indian films, they were confident they had something intriguing. “How many people can claim they’ve been on a dead freight ship with no one around? This is the experience we are bringing to the screens,” says Bhanu.

Filming on a real ship for the exteriors and a set for the interiors, the crew set up camera and lights in narrow spaces where it was tough for two people to walk shoulder to shoulder. “If you had to change the angle by 180 degrees, it would involve a 100 people having to change positions in those spaces. When we shot on the upper deck of the ship which is about 10 floors high, equipment had to be carried via steep staircases,” says Vicky.

As Vicky discusses the methods of the crew, we hark back to his days as an assistant director (AD) on the sets of Anurag Kashyap’s Gangs of Wasseypur. “Not a day goes by when I don’t value that experience,” he says, and goes on to explain, “Being an AD teaches you humility and how to work with about 200 others who come from different social backgrounds and temperaments. It disciplined me, and made me technically aware — to observe how other actors perform, and have a basic knowledge of the camera, lens and framing.”

Bhanu Pratap Singh

Bhanu Pratap Singh   | Photo Credit: By arrangement

Back then, he knew he wanted to be an actor but didn’t know what would be his next step. He cherishes his experience in theatre: “I worked with wonderful actors like Richa Chaddha, Manoj Bajpayee, Piyush Mishra and Nawazuddin Siddiqui who had done theatre. I realised theatre was my riyaaz.”

Vicky Kaushal

Vicky Kaushal  

There was a fearlessness with which the actor did his initial projects. “Beggars can’t be choosers,” he jokes and adds on a serious note that he was blessed to be a part of films like Neeraj Ghaywan’s Masaan, which earned him credibility. Things didn’t come easy, Vicky mentions, “Manmarziyaan, Uri: The Surgical Strike and Bhoot are the only films for which I didn’t do a screen test or audition. Some films came to me by pure luck and now I’m in a position to choose,” he says. After a ₹300 crore box office winner like Uri, he’s acutely aware of the stakes involved, but says his creative decisions will not be clouded by the thought of box office prospects alone.

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Printable version | Oct 27, 2020 11:54:51 AM |

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