‘Salute the armed forces’: An exclusive interview with Vicky Kaushal on Uri: The Surgical Strike and his career
On the morning of February 26th, as the Indian Air Force began launching air strikes in Pakistan, Vicky Kaushal took to Twitter to show his support for the country’s armed forces, with a message that read: ‘Salute to the #IndianAirForce and our Intelligence Department. #IndianStrikesBack (sic). Jai Hind.’ The message was simple, timely and extremely powerful — even as the young star’s movie, Uri: The Surgical Strike, is set to become this year’s biggest, and most talked-about hit.
We sat down with the rising star for a chat about his growth as an actor. For a background recap, Vicky made a promising debut with his subtle, understated portrayal of a boy from a fringe community in the film Masaan (2015), which earned him national awards for Best Male Debut of the year. Three years down the line, 30-year-old Vicky Kaushal — who chose to slog it out in Bollywood rather than write software codes at an MNC — had an incredible run in 2018, with a series of hits, both on celluloid and digital platforms. All five of his films — Sanju, Raazi, Lust stories, Love Per Square Foot and Manmarziyaan fared well — and his performances were lauded by audiences and critics alike.
He amped up his ‘josh’ in 2019 as well with Uri: The Surgical Strike, which released on January 11, becoming the first big hit of the year, earning more than `228 crore in the Indian box office alone, outdoing Shah Rukh Khan’s highest-grossing film till date, Chennai Express. Uri, which rides largely on Vicky’s shoulders, is directed by Aditya Dhar, and is a celluloid representation of the September 2016 military operation carried out by the Indian Army in Pakistan-occupied Kashmir. Vicky became an overnight sensation and despite the Ranveer Singh-Alia Bhatt starrer Gully Boy dominating screens at multiplexes, Uri is still going strong.
Without a godfather in Bollywood, he has become one of the most sought-after artistes in the industry and will be seen in Karan Johar’s next, Takht, where he will be essaying the role of Aurangzeb. He will share screen space with Ranveer Singh, Alia Bhatt, Jahnvi Kapoor and Kareena Kapoor Khan, among others. According to the grapevine, he has also replaced none other than Shah Rukh Khan in the Rakesh Sharma biopic, Saare Jahan Se Achha. Rumours have it that King Khan has become circumspect about selecting roles after the debacle of Zero, though Vicky is tight-lipped about this, and also all his
upcoming projects. Post Uri, the down-to-earth actor sat down for a quick chat with Indulge despite a busy schedule. Excerpts:
It has been a fabulous start to 2019 for you, with Uri being the first blockbuster of the year. How does it feel?
It has been a good run. 2018 was mind-blowing and with Uri, it feels good, overwhelming and surreal. It always feels special to be at the receiving end of so much love. I feel very motivated and encouraged as an actor to give my best to my work and push the envelope even further. I am really very grateful to my audience and critics who have supported my work with such appreciation.
How much hard work went into making Uri a success?
A lot of hard work goes into creating a character and portraying it in the most honest way possible. In the case of Uri, especially, there was a lot of training involved. For seven to eight months at a stretch, we went through rigorous training as a team — actors, technicians, all of us. For me, personally, it was divided into many stages. First, it was gaining about 15 kilos of weight. There was a three-month boot camp and then training by the military personnel. I, along with 20 other actors, who played special force commandos in the film, were trained by the 7th Battalion of the Sikh regiment team in Mumbai. So, there was a lot of preparation and hard work involved, and it’s not just till we reached the film sets, but also after we reached the sets and started shooting those action sequences. Those 15-16 hours of work every day was very taxing, but very enriching and stimulating for each one of us in the team. It was a wonderful team effort and we are very glad it paid off.
How has the journey been, from Masaan to Uri?
The journey was very organic for me, and I am really grateful to all the filmmakers who invested their trust in me for the different parts in their films. I have grown not just as an actor, but also as a human being by working with some wonderful technicians, filmmakers and co-actors, and I have only learnt from every film that I did. In 2015, when my film Masaan released, if anybody would have asked me how my 2018 and 2019 would look like, I would have never guessed that they would be such beautiful years, where I would get to work with so many great filmmakers.
How inspiring was your father, Sham Kaushal, a reputed action director in the industry?
My father is the pillar of strength for me, because his experience in the industry is as much as my age. So, if there’s any second opinion I need or guidance I want, I look up to him — and I’ve seen him grow and struggle in this industry. So I know the harsh realities, too. I know it’s not just glitter and glamour, it’s also a lot of hard work and a lot of sincerity that this industry demands from you as a professional. That clarity was always there. Thanks to his journey, I could see things up close and personal. It helps me stay focused, and does not let me take anything for granted.
You share a very strong bond with your brother Sunny Kaushal, who is also an actor.
Sunny and I hardly have an age difference — just a year and four months. He is more a friend than a brother, and it’s so heartening to see him doing well too. We keep bouncing ideas off each other and discuss films. I am very glad to see him have a good start with Gold, and he will be soon seen in the lead in Bhangra Pale, produced by Ronnie Screwvala. Someday, I wish we get to work together in the same film.
Have Bollywood films become more realistic?
Bollywood is not only becoming more realistic, I think now, it’s more relatable too. People like to see stories they relate to, they like to see characters they have seen around them and flawed like we all are. They like to see how those flawed characters get into trouble and come out of a certain situation — which we can relate to and want to escape from. But they want to see that answer on the larger screen.
How do you manage the attention and fame that has come with your success?
I don’t really know how I manage fame, but all I know is that I am surrounded by some very close people — my family and friends — who keep me grounded, and also the fact that I don’t take fame, success or failure or anything for granted. I know they are all a part of life. All I want to keep focusing on is the journey. I want to keep enjoying my process of acting — the rest is all subservient to that.
Do you think the web platform has changed the way things used to be in the acting profession?
The web platform has really opened up a whole new horizon for not only actors, but also for technicians, writers, directors, storytellers and producers too, because it has made entertainment very accessible to people now. They have entertainment in their pockets and what has happened is that
it has also made filmmakers very cautious of what they are making. They now have to make something on par with international content, because people are more abreast of things globally now.
They’re willing to pay `300 and take out three hours of their lives to come and watch a film — only if it’s worth it. Otherwise, they are happy taking out their mobile phones and watching entertainment on that. So, web platforms have done a lot of good in terms of quality of work as well.
How do you spend your time when you are not working?
When I am not busy acting, most of the time I am just sleeping. The days I get some free time, I am so tired that I just need to cover up for all my lost sleep. I also like relaxing, doing nothing at home or catching up with old friends from my engineering days or watching movies and have dinner with my family.
What’s your personal style like?
I have always been a very fashion handicapped person, as I’ve not really understood fashion much. But all I know is that I like to keep myself comfortable, because I think one’s clothes and style are an extension of one’s personality and who you are. I actually like keeping things simple, relaxed and
comfortable. I’m not much into experimental stuff. Just basic clothing is my kind of fashion statement.
ON THE TERROR ATTACKS IN PULWAMA
Speaking about the recent terror attacks in Pulwama district of Jammu and Kashmir, Vicky said, “I feel I am a less knowledgeable person... It is easy to say do this, do that, and this should happen or that should happen — there are repercussions that will also happen. I think our Government will be thinking of the best move, they would be discussing these things and we should leave it to them. This should not
be forgotten and should not be forgiven... The kind of situation (we are facing), it seems like a personal loss, because of the journey we have had. It does feel sad when we read about it. It is a very sad sight for all of us.” [Source: Agencies]
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