Heartthrob Vicky Kaushal in the house!
He came. He charmed. He conquered.
- Published 20.02.20, 12:17 AM
- Updated 20.02.20, 12:17 AM
- 15 mins read
He’s the heartthrob of millions. Vicky Kaushal — who has crafted a dizzying ride to Bolly stardom in the space of less than half a decade — made it a very, very special Tuesday for Team t2 when he dropped in to promote his Friday film Bhoot: The Haunted Ship — Part One. Dressed dapper in coordinated dark denims and jacket and sporting a black tee with his trademark sexy stubble, the 31-year-old actor — seen in films as diverse as Raazi and Sanju, Manmarziyaan and Uri after his stunning 2015 debut in Masaan — had us at ‘Hello’, turning on the charm every now and then with his winning smile and grounded ways.
After digging into lunch — on the menu was Prawns in Chilli Brandy, Truffle Fettuccine with Chicken, Tomato and Herb Grilled Fish and Avocado Salad, courtesy The Daily Cafe and Chicken Satay Stick, Pea Hummus with Lavash and Falafel Wrap with Hummus from Paris Cafe — Vicky, accompanied by the film’s director Bhanu Pratap Singh, chatted with t2 on his first horror film, why he gets scared easily, what his reality check is and why being called ‘sexy’ makes him blush!
Priyanka Roy (Team t2): Vicky, Bhoot: The Haunted Ship — Part One is your first film in the horror genre. You have often referred to yourself as a ‘phattu’. So what is it that made you sign on?
Vicky Kaushal: When I got a call from Dharma Productions (the producers of Bhoot), I wasn’t actually prepared to be offered a horror film. Nobody expects Dharma (owned by producer-director Karan Johar) to talk about a horror film! They asked me to read the script and let them know what I felt. They just gave me an introduction and said that it was about this abandoned ship that had landed on Juhu beach in 2011… the imagination is drawn from that and then they have given a paranormal twist to it. I was like ‘Okay, it sounds intriguing’. But what I was most intrigued by was how is Dharma backing this?!
I thought, ‘Ismein pucca kuch romantic hoga… ismein pucca paanch gaaney honge’… I was trying to find a remix song possibility in the film. I read the script and I was very surprised to know that there was no such thing. It was just pure horror. From the first page to the last, it was sticking to the story… there was no unnecessary romantic subplot.
Of course, the characters have their backstories but it’s mentioned in passing. The film sticks to the core of the horror genre, which I thought was very refreshing. As an audience, I know in Bollywood films we try to lure the audience with something else. Pure horror nahin hota hain… you’ll get a fantastic album of songs… it will be erotica or horror comedy or horror romance. But this was just horror.
I love the conflict in the film. The geography of the film is a haunted ship, which I thought was very refreshing. There have only been a few horror films I have seen myself or rather I have had the guts to see (laughs). The Shining (1980) is one of my favourites and what I loved is that even though there are no jump-scare moments, just the thought of being alone in a hotel like it was in that film was scary for me. That’s what I also experienced on this ship. This is a ship which is 100m long, has 10 floors, no elevators, is dingy… it’s got its own history… there is this character trying to find what happened with the ship. There are 100 rooms and once you are stuck, how do you come out? Ships are really claustrophobic. So, for me it was like, ‘Chalo yaar, the conflict is great’. If someone is stuck, no matter how much ‘help, help’ he shouts, no one is going to hear it outside. And the texture given to the entire film is gloomy… rains. The atmospherics hooked me in. In the majority of the film, there is no jump-scare moment, but I was still feeling scared.
Bhanu Pratap Singh: I remember you (looks at Vicky) asking me, ‘Why am I going from this room to that?’
Vicky: It’s like a maze. He was popping in the scary moments at the right levels.
Priyanka: Is the atmosphere different on the sets of a horror film or is it like any other film?
Bhanu: I think it is like that on any other film, there are an equal amount of people on the sets as one would have in a comedy or romance or a drama. The grammar of a horror film is, of course, different… it’s technical in terms of how you shoot it, how you create it….
Saionee Chakraborty (Team t2): Fear is a state of mind. Would the two of you agree?
Bhanu: It’s the true definition of fear....
Vicky: They say na that fear is there till the time you see the ghost… once you see the ghost, you are familiar with it. It’s all about familiarity… till the time you don’t see it, it’s your brain makes you see it and visualise things. It comes from inside you and it has to be killed inside you.
