In Conversation with Vicky Kaushal, the Masaan Man

“I was a shy kid”, smiled Vicky as he described himself. He loved Mathematics and thus he landed himself into engineering. But what made him change his mind and enter the land of glamour and passion…From engineering to films, from Gangs of Wasseypur to Masaan and now Zubaan: he has experienced it all. Recently, we had the opportunity to get into a conversation with Vicky Kaushal, wherein he shared his journey in Bollywood with us.

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You come from a very illustrious background. Your father, Shyam Kaushal (Action director) is a veteran in the industry. So how was your journey? 

Vicky: As a kid, I was a very shy and introvert kind of a guy and had very basic interests in life which were studies, cricket and watching films. As a child, I never went to the sets along with my father. I wasn’t comfortable to opening up to people. But at the same time, I was really very much interested in performing on stage. When I used to get those 5 or 10  mins of performances be it in schools,colleges or society, I would feel very liberated. I could feel that freedom for myself. Because, when you are on stage you have this opportunity of becoming shameless and I used to enjoy that freedom. So I think subconsciously there was always a performer inside me which I used to love but I really never paid attention to it, in terms of this is what I want to do professionally.

Later when I grew up, I got into Engineering. Once engineering started during my second year, when we were actually taught what will be the work culture and the work schedules of an engineer that’s when I started realising that this is not what I want to do for the rest of my life. So, that’s when I started asking questions for myself. And every question would lead me to an answer related to performance. So, acting was a hidden passion which I really never paid attention to. I made up my mind to get into the film industry. When I told my dad, he was surprised. He wanted me to get a job, go abroad and settle down. But then he made it very clear at the very beginning that he would not help me in any way and I would have to make my own strides and make a name for myself. It is a serious business and you won’t get job because you are somebody’s son. He also told me that this job which demands a lot of hard-work, a lot of sacrifices and  a lot of patience too. I might have to wait and struggle. You don’t have a 9 to 5 secured job. He said that you have a father standing by your side no matter you fail or succeed but if this is what you really want to do then you have to give your 100%. Having seen my father’s journey, I said I want to do it. I want to become a self-made man. Thus, it began.

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You have worked as an assistant director on Gangs of Wasseypur. How was it to work with Anurag Kashyap and how did it help you?

Vicky: Yes, it really helped me a lot. In fact, that was my film school, my foundation. I can say that I did my schooling from Anurag Kashyap. Working on a film which had no luxury, no budget, which was shot on real locations with so many actors. It was a very grilling and enriching experience not only as a professional but also as a human being. It taught me a lot be in terms of team work, passion and acting. Every actor had a theatre background and that’s where I got the understanding how much theatre can help you as an actor in terms of your craft.

You have worked with Naseeruddin Shah’s theatre group, so tell us something about that part of your life?

Vicky: After Gangs of Wasseypur I got my next step that I wanted to do theatre. Once I started doing theatre, I got the opportunity to work with Mr. Naseeruddin Shah, Manav Kaul and others. Slowly, I acted in plays, I did back stage work, I was doing production and all sorts of things. I did this for three years and while doing that I would also go for auditions . Because giving auditions were also a very good exercise as an actor. Seventy, eighty percent of the times it happened that I got selected for the top 3 and then I used to get rejected. But that kept me motivated.  l also did a short film with Mr. Vasan Bala called Geek Out, which in turn led me to my first film, Zubaan.

You also acted in the film, Bombay Velvet. How was that experience?

Vicky: Yes, I played a small role of sub-inspector. Actually, Anurag Kashyap came to see my play one day and there I was dressed up in a big moustache. So he liked that look and he asked me, “Ek role karega?” And I said, “Sir, aap jo bologe main karunga.” And I was ready. Thus, my casting was done at the initial stage of Bombay Velvet. But be it a small role, a big role or behind the camera, I am always available for Anurag Kashyap. I have no questions. I don’t care what it is. Anurag Kashyap is my mentor, my guru. All I have learnt is from him.

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How did Masaan happen?

Vicky: I knew Neeraj (director of Masaan) during the making of Gangs of Wasseypur. Both of us were assistant directors on Gangs of Wasseypur. He was working on the script then. Since we had developed a good working relationship, he asked me if I would be keen to come on board. Neeraj was extremely clear and confident about the story he had in mind. So, I immediately said yes. Initially, they had auditioned a lot of people and nothing had worked for them. I was keen to try out for the role but then Neeraj knew my background and was well aware that I come from a typical Punjabi household. So for him to envision me as this Dom boy living on the ghats of Varanasi was quite difficult. But Mukesh Chhabra convinced him to see my audition as he felt I could pull it off, luckily it worked and the rest is history.

