A haunting presence on a lonely ship...

A haunting presence on a lonely ship...

Vicky Kaushal, who admits he is not a fan of the horror genre, says shooting for such films is especially challenging.

Portraying the dread of loneliness

He has been on a dream-run since mid-2018 — as the Pakistani soldier in Raazi, the geeky Gujarati crony of Sanju and as the intense soldier in 2019’s biggest hit in terms of return on investment — URI: The Surgical Strike

Vicky Kaushal’s forthcoming films are no less exciting; he has, what he describes as a ‘superhero mythological’, in Ashwatthama with URI director Aditya Dhar, Shaheed Udham Singh with Shoojit Sircar where he is playing the lead, and last but in no way least, Karan Johar’s directorial, Takht, in which he plays Aurangzeb. 

“It’s been a beautiful year!” he grins. “The happiest part is that my father and mother are watching my success. God has indeed been kind. That is the greatest regret my dad (action director Sham Kaushal) has — that his father did not live to see his success.”

Each film has been fascinating for him, and while denying that he has planned these moves, Vicky says his latest (and first horror) film Bhoot Part 1—The Haunted Ship — was offered to him when Raazi had just released, before Sanju released and before URI was even shot.

“All my films have helped my growth as an actor,” says Vicky. “The script and the geography of Bhoot...  are fascinating. Like with Stanley Kubrick’s The Shining, there was a lot with which to play. The ship in the film has 10 floors, 300 rooms and there are so many places where you can fall and get trapped. Like a playground that offers swings, slides and seesaws, there was wide scope. Add a paranormal presence and the conflict got very potent.”

Vicky, however, is not a fan of the horror movies, despite having watched some of the best in the genre — both foreign and homespun. “I can never watch them alone! I need friends who ideally should be more scared than me!” he laughs. “That way, I can comfort them while watching and we can rib each other later, besides screaming together when the scary moments come!”

Transmitting fear

The actor admits that shooting for such films is specially challenging. “I am an actor who enjoys working with co-actors, so that we can exchange energies, keep the scene alive and even contribute something not in the script. But over here, even the bhoot was to be put in later! Plus, I was supposed to react as if I am alone, though there were 100 people watching me. Also, this was the basic layer, so though the shooting was always well-lit, I had to act as if I was in darkness, which would later be corrected in post-production.”

The interiors of the ship were all sets, and sometimes in the narrow passages, the camera and sound teams had to be accommodated together. “The tricky part was that my loneliness and fear had to be transmitted to the audience correctly. When I later watched the offline cut for my dubbing, there was no sound or music added, and even the computer graphics and DI (the post-production process of colour correction) had not been done.”

“We even did multiple retakes for technical reasons,” he goes on. “Every shot was a combination of performance, cinematography, lighting, production, design and sound. If someone even pressed the button a second too early or late, it was not acceptable. Also, the expression on my face or any word I spoke were filmed and recorded with different levels of subtlety and loudness, so that we could have options during the edit.”

Vicky says that the prospect of “sharing tea” with the ghost in the film and a prior knowledge of scare points made the process easy, so he expects not to be scared when he watches the final product a day before its release! “But, I would love to watch horror films fearlessly like my friends do! And I would like to believe that we have made a really scary film!” 

Would he continue to be the central character in the Bhoot series that producer Karan Johar has planned? “Part 2 and more will happen only if Part 1 earns profits!” he replies candidly. 


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