Cover Story: The rise and rise of Vicky Kaushal
Vicky Kaushal seems to have it all. He started out with an offbeat film like Masaan, which made him a critics’ favourite instantly. He went on to play strong supporting characters in Raazi and Sanju. And then he took the nation by storm with URI: The Surgical Strike. The movie galvanised the country, shattered box-office records, and even got him a National Award. Kaushal could have crumbled under the pressure. After all, how do you compete with a movie that made over 300 crores on a budget of approximately 25 crores? He followed up this success with Sardar Udham, a film that has already gone down as one of Indian cinema’s finest and has established him as an actor who can shake up the box-office while also pleasing critics. Suffice to say, it’s a great time to be Vicky Kaushal. On December 9, he also celebrated his first wedding anniversary. Last year, the actor married Bollywood favourite Katrina Kaif in a private ceremony so secret that memes were created about the elaborate security arrangements. After all, Kaushal and Kaif had never posed for a picture together before that and had never accepted their relationship in public. Till the day of the wedding, there were many who wondered if it was even going to take place. But the wedding did take place, and the ensuing pictures of the happy couple went viral on social media in no time. Many say that Katrina looks content, like she’s finally come home. And Vicky? Well, he’s just enjoying being the Universe’s favourite child. Amen to that.
1. The trailer for Govinda Naam Mera has been making the right kind of waves…
Right now, it’s a great place to be both professionally and personally. Because I’m getting to promote Govinda Naam Mera, which is a film that I was super excited to bring to the audience. It has comedy, it has dance, and there’s a murder mystery involved, which is completely blanketed by comedy. There are some mad characters coming together and creating the kind of comedy that I personally like as an audience. It’s like the comedy I have grown up watching in films created by Raj Kumar Santoshi and David Dhawan. And to work with Shashank Khaitan, to work with Bhumi Pednekar, and Kiara Advani, it was all just such a positive process for me. At the same time that I promote this film, I’m also shooting Sam Bahadur, which is another film I’m passionate about professionally. So overall,
it’s a really, really great place to be in. Touchwood!
Do you also feel doing a film like Govinda Naam Mera offers you an escape from the heavy duty roles you’ve been doing?
Yes, it is definitely liberating for me, especially coming out of Sardar Udham. As soon as we finished shooting Sardar Udham, we went into lockdown and COVID. So it was an emotionally exhausting process for me. After that, I was itching to do something fun. I just got lucky that Shashank was on the same page with me and that he was developing a script like Govinda Naam Mera at the same time. The trailer for Govinda Naam Mera showcases a polyamorous couple.
What’s your take on polyamory?
I believe in loyalty and consider myself a true Taurus in that regard. Loyalty is one of the most crucial and important foundations in any relationship, not only in a romantic relationship but in any relationship. Be it friendship, a romantic relationship, brothers, sisters, mother, father, or anything else. So that is my personal take. And of course, when it comes
to Govinda Naam Mera, there is the thing that I have a wife, and then I have a girlfriend. But when you see the film, you’ll understand where their loyalties lie, which is a completely different story. When you see the film, you’ll understand that it’s not about this triangle that is being created or that was introduced in the trailer.
But if you were in a situation like this in real life, how would you handle it?
I would never be in a situation like Govinda’s when it comes to relationships.
Are you a spiritual person?
I associate spirituality with my karma. I think karma is a spiritual act. Spirituality, for example, is a thought, and I believe karma is the physical manifestation of spirituality. And in this one life, you’re going to get everything.You’re going to get failures, you’re going to get success, you’re going to get happiness, you’re going to get sorrows, you’re going to get tension, and you’re going to get ease. You must experience all of these things in one lifetime. That is exactly what it means. Anything I do, from the smallest to the largest, I feel if it sits well with my conscience, if I have done it with the right intention, with the honest intention, with the purest intention, that it will come full circle somewhere down the line, at some point in my life. That, for me, is godliness in all that I do.
You’ve been touted as a method actor. To what extent is that true?
A method actor is defined as someone who puts themselves in the shoes of the character.
It’s not necessarily the technique that you take on for every scene in every film or throughout the duration of that film. It’s not something that I go through like that, and I don’t fix myself to a certain process or certain technique of acting. Every character and every film has its own set of requirements and processes. Sometimes it’s physical, sometimes it’s emotional and sometimes it’s mental. In Govinda, for instance, there was no such intense preparation or technique involved. But it was more about us relying on spontaneity. Comedy is a lighthearted thing to watch, but it’s a serious thing to create.
Going by the films you’ve done, you come across as an actor who never underestimates his audience.
I was a viewer before becoming an actor. I consume more films than I do films. When I am selecting a film or I am choosing a film, I hear the narration as an audience. Would I want to spend 300 bucks on this film myself? If this film was to be released with another actor or whoever, would I want to watch this film? That is the first box I want to check. And then, of course, there’s the character, the director, and all sorts of technicalities that come into play. But the first thing is always whether I would want to watch it myself before asking other people to watch it. People resonate with the film they love and they make it big. We just want to be entertained. Otherwise, in a year, films like RRR, Bhool Bhulaiyaa, Drishyam, and KGF can’t be slotted in the same box.
What’s your definition of stardom?
