THE ROAD LESS TRAVELLED
Filmfare|October 2021
Jitesh Pillaai chats with Vicky Kaushal, who’ll soon be seen in Sardar Udham, and finds out that the actor is quite gung ho about playing the revolutionary hero
Jitesh Pillaai

ACTORS ARE LIKE THE OCEAN. THEY HOLD SECRETS WITHIN. The secrets they hold are the secrets that shape their personality. There is tragedy, there is romance, there is heartbreak, there is validity. Vicky Kaushal is an ocean of expressions in an arid landscape. He will show you the truth on screen. Remember the heart-breaking scene in Masaan, where he mourns the loss of his fiancée and asks why doesn’t this pain get lesser. You can’t help but be moved by him.

That’s because he harnesses his ocean of secrets into the scene. The same ocean spills out in waves when he realises his wife’s betrayal in Raazi. It’s the same ocean of secrets which comes spilling out in Lust stories. He’s your everyman and it takes goddamn guts to do what he does. His outings in Uri also show him taking the way of valour without obviously falling prey to machismo. He does it subtly but effectively. That’s because he knows the secret. The same secrets he carries with him in the role of Udham Singh. Seething with the horror and violence unleashed in the Jallianwala Bagh massacre, Udham Singh worked studiously plotting the assassination of General O’Dwyer, the man who had ruthlessly ordered the killings twenty years before.

On the eve of the Sardar Udham’s release, I parlay with Vicky Kaushal to find out what made Udham Singh tick and how does he navigate the deep ocean and secrets within.

WHETHER IT’S RAAZI, SARDAR UDHAM OR EVEN SANJU YOU’VE CONSCIOUSLY OR UNCONSCIOUSLY CHOSEN TO WORK IN BIOPICS. YOU ALSO HAVE SAM BAHADUR AFTER THIS...

To be honest, it just got aligned with the directors I’ve dreamt of working with. Be it Meghna (Gulzar), Raju Sir (Rajkumar Hirani) or Shoojit Sir (Sircar), I’d been dreaming of working with them. What was more special was that with them I got to play parts that were really appealing to me. With Sardar Udham, it’s the first time I’m getting to play a freedom fighter and be a part of the world which was our freedom struggle. All the things you’ve studied in history books and got fascinated by... Being a Punjabi, I’ve grown up listening to stories about Jallianwala Bagh and this somehow felt close to home and heart. Like I said, working with Shoojit sir was like a dream for me.

TAKE US INSIDE THE WORLD OF UDHAM SINGH.

Sardar Udham Singh was born in 1899 and when the Jallianwala Bagh massacre happened in 1919, he was merely twenty years old. He’d lost his parents early on and was in an orphanage. A twenty year old kid experiences a massacre and things inside him change. More than a thousand people were killed - elders, children, housewives, men, women, everyone. Hundreds of bodies were discovered just from the well and more than thousand were injured. So on that day, something changed inside Udham Singh. The brief I got from Shoojit da was that we need to explore the state of mind of the character at any given point of time. This is not the kind of biopic where you have to crack how he walked, talked or what his behaviour was. This is not a biopic of a person, it’s the biopic of an ideology. It’s about what he started believing in and what he started aspiring the country to be. The kind of friends he made, like Bhagat Singh, the Hindustan Socialist Republican Association (HSRA). He was travelling the world to get support for the Indian freedom movement, be it in Russia or America. He wanted to be in the heart of the British empire to shake it from within so that the world took notice of the injustice that was happening in India. So he remained under the radar, kept a low profile, changed identities, names.. and all he gets is one paragraph or maximum a page in our history books. Shoojit da is emotionally involved in this story. It’s amazing how much he’s studied about this topic. I call him the encyclopaedia of the Indian Freedom Movement. He knows so much about it, I don’t think there’s a better person to tell this story.

DO YOU BELIEVE VIOLENCE IS THE ANSWER?

If you start seeing it as violence, then you also have to see where he came from. For a person who has experienced the Jallianwala Bagh massacre, murder is not an act against a person, it’s an act against the ideology of imperialism and colonialism. He wanted to make a statement against that. He wasn’t angry with the British and he didn’t count each of them as his enemy. It was the people who represented imperialism and colonialism. He considered them to be evil and he was fighting against that. It was a thought against a thought, an ideology against an ideology.

HOW DID YOU SKETCH THE GRAPH OF SARDAR UDHAM SINGH?

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