The Kaushal brothers — Vicky and Sunny — have hit a purple patch
- Published 11.09.18
God is kind,” is Vicky Kaushal’s reply when I congratulate him on his phenomenal year at the movies. In what is being called his breakthrough year, the actor has impressed in all his four releases — Love Per Square Foot, Raazi, Lust Stories and Sanju.
t2 caught up with Vicky over a very, very late breakfast. While the promotions for Manmarziyaan are in full swing, Vicky has been shooting his next film Uri during the night. “I got home at 8am and woke up a little while ago,” said the
30-year-old actor as he wolfed down a gigantic club sandwich and fries. Even as he carb-loaded, Vicky talked about what makes Anurag Kashyap a special director, whether the length of a role matters and what he’s learnt from his directors.
Are there reactions to one film or character of yours that’s surprised you?
I guess, in some way, there have been surprise elements in all the parts that I played. But the biggest surprise for me was Raazi, playing Iqbal, a Pakistani and then getting the reviews I did. It was primarily Sehmat’s (played by Alia Bhatt) film, and I hadn’t done that film with any expectations of people taking my character back home; I was just happy to be part of such a noble story.
Till the film released, I was being asked if I was worried about having played a Pakistani and whether I had apprehensions. Afterwards, the same people said they were very happy I had played that role, that they were in love with that Pakistani guy and some even said that they wanted a husband like that. That, for me, was a big validation as an actor and it boosts my confidence a lot, especially because it was a role where I didn’t have much dialogue.
Clearly, the length of the role doesn’t matter...
If I were to be very honest, calculating the length of your roles is something you have to do as an actor at some point; making sure you’re not placing yourself in a slot. Once in a while when a film comes along with a filmmaker like Rajkumar Hirani or Meghna Gulzar, where you feel like you’re serving a bigger purpose and not just looking at small, petty things, you go for that. There’s also a conscious thought in your head to not repeat it. My priority will always be a good story with a good filmmaker.
There must be a worry that doing too many small characters will make people not see you as a solo hero...
Of course it’s there, and you don’t want to get slotted into that. But like I said, once in a while, you have to see the bigger picture.
After Bombay Velvet and Raman Raghav 2.0, Manmarziyaan reunits you with Anurag Kashyap...
And I pray that I get an opportunity to work with him once every three-four years, because I feel there’s a rebirth in me as an actor; my dead cells just shed away and I get a new skin as an actor. Anurag Sir and I have known each other for years —my journey in the industry started as an assistant director on Gangs of Wasseypur, then Raman Raghav 2.0 as an actor and now Manmarziyaan. I feel that every time I collaborate with him, in whichever capacity, I come across a new side of myself.
What makes him so special?
As a director, he’s impulsive and organic. He’s the only director with whom you’d be on the backfoot if you prep too much. You just have to keep your character in your head, come on set and surrender. You have to let him mould you.
As an actor, you read a scene and subconsciously visualise the scene — how you’re going to say things, what the response would be, where you’d be standing.... Then you reach an Anurag Kashyap set and the scene that was supposed to happen in the kitchen is now happening on the street, and there’s a car that’s going to drive up next to you and honk... there are 10 different things that were not even close to what you visualised.
When you work with Anurag Sir, it’s like scuba diving — you dive
100-200ft into the water not knowing what’s down there and you tell yourself, ‘Let’s just go and see’. He just says, ‘Get your oxygen cylinder and come to me,’ which is why when I’m on an Anurag Kashyap set... I’m very alive and in the moment.
You’ve done three very different films with Anurag. Was he and the atmosphere on the set different through these films?
While shooting Manmarziyaan, I kept teasing him that the last time I’d seen him this happy was while shooting Wasseypur. He was in a headspace where he was just enjoying the process of making a film. You just can’t take the filmmaker out of him, he has just one identity and his films are his world.
So, the kind of phase he’s going through in his personal life will always reflect in his films, will always reflect his mood on set and his approach to a scene. I have seen Anurag Sir jumping around behind the monitor while we were shooting Manmarziyaan, I have seen him giggling, which I’d never seen before. He was cracking the lamest and worst jokes in the world, and when he does that, you know he’s in a very happy space — he’ll look around expecting huge laughter and that never happens!
In your three years in the industry, you’ve worked with talents like Anurag Kashyap, Meghna Gulzar, Karan Johar and Raju Hirani. What does working with directors of that calibre bring to you as an actor?
Firstly, you realise how new you are and how much there’s left to stretch your horizons of the understanding and knowledge of filmmaking or acting. The common thing about all of them is that they’re all so grounded. As an artiste, you learn so much because everyone’s got a different approach, a different language, a different way of making films — your understanding as an artiste obviously widens. As a human being, you evolve so beautifully when you’re working with such amazing people.
There’s been so much buzz around you this year. How do you not let success go to your head?
There’s a beautiful line in this poem called If by Rudyard Kipling and that line will never leave me. It goes, “Success and failure are two imposters. Treat the two just the same.” I really treat them as imposters and visitors, and I’m sure that at some point of time I’ll have to face both of them.
