Before making a fantastic debut in 2015’s Masaan, Vicky Kaushal assisted Anurag Kashyap in Gangs of Wasseypur. Since then, Kaushal has starred in the critically acclaimed Raazi, Raman Raghav 2.0 and his performance in Sanju was praised widely even though the film was panned. Both Raazi and Sanju went on to become two of 2018’s highest grossing movies. He also struck gold on the OTT front with Lust Stories and Love Per Square Foot but his biggest success till date came this year when he played Major Vihaan Singh Shergill in Uri: The Surgical Strike. His performance won him a National Film Award for Best Actor and the film went on to make an estimated 342 crore at the box office. Through the course of his career, Kaushal has proved that you don’t need to make trashy films to be billed as a top actor — a fact that he is proving right along with his contemporaries. He’s already accomplished so much in such a short time, but something tells us that Vicky Kaushal is just starting out.

Blazer, polo T-shirt, belt and chinos: Hackett London
Blazer and zipped sweatshirt: Hackett London. On the wrist: Octo Finissimo Skeleton Watch In 18 Kt Sandblasted Rose Gold Case, Skeletonized Dial And Black Alligator Bracelet from BVLGARI

I want to start off by congratulating you on a fantastic 2019. I just want to ask: did you expect Uri to do so well?

Honestly, no. See, the thing is, we were always excited and really proud of what we were doing and when we were shooting for the film, we were really hoping for the best. And we were praying for the best. Like, I remember me and Aditya [Dhar, the director] were always discussing and hoped that the people come to the theatres and it really resonates with them. We were always praying for that but till the last date — till the release of the film — we had no clue. The kind of love that came our way, the way the film resonated with the people and then the National Awards that the film received. And generally, all the good things, you know? “How’s the Josh?” and every other thing, it just felt like people snatched the film from us, made it their own and told us to sit back and relax. And that was a beautiful feeling that we had not prepared ourselves for.

What about the script made you feel that you had to do it?

I could tell you in pointers that these are the things that really got me attached to this script. You know when you read a script and there’s something right about it? There’s something that you feel connected to. We’ve all heard and read about the surgical strikes in the newspapers but didn’t really know the details of it. I thought there was a lot of novelty to the film and the way it was executed to Aditya’s vision. We have seen a lot of war films on India vs Pakistan. It’s always team A versus team B, they have tanks and there’s firing and all of that. For the first time, I saw that in this film there were high-tech gadgets involved, there was intelligence and everything. It was a fresh take on war films in terms of the aesthetic, in terms of actions, in terms of the drama. There are no romantic scenes, no songs or dancing. So, I felt it stayed very true to the topic. It stayed extremely precise to the topic and I thought it was quite fresh. I hadn’t explored an action movie before Uri. It gave me an opportunity to pay a humble tribute to the army and it came together very well.

How did you prepare for the role?

Firstly, on the primary level, it was physical. Because when I took that film, I had a really lean physique and Aditya was clear that I have to put on weight and look heavier. He wanted that even in a short frame if I’m was standing with a group of 80 army men, people should know who the commanding officer is. So, he wanted me to have that kind of physicality. Since there was a lot of action, there was mixed martial arts training, and then of course, if you have to imbibe the spirit of an army guy, you have to really go through that sort of training, I feel. That kind of body language, that kind of walk, that talk, the way they stand, and it’s very different from civilians. When we stand, we usually rest our full body weight on one leg and we just stand casually or in the way we sit, or the way we talk or the way we fold our hands. And to adapt to that, I had to go through that training. And it helped during the action sequences of the film. The actors who were playing special commandos went through boot camp training for three months where it was basic fitness, training and discipline. It was all sorts of learning about the formation of the military when they are attacking. The special force military is very different from the infantry army. Aditya had informed me that the action is going to be real and we’re going to be inside a real forest and nothing is going to be a set. So, if you’re running, crawling, jumping, everything is real. There is no wire-work, nothing. So, we had to train in that and then for two weeks, we were given to the army and they trained us in Mumbai for two weeks. They were very sweet and hospitable but at the same time, they would want us to get their form right because at the end of the day, you were representing them. So, they really helped us a lot. From obstacle training to when you jump from choppers through the ropes, they trained us in all that. Apart from this, there was getting to meet army men, their families, and getting to know if they do feel fearful and how they prep themselves if they have to go for an operation like this. Also what do they go through when they lose one of their brothers in an operation and how does the family feel about them not being present at home. So, I trained and prepared myself for this film for about seven months and it’s the most amount of time I have given to a film. There was a lot of physical, emotional and mental training that was involved. But at the end of the day, it came together because of the team on the set. We were blessed to have a fantastic team, the director and every technical department, the editor, production designer, the action director, everybody. It was a team that came together with the right energy and we were just happy.

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So clearly a lot of effort went into the film. Right now, I just wanted to check, do you have a sort of game plan for yourself in your career?

See, my only game plan is to really not lose faith in my instincts, to believe in my gut and go for a subject I read about and I really feel connected to, that I feel affected by it as an audience member. I would go for something that I would want to watch and feel that the money I paid to watch it was worth it. I would want to work with amazing directors so that I can grow as an actor. I would want to do work that I have not done before. I wouldn’t want to repeat myself. These are my basic pointers when I take up films. So that’s my only game plan. But I don’t think because a film became so successful, I will get practical about it. Whatever good things I have got in life till date, God has been kind in my journey so far. People have been really kind, so it has all been possible because I followed my gut and I just let it be. I have given my best as an actor. And whatever the result was, I embraced it. So that was my game plan.

