Vicky Kaushal: Bhoot sticks to pure horror, there’s no side-track or comic relief
The actor chats about his iffy relationship with horror, working with stage cues, future prospects of the franchise, and his continuing collaboration with Karan Johar
On June 11, 2011, a strange occurrence befuddled the residents of Mumbai. The MV Wisdom — a large, decommissioned vessel — broke its towing rope from Colombo to Alang and washed up on Juhu Beach. It remained there for 20 days, gathering dust and intrigue. Rumours spread. Some said the ship had changed hands 14 times, being renamed on each occasion. This was later proved wrong. Others dubbed it 'the ghost ship', drawing obvious imagery out of a high seas adventure novel.
Inspired by these murmurs, debutant director Bhanu Pratap Singh brings us Bhoot Part One: The Haunted Ship. The film, produced by Dharma Productions, stars Vicky Kaushal as a man stuck on an abandoned vessel. The trailer makes clear there’s a supernatural presence on board. Vicky, as surveying officer Prithvi, is dragged across deck and pulled into walls by ghostly hands. He’s alone and defenseless — his cries for help resounding hopelessly through the empty ship.
Understandably, it was all a bit much for the actor. “A ladder fell on us while shooting and stopped three feet above. For a moment, we thought there was someone on set who was getting disturbed,” he chuckles.
In this interview, Vicky chats about his iffy relationship with horror, working with stage cues, the future prospects of the franchise, and his continuing collaboration with Karan Johar.
The obvious question first — do you believe in ghosts?
There’s nothing that has happened with me to make me believe in ghosts. But if someone is claiming he’s experienced it, I won’t refute it either. I sometimes suffer from sleep paralysis. Earlier, I did not know the scientific reason behind it. It happens because your body, out of tiredness, is still asleep, while your mind is awake. So it feels like someone is sitting on you. Once, while I was experiencing sleep paralysis, I saw a shadow passing. I’m not sure if I was hallucinating or if it actually happened. But it was the scariest night for me.
What are the challenges of playing a solo horror lead? You don’t have other actors in the scene to work with….
It becomes tricky. As an actor, I enjoy exchanging energies with my co-star and creating a scene. Here, however, I was alone inside the ship. The ghost was to be added later on. So that became a challenge. Also, I had to act as if it was all dark and I couldn’t see a thing, while in fact it was a well-lit set. It was a huge technical exercise — reacting correctly to cues without feeling anything for real. Normally, I like to be in a flow. But here I had to comply with the design of each shot.
There’s been a lot of reinvention in horror cinema across the globe. The term ‘elevated horror’ is in vogue. How does Bhoot look differently at the genre?
Firstly, we have stuck to the genre. There’s no side-track or comic relief or music album in the film. There’s no added lure to get the audience to watch a horror film. You get what you see.
Secondly, like Bhanu keeps mentioning, filmmakers around the world have reached a human, eerie space with horror. They play with human emotions and internal fears more, instead of unleashing a creature on screen. Our film, I can say, is a mix of both. It’s a psychological thriller but also pure horror. There is a paranormal entity in the film. It’s not all in your mind.
The film has been set as a franchise. Will you be a part of future instalments?
It depends on a few factors. Part two will only be made if part one makes money. We also have to see if people like me in this instalment. Only then will I be retained for another part. Otherwise, they will introduce a plastic surgery concept and replace me (laughs).
You play Mughal emperor Aurangzeb in Karan Johar’s Takht. Given the historical significance of the role, are you prepared for the scrutiny?
I’ve always wanted to be part of a historical period drama. This one is as big as it gets, with a great ensemble cast and Karan at the helm. They have a lot of pressure to make the narrative as true to history as possible. For us performers, the pressure is the same. The point is to portray a part as truthfully as possible.
Of course, you have to be true to the vision of the director and what part of the story he wants to narrate. But at the end of the day, the honesty of emotions has to be the same. With Takht, we are trying to be as sensitive as possible. Like Karan said, he’s telling a story that history has already written.