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“Playing the character in Masaan did come across as a challenge” – Vicky Kaushal

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The much acclaimed film ‘Masaan’ has introduced the audience to a bright young actor called Vicky Kaushal. Despite being the son of a celebrated action director, this 27 year old Mumbai lad struggled his way through the industry and has now earned his share of fame. In this interview, he talks about his journey from being an engineering student to playing the lead in a film that has won hearts all around the globe.

After gaining accolades at several film festivals, ‘Masaan’ has finally released in theatres. What are you feeling at the moment?
I am very happy that the film has got such a great response from the audience. We worked together as a team and had immense faith in the film. It feels great when you work hard at something and your effort is paid off. I feel humbled by the response and it is great to see a film like ”Masaan’ being accepted by the audience.

You have studied engineering. How did you get into acting?
I was an introvert and a shy child. I was only interested in studies and cricket. At the same time, I was inclined towards performing arts. I would never miss out an opportunity to perform on stage. I used to take part in all the plays and dance events held in school and my neighbourhood. I would feel liberated after performing on stage. But, I never thought that I would take up acting as a profession. I was a good student and Maths was my favourite subject. I got into engineering because at that time, it seemed like the right thing to do. We used to go on industrial tours organised by the college and that is when I realized that I would not be able to work as an engineer. Doing a desk job would be tough for me. After thinking about it for a while, I decided to follow my heart and pursue acting. I started accompanying my dad to film sets to observe the activities and understand the process of filmmaking. Being the son of a famous action director, I was treated as a privileged guest and did not get much to learn. After I finished my engineering course, I took my first step in the industry by assisting Anurag Kashyap on Gangs Of Wasseypur.

How did you get your first break as an actor?
Both Neeraj (Ghaywan) and I had assisted Anurag on Gangs Of Wasseypur. Neeraj had quit his corporate job and I was an engineering student dreaming of becoming an actor. We became good friends but after the shoot got over, Neeraj went on to make short films and I started doing theatre and giving auditions. We got busy with our respective lives and used to meet once in a long time. A month and a half before Neeraj started filming ‘Masaan’, both us were travelling to Pune and Neeraj showed me a pilot that he had shot in Benares. It was like a five minute promo for ‘Masaan’ which he was pitching to producers. I was blown away by what he showed me and we had a brief discussion about the film. After a few days I got a call from casting director Mukesh Chhabra. He wanted me to audition for the lead part in ‘Masaan’. I was friends with Neeraj but I knew he would never give me a role because of our personal equation and would cast me only if he felt I suited the part. I went to Mukesh’s office and performed two scenes from the script. After a week, I got a call from Neeraj who informed me that I have got the part.

You are born and brought up in Delhi. Deepak Chaudhary, the character you played, is from Varanasi/Benares who has never seen the world you come from. How did you approach the character?
Playing this character did come across as a challenge as I am a Punjabi and have grown up in Mumbai.  Also, I had never met someone like Deepak. The world which he comes from was completely alien to me. I loved the script but was nervous about pulling off a character like this. I had just one month to prepare for the film. Neeraj gave me a documentary film called ‘Children Of The Pyre’ to watch. It is based on people who work in the crematoriums. Then, I watched films like Satyajit Ray’s Pratidwandi, The Edge Of Heaven and A Separation. I got a lot of inputs from Neeraj and Varun had three years of research behind them. After that, I went to Benares and spent a lot of time in the city interacting with the locals. I used to talk to them and we used to share each other’s lives and personal experiences. When we started shooting, I surrendered myself to Neeraj as I had complete faith in his vision.

Your father, Sham Kaushal, is a celebrated action director. Can we expect you to play a conventional action hero in the future?
I would love to play the conventional Hindi film hero. Cinema is a director and writer’s medium. If I am offered a script that excites me, I would agree to be a part of that project immediately. It would not matter to me whether it is a zero budget film or a big budget extravaganza. I am an actor for two reasons. First, I want to entertain the audience. Second, I want to prove my mettle as an actor. I want to be a part of all kinds of cinema. I do not want to restrict myself to a particular brand of cinema. I am aware that filmmaking is a business and people expect to get returns. I want to do good work that would be appreciated by the audience.

Very few people are aware of the fact that you have played a small role in ‘Bombay Velvet’. How did that happen?
I was doing a play and had grown a moustache for the same. Anurag saw me with the moustache and asked me if I would be interested in playing a small role in Bombay Velvet. I consider Anurag to be my mentor. I would play any role or do any film that he offers me. I was happy to come on board for a film that was being directed by him.

The teaser of your next film ‘Zubaan’ was released recently. Could you share something about this film?
Zubaan has been directed by debutante Mozez Singh. The producers are Guneet Monga and Shaan Vyas of Sikhya Entertainment, who were the co-producers of Masaan. The exact date has not been decided as yet but we are aiming for an October release. The character that I play in this film is very different from the one I played in Masaan. I play a Punjabi guy who is scared of music. It is more commercial than Masaan and has got songs and action.

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