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Fresh from the success of his recent release Raazi (2018), extremely talented Vicky Kaushal is now busy promoting his next offering Sanju, which arrives in cinemas on 29th June, 2018. The film, which is a biopic on Bollywood star Sanjay Dutt, sees Kaushal in the role of Paresh. His character is basically a fictional amalgamation of different people in Sanjay Dutt’s life. As Sanju gears up for its theatrical bow, Eastern Eye correspondent, Mohnish Singh, catches up with Vicky to find out more about his role in the movie, how was the experience of working with Rajkumar Hirani and Ranbir Kapoor, and his upcoming projects. Excerpts…

Was the character that you play in Sanju built keeping you in mind?

No, actually what happened was that Rajkumar Hirani saw me in Masaan (2015) and then he called me to his house. This happened a year before the shooting (for Sanju) started. He said that he was making a film and there’s this beautiful role for which he had me in mind but still the journey was too far off. He wanted to know what I have been up to? What’s happening? What kind of films I have been taking up? He said that he had me in mind but you never know what the end result could be as the casting would happen much later. This was the meeting that happened. It wasn’t that he had me in my mind when he was writing. Hirani sir thought of me meant the world to me, though.

So how did you get the role?

For a year after that meeting, I went about my life and Hirani sir was writing the script and then, a year later, I got a call again to audition for this part. I gave the test, then he called me for a narration and that’s how I got the film.

Exactly which friend from Sanjay Dutt’s life are you playing in the film?

So primarily, I am playing this friend called Paresh, who is from the States and they have been friends for a long time, since Rocky (1981) till today. He is almost like a family. They are like brothers more than friends. There are also other anecdotes and incidents that happened with other people too, and my character is a fictional amalgamation of different people in Sanju’s life, but people who know Sanju knows I am playing Paresh.

How was it to learn Gujarati for your character?

It was nice, something new for me. It’s the first time I explored this language, and Gujarati is such a sweet language. It’s got the tendency that if you indulge only a bit, it will go overboard. So, I have to keep the right note. The film is spanning over three decades and the character’s speech is quite rustic in the beginning, then he starts living in the States for over 20 years and the speech changes accordingly, and all that was incorporated in this. So, everything was meticulously thought out in the script. Then I went to Surat. I thought I should see the place, the behaviour and body language of the people there. I observed them and tried to incorporate their mannerism in my role.

How was it to play such a colourful character as compared to dark roles you have been playing since your debut?

It’s amazing when we were having a costume trial for me. In my previous roles, there were references by many, like such colour is not needed but this is the first role I am doing where they say subtle is not wanted. There is no grey or black or white, the costumes require green, yellow, orange, you know, happy colours and I loved it. It was so fun.

Is your look in the movie inspired by Paresh?

No, that we have taken the liberty to play with the character. The character’s look was defined by what suited the storytelling. I didn’t have the pressure to inspire my character just as a real person because, according to the story, the character was a bit fabricated but all the incidents you see between Sanju and him are all real.

While shooting with Ranbir Kapoor, did you ever wish that you could have had his role?

No, I never felt like that because, firstly, you are already overwhelmed that you are a part of Rajkumar Hirani’s film. Secondly, when you are playing a certain character, your entire focus is on that because every character is a life in itself. If you lose that focus and concentrate on other’s work, then your own work is neglected.

If you had the chance to play Sanju would you have?

Now after seeing Ranbir Kapoor play it, never.

The film is just a few days away from its release. Any pre-release jitters?

Every film, after its release on a Friday, is out of our control. If it will be a hit or a flop, will it reach or not, that is its own destiny. Every film has its own journey and that you can’t predict so you can’t put much energy into thinking that because it is not in your control. You pray for the best but at the end, it’s on the film and the audience.

Will the success of Raazi and Sanju affect your choices of projects in future?

I don’t think so. You always want to be a part of good stories, you want to work with good filmmakers and you want to do roles that scare you, roles that push you. Your constant quest is to do what you have not done before. These criteria will always be there, but other than that, I don’t think I would like to be so calculative. I am an artist, not a surgeon. I just want to follow my gut. If I read or hear some projects that my heart agrees with, then I just want to dive into it.

Could you tell us something about your future project Manmarziyaan?

Manmarziyaan is again an opportunity where I got to work with Anurag Kashyap, first time with Taapsee Pannu and Abhishek Bachchan. It is a Punjab based love triangle, romantic drama film. I can’t say anything more than that but in my small filmography this will be the craziest character I would be playing, so I am really looking forward to it. I found out my alter ego in that film.

After Sanju and Manmarziyan, what’s next? What kind of roles would you like to pick up?

I want to do everything. I am very greedy as an actor. You see, whenever you start, always aim for the stars, you aim for the moon. What’s the use of working when you are not aiming for the best in life? Whatever happens, you put in your best because then you work for the best and when you work with the best, you learn the most.

How was it work with Rajkumar Hirani?

When you work with Rajkumar Hirani, you grow as a human being as well as an actor. He is such a gem of a person, he is so humble, so modest. When you work with him it doesn’t seem like that he is the same man who made 3 Idiots (2009) or PK (2014) or Munnabhai series, it feels like you are working with a director who is making his first and last film. So, he has got the vulnerability of a debutant director but also the passion of someone who is making his last film together.

If you get a chance to choose between a big-budget production and an indie film, which one would you pick up?

I look at the story and that’s the reason I did films like Masaan. Because I did Masaan and saw what response it got, my belief that stories click strengthens. These days, especially because such a beautiful phase is going on where the audience chooses to trash big budget film and heighten small budget films, they look at the story and if stories click, the audience responds.