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Cover story: Vicky Kaushal’s guide to the galaxy

Veni Vidi Vicky. He came, he saw, and Vicky Kaushal-ed his way into our hearts. Here’s our exclusive chat with Lifestyle Asia India‘s February cover star.

In 10 years, the actor has done something so rare that only a few artists in the Indian film industry have been able to achieve this feat – he’s delivered big hits that have also earned him rave reviews from critics. And that has to do with the fact that Vicky Kaushal never underestimates his audience. Even when he chooses to work on a massy comedy-drama, he ensures that it has enough meat to hold the audience’s interest. He has a rare talent when it comes to his craft and he has bolstered it with years of hard work.

The Universe and Vicky Kaushal

His ability to successfully morph into the character he’s playing while also retaining his Vicky-ness has been much discussed amongst critics. And then there’s also the charm he exudes, something that comes so naturally to him that he perhaps doesn’t even notice it.

Vicky Kaushal

Currently, he’s in a very optimistic frame of mind. “Right now, honestly speaking, I’m very excited because I’m right in the middle of Sam Bahadur and just in a day, I’ll be heading for my next schedule for the film. We’ve been shooting for four months and now there are another three months to go. We’re going to city number 10 which is Patiala. What excites me about this is that this is one of those processes which is really immersive and very stimulating as well. Hence, I’m very happy on that front. But otherwise also just like, you know, we’ve rung in the New Year and it’s happened with so much positivity. There’s so much to be grateful for – personal life, professional life, family, and friends. You see everybody being in a good state of health and in a good mental space, so holistically I think that the fact that all of this is working in the right direction has given me a lot of confidence when I step out into the world to do my work and everything,” he says.

Like most successful people, gratitude plays a huge part in Vicky Kaushal’s life. This is something that he had shared with me earlier as well. Over the past few years, we’ve come to realise that being grateful is not just some new-age mumbo jumbo. And Vicky Kaushal’s all about trusting in the Universe.

Vicky Kaushal

“I don’t think that anything that happens to you is bad. I don’t know how to explain that in a way which doesn’t sound too philosophical and impractical, but I feel like everything happens for a reason. I’m a strong believer in that, my faith in it is just unshakable – that all these little things that happen are part of the plan. When I’m down and low, I recognise that this phase is necessary and will help me reach my destination. When you have that faith, you just accept your lows and accept it with as much grace and importance as you would accept a high point, you know?” he says, adding: “I had heard this beautiful saying that a human being struggles because he always feels that something else should have happened to me or I should have been somewhere else. We find it very difficult to accept that we are supposed to be right here, right now and in this state. I think that sense of acceptance gives me a lot of peace. I don’t judge it as good or bad. I just judge it like they say, sakshi bhava. All I do is witness the good and the bad. Of course, we are all human and we tend to react to it as human beings. But eventually, this thought does seep into me and makes me feel calm, composed and positive no matter what I’m going through. I cannot plan my life as well as God can. There’s a higher being, there’s a higher force that is working in your favour. I have that trust and that faith that there is a force working in favour of me.”

Vicky Kaushal

And this unshakable faith has held him in good stead. It is a common saying in the film industry that an actor needs talent and temperament to go all the way to the top and Vicky is cognizant of that. He’s already been honoured with a National Film Award for Best Actor for Uri: The Surgical Strike and two Filmfare Awards – the Filmfare Award for Best Supporting Actor for Sanju and the Filmfare Critics’ Award for Best Actor for Sardar Udham.

Like most people who realise that the Universe is working in their favour, Vicky’s pronoia comes from the things he’s witnessed in his life. He recalls a heartwarming conversation he had with his father, the famous action director Sham Kaushal. “Our journey as a family, from where we started . . . from where my father started, to where we are right now, it’s just unbelievable for us. The other day, we were having dinner together and my father was telling me how when he was young and struggling, he used to come to Juhu beach and look at all the buildings from the beach and just go ‘wow’. And today, he was sitting there looking on from above at Juhu Beach. He’s like ‘I didn’t know that this transition is going to happen ever in my life, but there’s so much to be grateful about’. I think my faith comes in because I never am obsessed with how I’m going to reach somewhere. I’ll leave that to the Universe and God. I know that happiness is temporary and so are my sorrows. My goal at every moment in my life is to be happy and content and that’s what I’m aiming for. A lot of us get stuck with the how and that stresses us out, that’s what shakes your faith. For me, I know that it’s going to happen – yes, I may have to take a longer route but I will reach my destination. Someone, something is taking care of me and I know that for sure,” he says with a smile.

