Interview By: Ankita R. Kanabar

Can Vicky Kaushal be called a dark horse? Probably so, considering the kind of work he is doing and his growing popularity. From Deepak in ‘Masaan’ to now Iqbal in ‘Raazi’, Vicky Kaushal has come a long way! We catch up with the actor while he’s promoting his latest release. His voice slightly heavy, as if affected by cold, dressed in formals, looking quite dapper, Kaushal settles down for a quick chat. Excerpts:

“When I do get this kind of love from the audience, I feel humbled”

How was it getting into a space like ‘Raazi’?
For me, I have to get affected by the story of the film. When I read a script or hear a script for the first time, I need to be affected by it, from an audience point of view. When I finished the script, the only thing in my head was ‘do these people really exist?’ They lived in such anonymity but did such brave acts for their countrymen. It filled me with a sense of gratitude. That was a beautiful feeling and I wanted to be a part of a film which gave me that feeling. And also, I knew that if the people involved in making this story come alive are people like Meghna, Karan, Junglee Pictures, Alia, then you know, they’re going to make it with a lot of sensitivity, responsibility and they are going to make a great product. I truly feel honoured to be a part of a story like ‘Raazi’.

Was it a challenge to find relatability with a character like this? Considering, the film is set in a different time zone and your character is from Pakistan…
The thing which really struck me is that, he is from Pakistan but there’s no negativity around him. What this film is doing with its characters is that, it’s not labelling them with any kind of region, they’re treating them as human beings who are in a certain situation where there are two countries on the verge of a war with each other but in their home, there is this marriage, a merger which has happened. For that I really admire Iqbal that he is a major, but he is really tender as a person. I really liked that combination where, he is a solid spine but soft at heart. It all really came together so well and then you really surrender yourself to your director and writer. Once you are in it, you are in it and then you just let them mould you in terms of the language that you speak, the behaviour, the costumes. There are a lot of things which help you be the character. I’m glad we had such a team on ‘Raazi’. The captain of the ship was Meghna Gulzar who is so particular about things, because she started living the film.

As a director I feel that Meghna Gulzar has that knack of dealing subjects with a lot of sensitivity, so what was it which she particularly wanted from you?
First of all, hats off to her for picking up subjects which demand such sensitivity. Be it ‘Talvar’ or ‘Raazi’, you cannot make those films with a lack of sensitivity and responsibility. And she does it with such a flair, with such humility but with such confidence. She gets into the details of things, in terms of her writing, the period. When it comes to performances, she was so particular even about the way the characters look at each other. The moments are not when these characters are talking to each other, but it’s about when most times, the characters are just looking at each other. There is a lot of moments in the film which depend on these moments of silence, so there is this extra-ordinary blend of giving freedom to your actors and knowing exactly what she wants. In this scenario, an actor gets comfortable. You know as an actor that an okay take is an okay take. It was really a treat to work with her. There are some journeys which give you confidence as an actor, ‘Raazi’ was one of them.

From that guy who played Deepak to what you are now, there must have been quite a growth…
That’s one of the most beautiful things about being an actor. With every role that you play, your horizon of understanding things spreads. It keeps widening. It never comes back because you keep stepping into different shoes all the time. If I was a guy who burns bodies at a crematorium and then I was a cop in ‘Raman Raghav’ and a singer in ‘Zubaan’. In ‘Love Per Square Feet’, I was a banker, and now a Pakistani major, in every role, you give some part of yourself and take something back. That’s a lovely exchange and you are bound to grow, so definitely, your horizon as an actor, it just keeps growing. So, the journey has been wonderful and I admire my own evolution sometimes; in terms of my growth as a human being. I feel more aware. When you also work with wonderful people, it really grounds you, because that’s a lovely trait which all these people have who have attained so much in life. If you are not grounded, not humble, there’s no point of anything you do.

‘Masaan’, ‘Raman Raghav’, or ‘Zubaan’ – all these films were quite niche and box-office wise as well, they weren’t as big. But having said that, that doesn’t seem to affect your popularity, individuality and growing fan following…
I feel lucky that I got to be a part of good films. It’s a conscious effort by any actor to not get stereotyped and I try to push myself into a territory which is unknown for me as well. That’s something I have not done in the past. But I feel truly blessed to be appreciated by people. You feel humbled and grateful because that’s what you work for. Our primary job is to entertain people, our primary job is to reach out to people, give them a good time or a different world. I feel it’s their greatness that they are giving such importance and love to me. We are doing our work, but like you said, they were films which were just decent at the box-office, but still when I do get this kind of love from the audience, I feel humbled. It makes me feel like I must keep growing at it, and keep pushing my own boundaries. It motivates me.

Which has been the most challenging character so far? And also a part which you enjoyed the most?
I think Raman Raghav, because it was a character which you were playing everyday, yet not judging it. But after pack up, you wanted to run away from it. It’s not an easy part to play, it’s not an easy frame of mind to be in. We shot it in 21 days and I am glad it was just 21 days. It was the most challenging in my small filmography. And the part I really enjoyed playing was the part of Iqbal. Whenever I get married, I would love to be a man like Iqbal.

You had to work on your Urdu for the film? How was that?
It was nice. When you get into a process in which you improve on a language, it’s great because it brings in that change in your personal life as well. It’s a great change to just speak in a nice way. It’s like walking on velvet, and you get to learn something new. Meghna really helped us with that, so it was a nice process.

How did you expect the audience to react on ‘Raazi’?
The lesser expectations you have from life, the better. But I’ve had a lot of hopes. As a part of this team, we are really excited that we could make something like this and we are really proud of it. We want people to experience this story and it will stay with them.

Tell us about your next line-up of work.
So, ‘Sanju’ is coming out in June, then there is ‘Lust Stories’ which is a short film Karan is making. Then I’m teaming up with Anurag again for ‘Manmarziyaan’, which is produced by Anand Rai, coming out in September. So, yes, fingers crossed.

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