MUMBAI — He’s been not so much on a roll as on a rollercoaster since mid-2018. After consecutive super-hits in “Raazi,” “Sanju” and “URI:The Surgical Strike,” Vicky Kaushal’s forthcoming films add to his reputation as a totally versatile actor: his next release “Bhoot—Part 1: The Haunted Ship,” “Shaheed Udham Singh” with Shoojit Sircar, “The Legend Of Ashwathama,” a superhero mythological for his “URI…” producer Ronnie Screwvala, and last but not the least, Karan Johar’s “Takht,” a historical, as Aurangazeb!
When we meet before the release of “Bhoot…” he is full of beans and confesses that he is no horror film buff. He has watched the cream of Hollywood and Indian films in this genre, of course, loved the way the watchman’s head was turned a full 180 degrees in “Bhoot,” was terrified of the eyes in “Raat” that he managed to watch as a kid, before he became aware that lenses were used! He thus prefers to watch such films in a group.
“That’s when we get people who are more scared than you are, and we can rib them later and comfort them while watching!” he laughs. “I am envious of people who enjoy horror films, but if I even hear a ghost story after evening, I would like the storyteller to sleep next to me that night! Yes, I do not believe in ghosts myself, but I do not disbelieve others who narrate such experiences either! Every morning, we would begin the shoot of my film with a prayer. Once there was a ladder that was to fall on us, but stopped midway, I think! I implored the ghosts to spare us as we were making their biopic here!”
Kaushal also speaks of the challenges of shooting for the film. “The script fascinated me!” he recalls. “There was this huge ship, 10 floors high, with 300 rooms, and so many areas where one can be trapped. Add a paranormal entity and you can imagine the rest! Honestly, I knew that after the director said ‘Cut!’ I would share a cup of tea with the ghost! And while dubbing, I knew the scare points that would come, and yet I would like to think that this one is a genuinely scary film!”
Yes, Kaushal’s dubbing was for the “offline cut,” which means that there was no sound, music or computer graphics added, so he was dubbing in a vacuum. The same was true, more or less, for the shoot, “as the ghost and graphics would be added later! And I am an actor used to feeding off co-actors’ energies, with which we could raise a sequence beyond the script!”
Kaushal thus shot on a well-lit set (all the ship interiors were sets, of course) that would be rendered dark in post-production and look empty when there were actually almost a 100 people on the set. “I had to pretend I was alone, or with the entity, and react as if someone was there with me. It was very challenging. Unless I acted really scared, the fear would not be transmitted to the viewers! And we had lots of retakes too! These were mainly for technical reasons!”
The actor enumerates them: “We had to synchronize the performance, sound, lighting, camerawork and even the production design team had to be in sync, so if even one of us had the timing wrong by a second, it could ruin the shot. Also, they shot various reactions of mine, from subtle to loud, so that all options would be available when it came to the edit!”
Will he be a regular in the franchise like so many protagonists? “I have no idea, and I don’t think anyone has either!” he grins. “Part 2 will happen only if Part 1 earns money. And people should like me too, otherwise central faces and protagonists can change!”
Nevertheless, it’s been a great year for him, he says. The actor signed “Bhoot…” after “Raazi” released and at that time, “URI…” was not even shot. “It’s great to know that people call me with ‘How’s the josh?’ which is my signature line in that film. That’s one step ahead of being called by my character’s name.”
Kaushal is enjoying this phase of growth as an actor, which is completely unplanned. “I just want to be a part of good films made by good people!” he tells you. “I think that today people want good stories, so even if five back-to-back films of one genre come, they will probably be accepted. For me, it is however nice that I have no home ground and I am getting to work in varied subjects. All this success is gratifying for my confidence.”
Vicky is especially elated because he can see his success reflected in his parents’ eyes. “They are sitting back and enjoying it!” he smiles. “The one regret my father (celebrated action coordinator Sham Kaushal) always had was that when HIS good times began, his father wasn’t there to see his success. God has been kind to me!”
Buzz is that he has hiked his films in a big way after all these consecutive successes. “I too have to keep my kitchen fires burning!” he smiles again. “Look, I have not really raised my fees all that much. But I cannot have the same rate for every film. Some films may demand 20 days from me, others may need a year, including for the prep. So my fees go up as well as down. But they make news only when they go up!”
Kaushal does not take up too many films. Is that part of a plan? The actor replies, “If I had my way, I would be on a set every single day, but I guess I am okay, I think that with the films I have, I will be busy anyway until 2022.”