Cue for Team t2 to bring in a Bhoot-themed cake, complete with a haunted ship called ‘Sea Bird’ (yes, that’s what the ship in the film is called) and peopled with spooky dolls and skeletons. Both Vicky and Bhanu go ga-ga over the cake (“We have worked on a haunted ship and this is the sweetest ship ever!” says Vicky about the cake, courtesy Sneha Singhi of Paris Cafe). He then focuses his attention on the cupcakes, also courtesy Paris Cafe, that feature the characters played by him in his films. Vicky has a rollicking time guessing the characters, getting all of them right — from Raazi’s Iqbal to Kamli from Sanju, from Vihaan in Uri to Vicky in Manmarziyaan.
Vicky: (Arranging the cupcakes in front of him) I will answer the rest of the questions with my alter-egos stationed in front of me! (Laughs)
Nandini Ganguly (Team t2): Horror is still taking baby steps in Bollywood. If you had to sell Bhoot to us, what would you say is different about this film?
Vicky: As a phattu, whenever I watch a horror film, I watch it with my friends and in the theatre. Agar main darna chah rahaa hoon saal mein ek bar, toh main achhe se darna chahta hoon… aisa nahin hai ki main half game khel loon. Plus, in the theatre what happens is that there are 100 more phattus. So, when I hear those screams, I don’t feel that scared. I feel ‘Chalo, everybody is feeling scared’. A friend of mine has got a home-theatre system in her house. We watch horror films at her place and we know that in that group everybody is a phattu. It’s a good set-up to watch a horror film and for months, we remember that movie-watching experience.
I feel that watching horror is a very community-viewing experience. It’s best enjoyed on the large screen, with Dolby sound. I feel if it’s a credible horror film, you will get entertained by watching it in theatres.
Right now, I was in the car, making calls for a Bhoot screening tomorrow which is happening in Bombay and everyone was like, ‘Arre, great yaar, all the best. Par main toh bahut darta hoon toh main nahin aa rahaa’. And I was like, ‘Arre, main bhi bahut darta hoon, please aa jao, saath mein baith ke dekhte hain’ (laughs). I am praying that people do come and give the genre a chance.
Pramita Ghosh (Team t2): How does one avoid the cliches associated with a horror film or are they essential to be able to spook the audience?
Vicky: Horror film mein darwaazein hamesha kharab hote hain! (Laughs)
Bhanu: In the film, I have tried to explain as much as possible through logic. There are some tropes of horror that you can’t get rid of. For example, creaky doors. Even we have creaky doors but to strike a balance between what lies ahead and behind, is what makes the film.
Vicky: The set is a dilapidated ship and wherever I was stepping, it was making a sound. Achanak se darwaza smooth ho gaya toh lagega bhoot oiling kar raha tha darwaza... ki meri horror story cliched na ho jaaye toh ghost oiling kar raha hai darwaze ki!
Bhanu: You have to have a fine balance between what the tropes are and what you are creating and I think I have tried my best to do that… to create that balance. I have tried to surprise you, shock you and scare you… do the unexpected, which I think is a must for a horror film.
Saionee: Vicky, you mentioned The Shining. Would you stick to The Shining as the scariest horror film that you have seen?
Vicky: (The) Shining was a film that really scared me and then Paranormal Activity (2007)….
Team t2: The first film?
Vicky: The first one… kyunki uske baad toh himmat hi nahin hui! (Everyone laughs) I made the mistake of watching it alone…
Saionee: Could you sleep after that?
Vicky: I could not for a month! It was made in such a real way…. I watched (The) Conjuring (2013) and 10 minutes into it, I had to watch Andaz Apna Apna to forget what I had seen! That time I used to sleep late, and I still do. (The) Conjuring mein tha ki teen bajke dus minute pe ghadi bandh ho jaati thi… uske baad se, for weeks, I would sleep off before 3am! Bhanu has no heart… he doesn’t feel scared!
Bhanu: I have many horror favourites, but (The) Shining is a different kind of horror and (The) Conjuring is a different kind and I love both. One film that bridges that gap for me is The Exorcist (1973). It’s the ultimate horror film for me. I think that film was so ahead of its time… the logic that they gave and created in the 1970s was so real that even today, we can’t create that. I think that film is at the top of my list. It was extremely logical and scary at the same time.
Vicky: Horror becomes horror when there’s logic to it… then it’s really scary.
Priyanka: Vicky, this is your first release in more than a year. Are the nerves before release a little less when you become used to them or do they kick in in the same way before every film?
Vicky: I actually don’t feel nervous in a negative way, I feel excited and very pumped up. It used to happen when I used to do engineering, before the results came in. I used to wait for the results!
Pramita: Were you good in academics?
Bhanu: (Points at Vicky) Engineer!