In these three years, I believe I’ve only begun learning how to walk, I still have to run and will fly some day, will fall some day and then stand up again.
In an actor’s journey, you know there are only two destinations. The first one is being in the limelight and the world is expecting the world from you, and the second is they don’t know who you are and nobody cares. You have to prep yourself for which way you want to go. I’ve been working hard to get people to notice my work and me. I want people to have expectations from my films. I don’t ever want people to not care about what I’m doing. Rather than being scared of the expectations people have of me, I want to grab them and embrace the responsibility.
His performance as Himmat Singh, the hot-headed hockey player who wears his heart on his sleeve, in Akshay Kumar’s box-office winner Gold has earned him a lot of praise. Sunny Kaushal, 28, is the new Kaushal on the block, with elder brother Vicky already making waves in Bollywood. t2 caught up with the young actor for a chat on being Himmat, his film lineage (dad Sham Kaushal is a prominent action director) and the road ahead.
What’s the best thing you’ve heard about your portrayal of Himmat Singh?
While I was shooting Gold, I didn’t really notice how different I look in real life compared to Himmat. That’s the first thing people told me… how different I look with the beard and the pagri. It’s very hard for people to recognise me. Recently, I went to a theatre alone to watch the film. The response was great, but nobody recognised me! (Laughs) But I take it as a compliment.
What was the process of becoming Himmat like?
I went and auditioned for the role. Reema (Kagti, the film’s director) liked me. I read the script and I really wanted to be a part of this film. I felt that this is a story that people of our generation should know. I had an idea that something like this had happened (independent India’s first Olympic gold medal) but I didn’t know the story behind it.
As far as the prep is concerned, we started off by learning the basics of hockey. The one thing we needed to nail was hockey; although it was a fictionalised account of a real scenario, we were shouldering the responsibility to portray Olympians who got India its first gold medal as an independent nation. We had to ensure that at no point should a real hockey player say that the audience has been cheated.
Then, of course, all of us had to concentrate on the different facets of our characters. Himmat is very different from who I am; I am much calmer. Himmat is very impulsive, out there and outspoken. He doesn’t understand politics and manipulation. His only goal is to play hockey.
While we were learning hockey from real players, I learnt a lot about being an athlete that ultimately helped me in understanding Himmat’s psychology. I am not an athlete… I haven’t ever played a sport. So adopting the psychology of an athlete was a big challenge.
You made your film debut with Sunshine Music Tours & Travels two years ago, have acted in a few shorts but Gold has been the turning point in your career. How’s the industry viewing you now?
Oh, with a lot of love! I am getting so much praise from the industry, which has been both unreal and overwhelming. I feel a lot of gratitude when I meet people and they say they loved my performance and the film. But I haven’t signed anything yet… I am still waiting (smiles).
Your big moment has come in a year when your brother Vicky Kaushal is on a career high with back-to-back hits. How big an inspiration has he been to you?
Whatever people are saying about the Kaushals being on a high is all courtesy Vicky… I have just entered. He’s been a big inspiration. Though he’s just a year and four months older, ever since I was a kid I have looked up to him. He’s been my support system and the anchor in my life. He’s inspired me in many other things in life and that’s also trickled down to acting. But he also believes that we are individuals who have our own process. He’s a very private person when it comes to his craft and he respects that about me as well.
In a very short time, Vicky has delivered some memorable acts. Do you have a favourite?
My all-time favourite will always be Deepak in Masaan (Vicky’s debut film). That’s the first time I saw my brother on the big screen and I have not seen him act like that ever again. In Sanju, he’s given a better performance and in Raazi, he was much more restrained, but for me, Deepak will always be Deepak. He was fresh and he was raw and that performance was truly something else altogether.
Does the conversation at the Kaushal dining table only revolve around movies?
Well, my mom keeps complaining that we only talk about films! Since dad, Vicky and me are all from the industry, no matter how much we try, at the end of the day, we do talk a lot about films. But I think that is true for every household. A family working in the same business will invariably talk about that.
Did you always want to be an actor?
Our father has been a big influence. We’ve seen dad working for days at a stretch or disappearing for months on outdoors or just being at home for months together. We had that kind of an atmosphere at home and that was normal for us. I couldn’t really understand the 9-to-5 routine and I couldn’t do it. That played a big role in helping us decide that we wanted to be in this industry. But that I wanted to be an actor happened at age 21 after I assisted on a film called My Friend Pinto.
What does the road ahead for you look like?
I haven’t looked, to be honest! Of course I want to be successful, I want to be out there, I want people to know me and I want to touch a lot of lives through my performances and also entertain my audience.... I want to be a part of good films and tell impactful stories. I am still learning and discovering my craft and for me, it will always be one step at a time. As an actor, I want to keep myself open to experiencing all that is there out there and all that which will make me a better actor.
An action film maybe, given your lineage?
(Laughs) That’s my favourite genre to watch. Bruce Willis in Die Hard is a big favourite. For sure, I want to experiment with action and see Papa ka kitna khoon hai mujh mein! (Laughs)
Sunny Kaushal is a young actor to watch out for because... Tell firstname.lastname@example.org