High on josh

From being an assistant director to becoming a muchacclaimed actor, Vicky Kaushal’s Bollywood journey has been amazing. The country’s newest heart-throb gets candid with Capt Rishabh Kapur of Air India

Vicky Kaushal took a chance when he gave up an engineering career to follow his passion. There were doubts then, but today, just four years after his Bollywood debut Masaan (2015), he can’t thank his family enough for letting him pursue his dream of acting. And he is nowhere close to stopping. After a fantastic 2018 with five releases – Raazi, Lust Stories, Love Per Square Foot, Sanju and Manmarziyaan, Kaushal delivered the much-acclaimed Uri: The Surgical Strike in January 2019.

How did your journey begin?

I had very humble beginnings; in a chawl in Malad, Mumbai. We lived in a small house with no bathroom or kitchen. My father [Shyam Kaushal] was an action director in Bollywood and from the very early years, my brother [Sunny Kaushal] and I were made aware of life’s challenges. Our parents told us clearly that necessities would be provided for, but luxuries had to be earned!

Can we say that you followed your father into Bollywood?

It was never that easy! While my father’s journey inspired me, we were always far away from Bollywood; neither were we ever taken to a film set, nor did we aspire to meet an actor. Films were never discussed at home. I was a good student and enjoyed Mathematics so I decided to pursue engineering. I never had any fancy plans about life but believed I had to give a 100 per cent every day.

From an engineer to an actor… how did the shift happen?

While studying to become an engineer, I realised that it was not what I wanted to do my whole life. I started questioning myself on what I really wanted to do. I had been active on stage since childhood and through school and college. I realised I enjoyed acting and I felt liberated while doing so, on any platform and for any duration. I was an introvert and acting gave me the chance to express myself. I joined an acting school to see if it was my true calling and knew in six months that it really was.

If not an actor, what would you have been?

I would be on a film set no matter what, even if I were a spot boy! While my father was working with Hrithik Roshan for Fiza (2000), I visited the film’s set and I noticed that there was this frantic person who was running all over the place doing all the work. That was the film’s assistant director. The challenging job excited me and I decided to become one. I got my first opportunity as an assistant director with director Anurag Kashyap in his movie Gangs of Wasseypur. Between 2011 and 2014, I experimented with theatre, acting in plays with experienced artistes such as Naseeruddin Shah and Manav Kaul. That is how my acting skills were honed. Theatre became my training ground, my riaaz [practice sessions]!

Your choice of films has been varied. Who guided you?

While my emotional strength comes from my mother, my strength to take decisions comes from my father. He has always advised me to read a script and then do what my heart says. When the movie Uri was offered to me, initially I wasn’t convinced. I was filming Raazi at that time and was mentally occupied. I handed over the script of Uri… to my father to read. He read it and told me, ‘if you miss this movie, you would be the stupidest person on the planet. You would miss gold!’ In hindsight, I thank my stars that this movie was offered to me first and that I accepted it!

What was your experience during the filming of the movie?

Sitting with the director [Aditya Dhar] and understanding his vision and meeting Army personnel helped me prepare for my role. I weighed 77 kg in Raazi and had to gain about 15 kg for Uri.. because Aditya wanted me to bulk up and look like a commanding officer worthy of standing in front of 80 soldiers and guiding them. I had to create the image of power without uttering a word. Those four months of my life were like being at a boot camp; from

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