Vicky: I was good in academics, but before the results, I knew that I had given my exams and now even if I am nervous, it’s not going to be like ke achhe number aa jayenge. I was just excited to know the score. That’s how I am feeling now too, with every release. It’s been there since my first film (Masaan). I still get excited to see the posters of my films… just talking about the film and making sure what people are thinking about the film, how many people are going to watch the film. All of these things really excite me.
Bhanu: The excitement is in his phone calls also. When he is inviting people, he is saying that it’s a very sweet and lovely film with all rainbow and sunshine! (Laughs)
Vicky: ‘It’s a very sweet and cute film that we have made… it’s called Bhoot, so please aaiye!’ (Laughs)
Malancha Dasgupta (Team t2): What’s your biggest fear in life?
Vicky: In a physical form, it’s water. I am very scared of deep waterbodies. People want a love story like Titanic, I don’t want… I get very scared. Titanic was like a horror film for me… the ship breaking and people sinking. I have hydrophobia, but through Bhoot, I got to tackle it a bit because there were a lot of underwater sequences. This film really made me fight my fears. Eighty per cent is gone, 20 per cent is still there. And that will only go when I do scuba diving in the sea. Sea is what scares me. My worst nightmare is something like Life of Pi… I never want to be in that situation. Forget a tiger on the boat, I just don’t want to be alone beech samundar mein… I will toh matlab faint only poora time!
Nandini: What’s the scariest thing about stardom?
Vicky: That it could make you feel that you have an alternate reality and which makes you forget why and how you are here.
It makes you take things for granted. That is a very tricky thing about success. It is very important for you to not take success or failure for granted. There is this poem called If by Rudyard Kipling which says that success and failure are both impostors and you have to learn to treat them the same way. I try to do that, I try and not allow it to get to my head. Once it goes into your head, then there is a gap that comes in between your feet and the ground. It makes you lose your core, I feel. It is very important to be surrounded by the right kind of people who keep you in check with reality and who you are. Success is given to you. Of course you earn it, but it can be taken back.
Priyanka: You recently uploaded a video of maintaining the Republic Day holiday ritual of playing cricket with your childhood friends in the building you grew up in. What are the things that Vicky Kaushal the star can still do and what are the things that you can’t really do after becoming such a popular public figure?
Vicky: I always saw that for that overnight success to happen, there are many sleepless nights that have gone behind it. Those sleepless nights have not gone out of my head or heart… they are still overpowering.
To answer your question, I pretty much still do everything I used to do… like playing cricket. My mom goes for yoga and at some point of time, I would drop and pick her up. Now because of my tight schedule, I can’t do that, but at that time, we would randomly stop at a particular pani puri joint. I still try ki, ‘Chalo, mom ko leke chalta hoon’. The pani puri guy has seen me grow up in that society, so he knows me.
I still go to restaurants, cafes and malls. Nothing has stopped me from doing it because I want to keep that life active. Of course I have been wanting this thing where it becomes difficult to go to public places where you might get mobbed, but you work hard for that also… ki yeh pyaar miley. So when it happens, I can’t run away from it. I feel wrong to run away from it. People ask me that why don’t I have a bodyguard. I don’t understand the logic. All your life you are working hard for this fame and adulation and once you get it, you hire somebody to come in between you and that adulation. I love that engagement, even if it is one person who comes and asks for a selfie or an autograph. I take it as a blessing. Those are the people who take out three hours from their life for my films… I can always take out three seconds for them.
Bhanu: He got severely hurt while shooting for Bhoot. He went to the hospital for two hours, got the stitches done and then came back and shot for another 10 hours. It was already a 16-hour day for him and when we went back to the hotel, there were about 50-60 people outside the hotel waiting to see him. I just wanted to get away and go to sleep, but Vicky stood and clicked pictures with each one of them at 3am! This is what this guy is really about.
Vicky: Most of them had come out of concern also because they got to know about this injury.
Bhanu: It was so refreshing to see that and out of that respect, I too stayed back! (Laughs)
Saionee: How much do you believe in destiny?
Vicky: I am a strong believer in destiny and karma. Of course, you work hard to achieve what you want, but it is also the blessings of my parents, blessings of the well-wishers we have… it’s many things combined and maybe it was all written. I remember when I was struggling and giving auditions left, right and centre, day in and day out. Most of them were for ads and I used to get selected for Top 3 or Top 2, but I was never chosen as the final one, and I used to wonder why is it not happening. Today I realise that God had better plans. I also believe in karma… if your karma is right, you might lose the battle, but you will win the war.
Malancha: How do you handle the huge female attention that comes your way? Must be very flattering!
Vicky: (Blushes a full minute) I handle it with a lot of blush! (Laughs) All my girl friends from my college group say, ‘Vicky, you suck at taking compliments, man. Learn to take compliments. You have become a good actor but you don’t know how to take compliments?’ I don’t know yaar, I start shivering when I get these kind of compliments. I just smile and say, ‘Thank you’ (pauses and blushes and then laughs).
