Written by Anushree Majumdar | Updated: July 23, 2018 12:10:13 am Vicky Kaushal as Sanjus best friend Kamli.

When Sanju hit the screens last month, the critics and intelligentsia were alarmed by how inauthentic Rajkumar Hiranis “biopic” appeared to be. Notwithstanding Ranbir Kapoors excellent take on Sanjay Dutts mannerisms and gait, the film polarised the public, and the press, who were squarely blamed for the 58-year-old actors troubles. But if there was one name that could unite both camps, it was Vicky Kaushal, whose performance as Sanjus best friend Kamli was an absolute delight to watch.

This summer, the 30-year-old actor has steadily proven that his ability to be a scene-stealer is not a one-off phenomenon. With four releases so far — Love Per Square Foot and Lust Stories (Karan Johars short) on Netflix, Raazi and Sanju on the big screen; and Anurag Kashyaps Manmarziyan in post-production — 2018 could very well be Kaushals year. Hes had no time to rest — Kaushal is in Serbia, shooting for debutant filmmaker Aditya Dhars Uri, based on the surgical strikes carried out by the Indian army to avenge the killing of 18 soldiers, in Pakistan-occupied-Kashmir in 2016. In between shoots, and lunch, Kaushal makes time for a chat over the phone. The connection is spotty, and the first few minutes has Kaushal, his publicist and this reporter caught in a seemingly endless loop, saying “hello” and “I can hear you” to each other, before the interview finally takes off.

Can you hear me? I was saying that youve done a marvellous job in Sanju, in spite of that terrible wig and an oversized sweater. How did the role come about?

I can hear you! How sweet, thank you so much. Before I began shooting for Love Per Square Foot, Rajkumar Hirani called me to his office. Hed seen Masaan and liked my performance. He told me about a film he was working on and about a friend of the lead. He wasnt sure if I was going to be the right fit, but honestly, it didnt matter — I was happy to be considered for a part. A year went by and I was asked to screentest for Kamlis part. I auditioned, and it was the drunk scene with Paresh Rawal, and it was done in such a hurry, I wasnt sure it was good enough.

Then I was called to Hiranis office and he narrated the film to me. I laughed, I cried, I loved it but I still didnt know if Id been picked for the part. What do you want me to do, I asked him, and he said, Play Kamli, of course. Why do you think I narrated the entire film to you.

Vicky Kaushal with sanju actor ranbir kapoor Vicky Kaushal and Ranbir Kapoor in a song from Sanju.

You studied to be an engineer. Then you chose to do theatre and then work on film sets. How would you describe your relationship with acting?

Theatre makes you more aware of your own being, your physicality, to know your instincts. That is the most important thing because theatre is the actors medium. Film is the directors medium. But its still an intimate experience, because every action can be scrutinised, every movement has meaning. I cant describe a process, as such, but between action and cut, all I know is that I am the character, and nobody else.

Youve been a lead and a character actor. The lines diving the two are quite blurry these days.

Yes, thats right. I have never looked at a role in terms of how much screen time Ill get, but in terms of what is the arc of this character, where does he fit into the scheme of things. I realised this after Masaan — the hero of any film is the story. Thats what makes any actor in any capacity the hero. If the audience takes the story back home, then theyre likely to take the characters as well.

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Youve played a few good men so far: Deepak in Masaan, Iqbal in Raazi, Sanjay in Love Per Square Foot. Does that part come naturally to you?

A sincere, sensitive man? (laughs) Niceness is tricky, because it can come across as a façade. Niceness should come across as honesty, as a genuine quality. I should believe in the character, think as him, and the
rest follows.

Uri is your first action film. How much acting does one actually have to do in an action film?

You have to do an equal amount of acting (laughs), a whole range of emotions have to be shown on screen. But I know what youre saying — action films can be like set pieces. If the action is a part of the story, then its like any other film.

The job of an actor is not to act — it is to react. We react to situations, other people, our environment. So even in an action film, thats what Im doing. If Im punching somebody, Im thinking of why my character doing this, what has compelled him.

Is there a role in the past year that you wish you could have done?

I dont think so. If Ive watched an actor do a role well, I dont wish to do it myself. If Im taking the character back home in my mind, then I think the actor did his/her job, and nobody else should do that role. If I fall in love with a character or a film, I dont want anybody else to touch it.

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