And tell us a little about what you are working on right now.

I, as we speak, have just come to Amritsar today and I have started to shoot for Udham Singh and I’ll be here for a month to shoot for that. And Bhoot would be coming out in February. And for most of next year, I am going to shoot for Karan Johar’s Takht.

And are there any film-makers right now that you want to work with?

A lot of them. I want to work with Zoya Akhtar, Mani Ratnam, Vikramaditya Motwane, Vishal Bhardwaj and so many more of them.

And taking a breather from talking about your career, I just wanted to ask, have you ever been in love?

Ya, I mean I am 31 years old. (laughs) I have been in love.

Multiple times or just once?

I mean a few times.

How comfortable are you with just hooking up?

To each his own. I don’t think you can generalise your thought to any specific thing. If you feel right at that time, good for you. If you don’t feel right, you don’t feel right. It has to happen organically; I mean you cannot go on it because it’s a trend. You can’t just find it cool; it should suit you. You and the other person together, it’s your life together and what you guys decide to do is your decision.

MY ONLY GAME PLAN IS TO REALLY NOT LOSE FAITH IN MY INSTINCTS, TO BELIEVE IN MY GUT

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Now, why don’t you tell us the one thing that you look for in a woman?

One thing? Just a good human being, first of all. You know, just simplicity in thoughts. I like that and find it very attractive when thoughts are simple. I love when a person is compassionate. I really love when a person is caring and if you just connect with each other, she should feel the same way about me and if the pieces fall together perfectly, then it’s great.

So, would you say that you are more of a demisexual instead of a casual sex sort of a guy?

I am quite an old-school romantic guy. I would say that casual sex is not for me.

So, since you are an old-school romantic guy, what’s the most memorable date you’ve ever been on?

I am a big sucker for long drives. So, whenever that has happened, it’s always been special. I cannot pick out one particular date and also sometimes there are these impromptu dates which you don’t really plan but it becomes perfect. And if it’s with long drives and pizzas, then I love it.

And have you ever had such a bad date that you have forgotten your date’s name?

(Laughs) No. Never.

I AM QUITE AN OLD-SCHOOL ROMANTIC GUY. I WOULD SAY THAT CASUAL SEX IS NOT FOR ME

Blazer; zipped sweatshirt and chinos: Hackett London. On the wrist: Octo Finissimo Skeleton Watch in 18 Kt Sandblasted Rose Gold Case, Skeletonized Dial and Black Alligator Bracelet from BVLGARI

What is happening on the relationship front with you?

Right now, I am single.

If you weren’t an actor, what would you be?

If I weren’t an actor, I don’t know what would I be. But I know that I would be definitely contributing to film-making. I would definitely love to be on a film set. I don’t know in what capacity but I would be definitely contributing to films.

Who are your closest friends in the industry?

My team of Love Per Square Foot. The director Anand Tiwari, Angira, the girl opposite me, the producers, they are really close. Taapsee (Pannu) is a very good friend of mine. It’s not like we speak everyday but when we speak, it’s a random banter of talks about anything and everything under the sky. These are the names that I can recollect.

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What is your stress coping mechanism?

My primary stress coping mechanism is sleep. Second, what really works well for me is that I try to do a physical activity. Like go to the gym or play a sport. Whenever I play a sport, it destresses me a lot. That is my go-to mechanism.

Have you ever been on dating apps abroad or in the country?

No, never. I just don’t understand it. First for me, romance needs to happen. At least for myself. I want it to happen in an organic way. I wouldn’t want to plan it. You know like digitally we planned, this this and this, let’s meet and just . . . I don’t know, I won’t connect to that much. People do it and have found love and that’s good for them. I have a few friends who have found life partners through these digital platforms. But I know that’s not my case.

Zipped sweatshirt, shirt; chinos and shoes: Hackett London. On the wrist: Octo Finissimo Chronograph GMT Automatic from BVLGARI

What is one question you hate answering in your interviews?

What happens is when you’re promoting a film over the course of two weeks, you keep getting the same questions again and again. Like seven out of ten questions are just being repeated in different words. And the answers start getting repetitive and mechanical. And then you just start cribbing. You want something fresh to happen. Like we co-actors we often joke with each other, like my heroine would start answering for me and I would start answering for her. So, when we reach that stage, it becomes boring. Any question would make you feel like arre 200 baar jawab diya hai, you know. So, it’s not the question’s fault, it’s just that we’ve been asked the question so many times that it just becomes stale now. Otherwise there’s no specific question where we feel like it disturbs you a lot. There’s one question where even if you’ve done a serious film or a romantic film or a comedy film, sometimes you get asked “Aur set pe kya pranks hue?” So that feels like “Hum masti karne nahi jaate” (laughs) like see the work. Sometimes masti nahi hui doesn’t need to reflect that we didn’t have fun. We had fun but no pranks were played on each other or whatever. But in general, there’s no specific question that irks me.

Photographed:  Abhay Singh

Art Direction: Tanvi Shah

Fashion Editor: Neelangana Vasudeva

Hair: Team Hakim’s Aalim

Make-up: Anil Sable

PR Agency: Hype PR