mid-day's 39th anniversary: Breakaway star born between action and cut

By Mohar Basu | Mumbai

The Andheri boy inspiring others to take the lesser-travelled road, and still find stardom

Vicky Kaushal was studying to be a telecommunications engineer. Pic/Satej Shinde

Vicky Kaushal, 30
Actor

There's a flutter at the Versova coffee shop where Vicky Kaushal meets us. He senses the attention and smiles, "When I was starting off, I would walk up and down these roads [of Aram Nagar] for auditions. I feel I have achieved something at least. I don't plan. God has better designs than I did. My only job is to put out a fantastic performance between 'action' and 'cut'."

If his restrained act in Masaan (2015) gave Bollywood an artiste it didn't know it needed, his last release, Raazi saw him as part of a team that delivered box-office numbers. And just like that, at 30, Kaushal finds himself standing where superstars have been, and starry-eyed hopefuls aspire to be.

But, a few years ago, Kaushal was studying to become a telecommunications engineer. "Life would have been a 9-to-5 job with a fat pay cheque. My family was quite smitten with the idea of seeing me in a suit, working at an MNC. But somewhere during second year at college, I couldn't relate to that future."

Though quintessentially an industry kid — his father is noted action director Sham Kaushal — he insists his story is "an outsider's narrative". "I trained formally in acting, knocked on doors for auditions, and waited to be cast in short films and commercials. At auditions, I'd say, koi bhi role chalega." And then, his father helped him with a small bit of information. "Dad shared the address of Anurag Kashyap's office."

Kaushal assisted Kashyap on Gangs Of Wasseypur in 2010, where he worked alongside Neeraj Ghaywan, unaware that the two would collaborate five years later on Masaan, a film that would win accolades at Cannes.

Stardom is welcome, but all he wants to be, he insists, is a versatile actor with an enviable repertoire. "Working with Kashyap, Rajkumar Hirani, Meghna Gulzar, Karan Johar is an effort to improve my craft. Even before he cast me for Raazi, Karan would compliment me on my work whenever we met socially. Off camera, I am still an Andheri boy who watches films all by himself or binges on Netflix. I catch up with my engineering friends when they are back from the US, and are never part of our conversations. That's the best bit about meeting people you've known before stardom happened; they remind you of who you really are."

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