Vicky Kaushal

When it comes to picking his film, Vicky Kaushal predominantly goes with his gut feeling. He asks himself what he’s craving at the moment and once he’s listened to a story, he tries to figure out what effect it has on him. “To be honest, it’s a decision made from the heart more than the mind,” he says. He states candidly that he’s not yet become someone who understands the math involved or what impact something has on his career graph. When he picked Govinda Naam Mera, for instance, he had just come out of shooting Sardar Udham.

Now, Sardar Udham is a heavy film to watch so it was naturally exhausting for him. It was an amazing experience but he was looking for something lighter where he could challenge himself but also have fun. Shashank Khaitan and he had been thinking of collaborating for a while and the grammar of Govinda Naam Mera was not something he had ever explored before. And the film turned out to be a process he truly enjoyed.

Vicky Kaushal

So what did his gut tell him about Sam Bahadur, I wonder. Vicky thinks for a bit and you can tell that he has a lot to say but he admits that these are details he wants to share when he’s promoting Sam Bahadur. “This is one of those stories where to be very honest, I had said a yes without even reading the script. Meghna (Gulzar) and I just met over a cup of cold coffee. I was heading to New York that night and I met her and she spoke to me about Sam Manekshaw. He’s somebody who I had heard about from my parents because they have lived through the 1971 war and she just had one line to say: ‘they don’t make men like him anymore’. And I was like, listen, I’m doing this. She forced me to take the script with me and I read it on the flight to New York. But I was sold before that – much before that. I just feel so honoured to be given this opportunity to play Sam Bahadur because they really don’t make men like him anymore and I . . . I have so much to say. But I would say that at a better time. I can say this much, though: what I’m doing right now is definitely a once-in-a-lifetime experience for me.”

Vicky Kaushal

‘They don’t make men like this anymore’ is also a line a lot of people use for Vicky Kaushal on social media, especially when videos of him serenading Katrina Kaif hit the internet. Netizens are obsessed with their love story and rightly so, the couple look so content and happy with each other.

“It is a very humbling feeling to read these things about yourself,” he says, adding: “I think a person in love is always the best version of themselves and I guess that’s what is radiating out of me. I love my wife. I love my family. I’m in love with life. And I guess that is what comes out. I think that is what reaches the audience. I mean, I can only guess what makes them say these nice things about me but I’m grateful for these kind words. I’m as flawed as everybody else. But still, to be on the receiving end of such nice words, it’s humbling. It’s really nice and motivating.”

Vicky Kaushal

Vicky, however, doesn’t agree with the ‘ideal man’ status. Maybe it is his humility talking but he is very vocal about being flawed. It’s good to know that he’s not developed a God complex despite the enormous success he’s achieved.

“I’m not perfect in any way. Not as a husband, a son, a friend or an actor. I think that’s the ongoing quest and the process of reaching that is, I think, where I’ve always wanted to be. Being perfect is like a mirage, you know? You always feel you’re reaching there but you’re never quite there. So, I don’t think I’m a perfect husband. I don’t think I’m perfect in any way, but I try to be the best version of a husband I can be at any given moment. Of course, tomorrow I will be better than I was yesterday but I always try to do the best that I can. You learn a lot when you start living with a person and when you have a companion. I think in the past year, I’ve learned so much more than the years I was single because it’s just beautiful how you start understanding another person’s perspective and that makes you truly grow as a person.”

His eyes soften as he says these words and you can see that he truly means it. Earlier, in an interview with me, he had spoken about how Katrina was the nicest person he’d met. Sometimes, unwittingly, all of us tend to say mean things but he’s never seen that with her. “I feel like, you know, all my negative spaces are being filled with so much positivity that I am growing as a human being. Every person is made of a few sets of colours, and then another person adds another set of colours and all of a sudden, you have a whole new range of colours that you’re made of. And that’s just amazing to feel that, you know?” he says and you can’t help but smile and be happy for Vicky Kaushal, the actor, the friend and the lovely human being that he is.

Cover story: Vicky Kaushal’s guide to the galaxy

Mayukh Majumdar

Entertainment Editor

Mayukh Majumdar lives life in Bollywood dialogues and has previously worked with media channels like Filmfare, Rolling Stone India, Man's World India and Mirror Now. He aspires to travel like Freya Stark and retire in New Orleans one day.

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