Interview By: ANKITA R. KANABAR

It might not be wrong to say that Vicky Kaushal has proven to be a dark horse. See his career graph so far, and the fact that he’s stood out in all the films, slowly making his way up there. This year, he had five projects including two shows on Netflix – all of them being well-received. In a candid chat, the actor opens up about the space he’s made for himself and much more…

How has this year been for you with five projects?
The year has been blissful. I’ve never had so many releases in a year. From ‘Love Per Square Foot’, to ‘Raazi’ to Lust Stories’, ‘Sanju’ and ‘Manmarziyaan’. It was beautiful. When you work hard on a film, you always look forward to what will people say about it, and if your work will be appreciated. So, you are always excited. Eventually how everyone reacted to all these films was very encouraging and motivating. It was all filled with love and appreciation so it was a beautiful year.

Despite your rising popularity as Vicky among the audience, especially women, you’re being remembered for your characters as well. How does that feel?
I think that goes hand-in-hand. If people connect with your character, they will appreciate the actor behind that character as well. My quest as an actor will always be to keep changing every time and play as many different characters as possible, and my confidence increases with every film I do. That’s my job – to be extremely honest to the character I play. I also feel that it should feel so natural, that it shouldn’t look like I’ve even worked hard on it. A performance should always look effortless, that’s what I try. If the audience feels so, then that’s the biggest validation for an actor.

This year, especially in the first half, there was one film which crossed the 100-crore mark every month. ‘Raazi’ and ‘Sanju’ belong to this list. How was your experience on ‘Raazi’?
With ‘Raazi’, we were just so proud of the film we had made. We thought the audience would connect to the film, but we never expected this kind of response. When it did so well, it reassured our faith in the fact that content is the king. It was not a big blockbuster like ‘Sanju’ or ‘Padmaavat’ which would do a 100-crores. It was huge in terms of its success. Films like ‘Raazi’ or ‘SonuKeTitu Ki Sweety’ proved that it’s not really the scale of the film which matters, but the scale of the content counts. If that’s good, those films will do well with positive word of mouth. This year has been so fulfilling and good, because the success of these films will give so much more power to the writers who have been wanting to write new stories but couldn’t go further. Now they can write stories from their heart.

“A performance should always look effortless, that’s what I try.”

It is one thing to be noticed in a solo hero film, and it’s another thing to always be appreciated and noticed even amidst an ensemble! What do you think has worked?
Whether you do a lead hero film or a non-lead hero film, it all depends on the story and screenplay. Today is the time where the audience needs to take back the story home. If they like the story, they would take back the actor who even has just one scene in the film. The story needs to be the hero. For me, personally, you have to balance it out. If you’re doing only non-lead parts, then again, you are only putting yourself into a box. You have to balance that out, but not at the cost of missing out on a great story. If you have a director like RajkummarHirani coming to you with a story like ‘Sanju’, I would have done it even if there was one scene for me. Because I know that, even if it’s not a lead part I’m learning so much, and I’m getting the exposure of working with a film-maker like RajkumarHirani in a film like that. Even for ‘Raazi’, I read the script and was so touched by the story. To get such a script and getting the opportunity to work with such a good film-maker, with a co-actor like Alia. I had to do it. Sometimes you have to think beyond the lead character because there’s so much more going on in the story itself. Also, at the same time, practically looking at it, you have to balance it out.

With the kind of directors you’ve worked with, do you feel spoilt as an actor? And how important is it now for you to work with good directors?
I get to learn as an actor from them, and also as a human being I get to learn from them, because they all are gems. You get to learn work ethics, how respectful they are towards people around them. That’s probably why, even their work is so good because they care for people around them, they have an energy of a debutant. That’s what you learn from that. I’ve also worked with debutant directors. ‘Zubaan’ was with a debutant director, now also in ‘Uri’, I have a debutant director. My criteria is not that, I should work with experienced directors. The director should be clear about what he wants. I only want to work with directors who know what they want from the actors, because that makes it easier for me to completely surrender. If someone is indecisive, even you don’t know what to do. A director is the captain of the ship, the entire unit draws everything from their director. Whether the film turns out good or bad, that’s not important, because all of us are learning, but the director should just know the film he is making.

What are the kind of films of over two decades that you grew up on?
It doesn’t seem like 20 years is a very long time. You can’t believe it’s been 20 years to ‘KuchKuchHotaHai’. You feel like, it was just now that the film released. It’s shocking when you realise that the songs of ‘KKHH’ are 20 years old. I’ve grown up watching all kinds of films from the 90s. Be it Govinda’s films, or Amitabh Bachchan films or those Khiladi films of Akshay Kumar. I started watching English films very late in my life but largely, my fodder for cinema and entertainment was hugely Hindi films. All these actors and films are responsible for me wanting to be an actor. ‘Sarfarosh’ is one of my all-time favourite films which I can watch so many times even now. Then, there’s ‘AndaazApnaApna’ and so many other films. Sometimes you randomly start watching some of the wonderful Govinda films like ‘Hero No.1’, ‘Coolie No. 1’. Be it even ‘KahoNaaPyaarHai…!’ – that was like a comet crashing the earth. Everyone started body building, everyone started going to dance classes seeing HrithikRoshan. ‘Ek Pal KaJeena’ was everyone’s favourite song. I was in 10thStd when ‘Kaho Na PyaarHai..’ released. So, it’s been beautiful 20 years. For cinema, what has changed is that, the audience has evolved. Their exposure to international cinema has widened. With the boom of internet, social media –our perspective towards content has changed and we’re expecting the same from our industry also after seeing western content. That’s giving a push to our industry also, for us to come up with better content, technology, everything. That has given life to newer stories, newer actors. It has opened new opportunities to so many people. The biggest thing I see is, earlier we wanted our favourite stars to keep doing the same things that we loved them for. Today, the same audience wants those stars to do different things and surprise them. That is a big difference today. They are expecting even the stars to do different things.

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