Vicky Kaushal, the dark horse

Game to put in the hard yards, in 2018, Vicky Kaushal emerged as an actor who could be an unconventional star

Updated - December 01, 2021 12:10 pm IST

Published - December 19, 2018 02:26 pm IST

All smiles: Vicky Kaushal wants to spread his horizon

All smiles: Vicky Kaushal wants to spread his horizon

For a long time now, the Hindi film industry is searching for a young actor who has mass appeal and acting chops in the right measure. Of course, we have Ranbir Kapoor and Ranveer Singh but if the former is yet to get into the rumble of rustic cinema, the latter is refusing to tone down his energy to showcase pure craft. However, this year, perhaps, filmmakers found one they could hedge their bets on. When the promos of Raazi began to appear in late April, one thought Vicky Kaushal was only trying to be a little more mainstream after Masaan but Vicky made his presence felt in a film tailor-made for Alia Bhatt. In the second half, he emerged as the surprise package of Sanju , a film written for Ranbir Kapoor. The roles required different skills but Vicky was convincing in both. In between, he showcased a range of emotions in Netflix’s web series Love per Square Foot and Lust Stories. And finished the year by playing an unrestrained local DJ in Manmarziyaan . Complete package?


“This year has been beautiful. I thank the filmmakers for keeping faith in me,” said Vicky when one met him after the release of Manmarziyaan . The turnaround, he admitted, happened with Sanju. Before the release, he seemed to be playing the usual sidekick. “We were always aware of the potential that the character had. I was in Serbia, shooting for Uri , when the film released. I watched the film three weeks later. When I saw the reaction, it was a pleasant surprise for me. When the promos came out, people thought it was the story of Sanju but when they watched it, they realised it was the story of two relationships – father and son and two friends, Sanju and Kamli. While shooting, Ranbir and I used to talk about it. We felt that it was actually the love story of the film laced with bickering, separation and eventual meeting in the climax.”

Earlier this year when one caught up with him at the time of the release of Raazi, he seemed more excited about the story rather than the length of his part. “The most exciting part for me while playing Iqbal was that it breaks the quintessential mould of an Army guy and a Pakistani. Iqbal has a very stiff back but a very tender heart. And bringing this blend alive was the challenge for me. I read a story like an audience first and if it stays with me, I decide to be a part of it. The length of the role doesn’t matter then. It depends on the moments that I have in the film which will take the story forward,” he said.

Finding meaning in silences

Meghna Gulzar’s style of storytelling helped him in playing the character. “It expected me to focus on how Iqbal was as a husband and a son and not how he was in the battlefield. Meghna works a lot on the silences. And to bring meaning to those silences, one must know the human being you are playing. Profession and nationality become superficial then.”

Coming from Masaan and Raman Raghav 2.0 , at that time, Vicky was bracketed as an intense actor. And he was aware of it. “At present, I am being seen as an intense actor. In fact, in an interview, a radio jockey expressed surprise when I laughed. It concerns me. My only aim is to explore different genres and territories. My quest is not to repeat myself. After Masaan , I was offered a lot of characters which demanded honesty and earnestness. However, I picked Raman Raghav 2.0 where the character was always on the edge. The validation came from my mother when she said that I made her hate her son.”

He did prove that he was capable of showcasing different shades of intensity but one didn’t know what he meant by experiment till one watched Sanju and Manmarziyaan. If the former could have easily turned into a thankless performance, the latter could have easily slipped into over the top zone. Neither did, as Vicky shed the stiffness, that sometimes becomes an easy façade for ‘intense’ actors, like a supple trapeze artist. “Vicky Sandhu was flamboyant and impulsive. When you play a character who lives a full life, you have to overcome your inhibitions for Vicky could cry or break into a song in front of 100 people. As I hail from Hoshiarpur, I understood the Punjabi milieu but it was tricky to get his unrestrained outlook as we are conditioned to control our emotions from childhood.”

Industry insiders describe Vicky as a warm and genuine person who is eager to learn. Co-actors like Taapsee Pannu praise his spontaneity. Son of noted action director Sham Kaushal, Vicky has had his share of struggle before he joined Anurag Kashyap as an assistant director on Gangs of Wasseypur . Once a mentor, today, Vicky considers Anurag as his friend with whom he could discuss anything. But, for his good boy image, he gives credit to his father. “From a very young age, my father instilled in me the value of education. He always says that becoming a good person is more important than anything else. He never discussed films during dinner table conversations. The first time I went to a film set was in the 10th standard when he took me to the shoot of Fiza .” There was a reason, Vicky, who has a degree in engineering, said. “He is a post graduate in English from Punjab University and wanted to become a professor of English but family circumstances took him to Mumbai where he started working as a salesman in Chembur. He shared the room with a stuntman. He introduced him to the film world. The first project that he got as action director was a Malayali film because he could converse in English.” It sounds like rich material for a biopic! Vicky laughs. “He always says live in the present and the future will take care of itself.”

Antithesis of nepotism?

However, when his rise is presented as an example to counter the nepotism charge, the star kids inadvertently admit to the growing divide between the stars and the technicians in the film industry for Vicky didn’t get an Ajay Devgn kind of entry. Vicky laughs louder this time. “Yes, I have come through audition ke dhakke and a stint in theatre. My father was a little apprehensive when I told him about my inner calling. He said acting is such a profession where the camera catches everything. And if you are found lacking, the audience could be brutal in their rejection.”

Meanwhile, with Uri , Vicky is testing the action genre and with Takht , a period drama, he is making an entry into the coveted Karan Johar camp. “I want to juggle as much as possible and spread my horizon. Mass appeal is the real test. The industry has been welcoming so far. The fear is always there that you will be typecast because the industry and audience both are brutal when it comes to casting. Here people still talk like that is film main us type ka actor chahiye (this film requires that kind of actor). The good thing is that the patience level of the audience has come down. If you don’t shock them, they will not notice you. Fifteen to 20 years back even my debut would have been very difficult. Today, the audiences are accepting unconventional faces to lead the stories. They are turning characters into heroes.” The takht has got a contender!

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