He is currently one of the most promising and emerging actors in the industry. The young actor grabbed our attention with Masaan and followed it up with a powerful performance in Zubaan. Vicky Kaushal now takes things a notch higher with the upcoming thriller Raman Raghav 2.0 where he plays a drug addict cop living on the edge.

In a candid and intense conversation with Pandolin, Vicky opens up about the impact of playing a messed up character with shades of grey,  his sleepless nights during the shoot, his equation with Anurag Kashyap and more.

Vicky Kaushal

Vicky Kaushal

You locked yourself for five days before the audition for Raman Raghav 2.0. How did that help you during the audition?

To be honest, I don’t know if it helped me in giving that particular audition. Every actor goes through a very personal exercise to achieve the mindset of a character. Every individual is conditioned and brought up in a certain way and then you get a character that is so not related to who you are or the way you think. In that case you have to break that conditioning. Unless that happens, you cannot change your mentality.

It was important for me to believe in Raghav (the character) in order to make the audience believe in him. Hence, I just went through this exercise. At that time I didn’t know if it would or wouldn’t help me (in the audition), but through this I thought that I could tap something new inside me.

I think what helped me with understanding Raghav was the isolation and I carried that forward while shooting the film as well. Isolation not in terms of getting locked in a room for a number of days, but in terms of disconnecting with people. It helped me because it made me relate to many things in my own life, which I had forgotten, dark sides that were buried within and that made me understand the character’s perspective. That subconsciously helped in the audition.

It was important for me to believe in Raghav in order to make the audience believe in him

There have been a lot of talks about the serial killer, but the emotional aspects of the cop were not really highlighted. How did you research for the role?

The research was not about being the cop; it was about understanding his mindset. His mindset was really different from how I was brought up, how I have been thinking till now and how I function. In that way Raghav is mentally and emotionally very different from me and that is what I had to research. It was about understanding this kind of a cop, a person who was so on the edge that the only sane thing in his life is that he is on the right side of the law. Otherwise, he is as demented, as twisted and as messed up as a killer would probably be. I achieved that mindset by disconnecting from people and from the lifestyle that I am used to. It wasn’t an easy process, but disconnecting was very important.


You had to apparently smoke cigarettes to get into the skin of your character. Tell us more about your prep for the role? As an actor how hard is it to imbibe such characteristics and then let go of them after the shoot is done? 

The cop has a few habits, like he snorts cocaine (coke). I was not going to do that to understand the character, so they made a mixture of corn starch and Glucon D, which looked exactly like cocaine, and it wasn’t harmful for me and it tasted good! I used to practice with that. I also saw a lot of documentaries that involved cocaine addicts, the repercussions of having cocaine and everything related to the drug. But just reading the theory is one thing, acting it out is totally different and you have to practice it.  Raghav is an addict, so it couldn’t appear as though I am snorting coke for the first time; I had to look like an addict. I would lock myself in the room, so that my parents weren’t scandalized and would practice making lines and snorting them. I used to try and do it while I was watching TV or doing something else, so that it looks like I could do it without looking.

Also, he is a chain smoker and I don’t smoke, but you have to do it while you are shooting. That used to take a toll on me at times because some days we would shoot for 15-16 hours and there were 9-10 minute scenes going on. So with every shot and every take I was lighting a new cigarette. I would end up having 2-3 packets a day, but it is all okay because the kind of prep you do while you are preparing for the character helps you play it in a convincing manner. It is only in retrospect that you feel that it was a big deal, but at that point of time it doesn’t feel so. You feel that this needs to be done because there is nothing more important for me than to believe in the character’s thinking, otherwise it is of no use. No matter what body language or habits you adopt, it won’t matter if you don’t believe in the character.

No matter what body language or habits you adopt, it won’t matter if you don’t believe in the character

Emotionally, how taxing was it to play an intense character like Raghav? Are there some aspects of the character that have stayed with you?

It was taxing to a point where I told my parents to not interact with me after I came back from the shoot. There were times when I did some intense scenes and I couldn’t sleep after coming home. Even after shooting for the whole night, I would come back home but I couldn’t sleep and had to report back to the sets in a couple of hours. Working on Raman Raghav 2.0 involved constant insomnia and isolation, disconnection and what not.

All of those things went on for the duration of the shoot, but after the process is done you look back at it with a smile because that is the whole deal about being an actor. I get an opportunity to be somebody that I can’t be otherwise or do something that I can’t do in real life as Vicky. Here you have an opportunity where people pay you and give you a platform and that feels good (smiles). I went through something different because with every character that you do and every time that you perform, you evolve, not only as an actor but also as a human being, your horizon and perspectives expand.


In a still from Raman Raghav 2.0

In a still from Raman Raghav 2.0

The movie is based on real life incidents, but were there any creative liberties taken, particularly with your character?

The film is a contemporary fiction and that is why the name is 2.0. Raman Raghav happened in the 60s and this film is happening in 2016, so it is a contemporized version and you will see how things are connected to the actual Raman Raghav.

If an actor works with Anurag Kashyap once, he is spoilt for life because Anurag Sir is a director who is very intimate with his actor

You have worked with Anurag Kashyap earlier as well. How different was the equation as an actor and director?

I believe that if an actor works with Anurag Kashyap once, he is spoilt for life because Anurag Sir is a director who is very intimate with his actor. I think that is because he himself has had an incredible acting experience and has done a lot of theater. At a point you realize that you feel safe and cushioned when he is around. And it is nice to have a director like that.

Anurag Sir and I have an understanding which is beyond professionalism. He knows me since the time I was a 12 or 13-year-old and has seen me grow. He also knows my family well and understands the kind of space I come from. And then of course I was an AD on Gangs of Wasseypur, so he knows me in and out. When you are being directed by somebody who knows you in and out, you are not afraid of making mistakes or trying things out. And when that happens, even you start playing with the character. Also, the best thing about Anurag Sir as a director is that he’ll never act out the scene for you. At the starting point of the scene he’ll tell you what is the end result that he wants. The only thing he wants is to see the character in its complete honesty. You can do whatever you want, if there are some lines in a scene that you don’t want to say, he will give you the freedom to say what you want.


One reason you’d give the audience to go and watch Raman Raghav 2.0?

Because it a very good film and highly entertaining in a very different way.

Can you tell us something about your upcoming projects?

There is Manmarziyan, which is happening this year and is an out and out commercial movie. There are talks about other movies as well, but can’t disclose it at the moment.