You are from a typical Punjabi background and the character which you played in Masaan was that of a small town Benaras boy. So how challenging was it for you to do Masaan?

Vicky: It was very challenging for me. First of all, I have never come across a world like Masaan in my life before. I have never met a guy like Deepak. It was a very different situation for me. But then as an actor I am always open to such challenges. I had a supportive director (Neeraj) and let myself be taken in by the atmosphere around me (Benaras). My writer and director were very clear about what they wanted and they were very particular. So talking to them I got a basic insight about that world we were entering and what they want from Deepak, the character. So once that comfort level was set with the director, I needed to do my homework which was to understand that space, that culture, understand those people. We also did workshops before the shooting started. I went there in Benaras and I was there in Benaras for three weeks before we shot the film.  The first couple of days were difficult. Coming from Bombay, it took some time to get used to Benaras. The narrow lanes, the crematorium, the crowded places were a little too much to take in. Near the ghat, where we were about to shoot, there were anywhere between 20 to 40 bodies being cremated every day. It throws you off balance. It took some time getting used to. I started shadowing locals. Looked at how they went about their work. I used to carry a notebook and took down notes on how they moved about, how they spoke, what and where they ate etc. There was just so much to take in. But, Neeraj really eased me into my character.

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Your next release is Zubaan directed by Mozez Singh. Would you like to share your character and the experience with us?

Vicky: Zubaan was the film which I actually bagged before Masaan. In 2013, they were casting for this film Zubaan and what happened was they had auditioned apparently more than 250 actors and they couldn’t find the right guy. Mr. Vasant Bala, the director of Geek Out showed the short film to the director. And after watching the short film, the director called me out for an audition. There were multiple rounds of auditions and eventually I got locked for that role. So that was actually the first lead role that I had got. My character in Zubaan is very different from the one which I have played in Masaan and it’s musical. I am playing the role of a  Punjabi Boy in this film. Masaan has already garnered so much of love. I hope the next also does. I am really looking forward to Zubaan coming out in October.

Are you happy with the way everything has shaped up?

Vicky: I couldn’t have been happier. God has been very kind to me.When I used to get rejected from those final auditions after getting selected for the top 3 or top 5 out of 500, 600 people, I used to get really disheartened. I used to think that where am I going wrong, why is this happening to me. But now I realise that God actually had different plans for me. I mean two of my films releasing in the same year. Masaan got highly appreciated and people have loved Deepak. People tweeted about the film. So I am really humble. Jokingly sometimes I say that God is my manager. And he is superbly efficient in that work. I have faith in God. I am just going to move forward and work hard and be honest in what I do. I also want to thank the film fraternity. People from whom I got inspired are now talking about my film. This feels great.

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Are you working on any other film right now?

Vicky: Right now, I am meeting many directors. Masaan have opened that space. Now, people are approaching me for lead roles. But I feel I have to be very careful about what I pick up next. I have high hopes from Zubaan as well. I am meeting the right kind of people, and people whom I wanted to meet and work with. But I want to be very slow and careful with my work. I don’t want to finalise anything in a hurry.

In terms of acting, who inspires you the most?

Vicky: I can’t take a single actor’s name because it is not that only one actor inspired me. Many of them inspired me at different stages of my life.Dilip Sahab’s performance inspired me. Again, Amitabh ji’s performance in Deewar, Shah Rukh Khan’s films like Dilwale Dulhaniya Le Jayenge and all. I think he is just amazing. Naseer Sahab, Hrithik Roshan, Aamir Khan all of them inspire me a lot. They have been working for so long, but still being fresh in what they do. And I see people getting affected and motivated because of them. I have got motivated from so many films. When I watched Gandhigiri in Raj Kumar Hirani’s films, I got motivated. I have been in that space. I have thought about it. Again, when I watched Farhan Akhtar’s Lakshya, I really get motivated. As an actor, I also want people to get affected or rather motivated from my works as well. If one person ever gets affected by something I do and connect with what I play, I think that will fulfil my work.

If you are given a choice, which character would you like to do from the past Bollywood history?

Vicky: I would love to do an autobiographical character, which people know. Because I think those kind of characters are very challenging and is very difficult to do as well. So, I would love to do something like that.

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