I think the meaning of stardom has changed over the years. Hrithik Roshan was launched when I was in school. I was in 10th grade and it was like a storm. Back then, if I wanted
a piece of Hrithik Roshan, I didn’t have the internet to go on to see what he was doing, right? The only way for me to get a piece of Hrithik Roshan, would be to watch his films, to watch his interviews on TV, and to read articles about him in magazines. However, accessibility is currently so great that it is sometimes more than what is required. Hence, there is no real hunger. If some person is trending for a few days, that person is a star for a few days. And then another person becomes a trending hashtag for a few days. The durability of the star has changed a lot. Previously, it would take years and decades, as well as that much work experience and time validity, for actors to become stars. Also that stardom lasted a lifetime. Now, stardom is like fast food, like instant coffee.
What do you think is the difference between an actor and a celebrity?
If anybody asks me what my profession is, I’m an actor. That’s who I am. But at the same time, we’re going through a beautiful bend because today people are appreciating talent. Not just acting talent but also writing talent and other types of talent. Even if you put out a home video, where you’re singing to the camera, and if you’re really singing beautifully, people will resonate with that. They will make you a celebrity. They will make you a star. I will always call myself an actor because that’s my profession. “Celebrityhood” is something for the audience to kind of attach me to. That’s something that I can’t write myself, like, okay, I am a star.
You complete one year of married bliss this December…
It’s been beautiful. It’s been like the best chapter of my life. It’s the most wonderful feeling to have a companion with whom you connect, who understands you and who you understand thoroughly. Because it puts you in a peaceful, blissful state of mind that makes you feel loved all the time. And when you feel loved, you feel like giving love not just at home but outside the house as well. It just brings out the best version of yourself. And everything around you benefits, including your work, personal life, and everything else. If you’re the best version of yourself, it’s just the most beautiful state of mind to be in. And I think having Katrina as my companion for life is just the most beautiful thing to happen.
Do you remember the first time you fell in love with her?
(Laughs) Of course I do. And that’s extremely private and special to me.
What did your parents say when you told them you wanted to marry her?
They were very happy. They are extremely fond of her. They’re extremely in love with the person that she is. I think when there’s goodness in your heart, it always just reflects in everything that you do and everything that you are.
Katrina’s always said that if you can’t say something nice, don’t say anything at all.
Yeah. There are many things that make her special. She’s wise, she’s kind and she’s extremely respectful to people around her. She’s never said anything negative about anyone around her in the years I’ve known her. That is something that I truly admire and respect about her, because I’ve not seen anyone like that. Sometimes without any malice, sometimes without any intention, you tend to speak about someone critically but I’ve never seen her do that.
Apart from being an actor, she’s such a successful entrepreneur as well. Do you see yourself going down the same path?
To be very honest, at this moment, my business mind is just not up to the mark to kind of take that plunge. But hopefully in the years to come, I will develop that skill. Her business mind is extremely well equipped, and she’s doing something that she also really enjoys. You have to be passionate about it. It’s not just mathematics, and it’s not just technical. At this point in time, I’m really enjoying just being this creative person and trying to create different characters. But hopefully in time, if that kind of interest develops and that kind of passion develops, of course, I would love to explore that aspect as well.
Do you feel that the media has respected your privacy regarding your marriage?
Of course. There’s always this curiosity and I totally get it. And to be honest, we are grateful for that. That’s just the kind of love we’ve received. Everything has just been truly special and it’s only given us positive vibes. You have to take it with a pinch of salt, even if the line gets crossed every now and then. However, you must accept it as a part of your profession and especially if you’ve kept it extremely private.
You’re an insider in the sense that your dad is from the industry. But have you ever considered yourself a star kid in that sense?
My dad has been a technician in the industry, and there are hundreds and thousands of technicians in the industry. The way we were brought up, we were not made to be part of the film world at all. I did visit the set only once or twice because I wanted to meet Hrithik Roshan. Otherwise, dad was just like any other person who had to go to work. After graduation, when I began my journey to become an actor, my father told me that you must live your own struggles and cover your own journey. He said he didn’t know what an actor needed to do to hone his craft. That’s something that I’d have to explore. He’s always been there with me as a father but not as a member of the film fraternity. So I’ve never really had a journey where I thought I was a star kid or that it was going to come with some sort of special luxury or anything. I knew about the harsh reality of surviving in this industry. That’s something the outsiders don’t know about, as they’re only attracted by the glamour of it. They come to know about it later, as they struggle. But I also admire their grit and resilience. They possess a great survival instinct. Most of them have fought with their families to come to Mumbai, and their struggle is always inspiring. I had so many friends in my theatre circuit who had come from small towns. They were trying to make it, just as I was. We would go to the same auditions, and we would travel on the same trains and buses. Everyone has their own journey.
Because of your body of work, you’ve become a dependable actor, not just for the filmmakers but for the masses as well. Does that put pressure on you?
(Laughs) You always go into a film project thinking, “Okay, this will hit the right note and resonate with the people.” That’s what your intentions are. But as I said, life is full of surprises. They’ll give you good times and bad times both, and you just have to be attached and detached to both of them equally. So I guess I just want to enjoy the process of working with good people and on good films. Every film has its own destiny and pressure. If you want to put yourself under pressure, there are hundreds of things you could do on a daily basis. But if you keep yourself a little detached for your own mental health, you always bring out the best version of yourself at work and at home. When you’re focused on your process, on honing your craft and challenging yourself, it’s easier to accept that success and failure are both inevitable parts of life.