He is being hailed as the new discovery thanks to his powerful debut in Neeraj Ghaywan's critically-acclaimed 'Masaan' but for Punjabi boy Vicky Kaushal it was challenging to transform himself into a Banarasi lad.
Vicky Kaushal. Pic/Datta Kumbhar
He played the role of a 24-year-old civil engineering student, Deepak, who belongs to the Dom community in the movie. Deepak falls in love with a girl from upper caste.
Vicky said his homework included spending time with the movie's director.
"When I got the part, I sat with Neeraj for days and heard him out because he was the one who had lived with the story from day one. I wanted to know his vision about the character.
I told him, 'I am not from UP. I am not from the space of 'Masaan' and I would have to spend a lot of time there to know the role'," Vicky told PTI in an interview.
He also stayed at the Manikarnika ghat to understand the people, whose lives revolves around cremating dead bodies.
"I went to Benaras a month before the shoot and I stayed there for a week and spent days at the Manikarnika Ghat. I spent time with locals, trying to get their language and psyche right."
Bringing out the contrast between aspirations of a new life and the present that was surrounded by death, was not easy for Vicky and he used to look for Neeraj's assurance every day of the shoot.
"Some locals were open to me, some were not. A kid there quits school in 5th or 6th grade and joins the business. And I was supposed play someone, who does this job of burning dead bodies sincerely despite studying civil engineering.
"He doesn't do that as a rebel. He is just a guy who has been around death since birth. But he has got ambition in his eyes and love in his heart. It was challenging and we took it day by day and scene by scene. I used to constantly ask Neeraj if I was on the right track," said the actor.
Vicky, however, was not bothered about the fact that he replaced National Award-winning actor Rajkummar Rao in the film.
"There was no nervousness about that. I was asked to give audition. I knew about the film because Neeraj and I had discussed it. I did two scenes from the film in the auditions and left it to them.
"Replacing Rajkummar never bothered me. I just did what I was asked to do. At the end of the day, I just had to play a part. I thought about it and gave my 100 per cent."
The actor feels lucky to have made his debut with a story-oriented film but is also aware that he might get typecast as a "serious cinema" performer.
Not interested in different brackets of cinema -- commercial and non conventional -- Vicky wants to do films only on the basis of the story and character.
"I might get pigeonholed in that cinematic frame. If and when that happens, I will decide if I have to change my path... The other film I am doing is commercial in nature. But I wouldn't want to plan my career according to that because the audience is changing and I believe cinema is writer and director's medium.
"So, if the story and my character excite me, that's the cinema I would like to do especially when I am growing. I don't know what kind of an actor I am. If tomorrow I do a film like 'Singham' I might discover a new side to me," he said.
Vicky's next is "Zubaan" opposite Sarah Jane Dias. Produced by makers of "The Lunchbox", it is a coming-of-age story of a boy, played by Vicky.