Pramita: One of the many words used to describe you is ‘sexy’. What do you think makes you sexy?
Vicky: I don’t know! (Blushes) I really don’t know! (Blushes some more) My brother (actor Sunny Kaushal) makes fun of me. Last year, I was put on a ‘most desirable’ list. My brother looked at me and started laughing and said, ‘Tu?! Tu?!’ (Laughs) I was that guy in college jisko bhaav nahin milta tha!
Last May, on my birthday, I was in New York to meet my friends and I ate so much that I gained 6kg! Back in Bombay, I was at home and it was really hot, so I had removed my shirt. My mom was sitting on the opposite side and seeing my glorious stomach and the new cheeks that I had got from New York and she was like, ‘Yeh hain most desirable?!’ (Laughs)
Pramita: With your father (action director Sham Kaushal) being a part of the industry, you visited quite a few film sets. What’s your fondest memory of being on a film set?
Vicky: Dad never brought films to the dining table. For us, he was just another dad who went out and did just another job. Our friends in the society would be very excited and ask, ‘Tu kisi hero ko mila hai?’ We never said, ‘Papa, humko inko milna hai’. The first time it happened was meeting Hrithik Roshan on the sets of Fiza. I am still a die-hard fan. My most special moment on social media is if Hrithik Roshan likes my photo… I go mad! (Laughs and flings his arms wide) I make phone calls to people saying, ‘Yeh dekh, Hrithik Roshan has liked my photo!’ Aur agar comment kar diya then I don’t need any more validation (laughs).
Pramita: So when you were growing up, was he the star you would look up to?
Vicky: Arre, still, still! I admire him so much… for the discipline that he has, for the hero that he is… he’s an enigma for me and I love him, I love him! When Kaho Naa... Pyaar Hai released, my father’s assistant ragged me saying, ‘Hrithik sirf unko hi milta hai jisko Ek pal ka jeena ka dance aata hain!’ For three days I practised the steps of Ek pal ka jeena in front of the mirror! (Laughs) We went to the sets of Fiza and a serious scene was being shot that day and from far I was looking at Hrithik Roshan and preparing to dance to Ek pal ka jeena! But he was very sweet… he didn’t ask me to dance or anything like that. I then realised that a prank had been played on me. But I still have that picture… my brother Sunny was also with me that day… and I have uploaded it on my social media. Now when I meet him, talk to him, he likes my pictures, then the kid inside me does a silent dance! (Laughs and mimics the Ek pal ka jeena hook step)
I handle (being called ‘sexy’) with a lot of blush. All my girl friends from my college group say, ‘Vicky, you suck at taking compliments, man. Learn to take compliments. You have become a good actor but you don’t know how to take compliments?’ I don’t know yaar, I start shivering when I get these kind of compliments. I just smile and say, ‘Thank you’
We asked, he answered...
This was just before Uri… I had to bulk up for the film. I can tell you the date when this picture was taken… it was February 9 and on February 10 was my shoot for a deodorant ad. I have had a history with deodorant ads. In my struggling days, I would go for a lot of auditions and that would include ads for deos. They needed models with six-pack abs for these ads and I was this 6ft tall, lanky lad. The casting director looked at me from top to bottom and said, ‘Deo ka ad hain’ (makes a face and laughs). I was very ziddi and so I told him, ‘Toh?’ He understood I was a dheet and was like, ‘Aaja, beizzati kara le apni’. I did the audition and I was so bony and lanky and I was asked to do push-ups. Of course, I didn’t get the ad but since that day, I was like, ‘Ek din toh main deo ka ad karoonga’. And then years later, I got a call to endorse a deo and I said, ‘Forget money, forget everything else, I am doing this ad’. This picture was taken one night before the ad shoot where I called my trainer and said, ‘We are training for five hours today. Body aaj hi banani hain mujhe’. And in that josh, I clicked this picture.
This was just after Manmarziyaan… that first letter from (Amitabh) Bachchan saab. I can boast that I now have two letters from him, and this is the first. This is so special for me, it’s like an Oscar to me. He is someone I look up to and I really want to work with him some day. I feel every actor today has some bit of Bachchan saab in him. We are all so impacted by what he’s done on screen that consciously or subconsciously, hamare performance mein kahin na kahin Bachchan saab ka sur aata hi hain.
This is Vicky, this is Sunny (speaks in a baby-like drawl) and this is our favourite picture together. This is Sunny before his mundan and me after my mundan! I keep telling people that I look the same even now! I think Sunny and I should do another picture with the same pose again.