Why Bhoot – The Haunted Ship reminded Vicky Kaushal of Stanley Kubrick’s The Shining

Though completely different stories, both films border on the premise of a man all alone in a large space

Vicky Kaushal in Bhoot [2020]

By Mayur Lookhar

It was sometime in April 2018 that yours truly got a chance to meet Vicky Kaushal.  No, there was no question of being in awe of him as I had only seen Kaushal in Raman Raghav 2.0 [2016]. Honestly, I didn’t like the gross film nor did Kaushal left much of an impression as the murderous cop.  Besides, the media was more keen to meet Raazi lead actor Alia Bhatt and the director Meghna Gulzar.

After an hour or so, Kaushal stepped into the room almost unnoticed to the chatting media.  The film’s publicist introduced us to Kaushal. There was the man, all shy and one had to be really attentive to hear him. 

A few weeks later, I watched Masaan [2015] and shed tears at 3.00 am.  Next up was Lust Stories [2018] and a week later, he had us ROFL as Kamli in Sanju [2018].  For some Kaushal even overpowered Ranbir Kapoor. Then Manmarziyaan [2018]  showed a funky, impulsive side to Kaushal.   One felt that this guy is really good.  Kaushal stunned all with a powerful, intense show in Uri: The Surgical Strike [2019]. In less than a year, we saw Kaushal regale in the varied characters. Jeez, this boy can’t just act, but he seems to be living each and every character.

After playing the brawny Major Vihaan Singh Shergill in Uri – The Surgical Strike [2019], Kaushal will now be seen in his maiden horror flick Bhoot – The Haunted Ship [2020] that is set to be released on 21 February.  

Source: Vicky Kaushal facebook

Back in April 2018, Kaushal seemed like a shy guy.   Forward to 2020, and the man is a picture of confidence.  It is easy to say success breeds confidence, but this positivity stems more from Kaushal being humble about his success and not afraid to take any challenges. He’s partially overcome one fear by shooting in 20-25 feat deep waters. It’s commendable but he acknowledges that the litmus test would be when he does scuba diving in the sea at night. That’s Vicky Kaushal for you. Always striving to do better.

Kaushal has never looked more confident, more happy, more jovial than ever before. Here he talks about his Bhoot journey, the challenges, overcoming phobia, life after Uri and more.

Excerpts from the group conversation.

Do you believe in ghosts?

There is nothing that has happened with me that I would believe in ghosts. But when someone says that s/he has experienced it, then I’m not the person to disbelieve her. I trust him. I get scared and then I’d sleep with him only in the night.

I have sleep paralysis. When you are too tired, your body goes to sleep, but sometimes your mind is awake.  Sometimes, you feel someone is sitting on you, but your body is too tired that you can’t even move. Till the time I didn’t know the reasoning, I felt as if there is a ghost sitting on me. It lasts for 10-15 seconds but it is very scary.  May be once, I felt as if I saw a shadow passing through. I was totally scared.

Anything spooky that you experienced on the sets?

Once a big ladder suddenly fell on us. We would then wonder are we disturbing some [entity] on the sets.  We would then joke, “bro, we are making a biopic on you only, please let us shoot”. [everyone laughs].  But I’ve never encountered anything serious.   We begin our day taking the name of the almighty.

When it comes to this genre, you would often shoot alone in a scene.  Was it a challenge?

It becomes tricky. I personally enjoy exchanging energies with co-actors.   At times, we would create a screen that is not part of the script. Out here, I am in the ship.  You ask yourself, who do you shoot with? The ghost will only appear in the post production stage.  I am supposed to react as if it is too dark, and I can’t see. But in the shooting, it is well lit.  So, you ought to presume that is darkness.  It is a tricky layer to perform with.  The ghost isn’t there. Sometime there is no sound, yet you are required to react as if it exists

When you are shooting, yes there is a character alone in a place, but obviously, there are people [crew] around you. For an actor, how do you get into that space of being alone in that environment and sensing occult around you?

It requires all teams coming together and understanding that what we are trying to create.  Sometimes, you would be fine with movement around you while you are performing. But that would bother me in this film.  For instance, I am walking in a deserted ship, and suddenly you hear an unwarranted sound, then that would be disturbing.  We need to create that silent atmosphere on the set. You need to have that discipline.  The interior of the ship was a set.  There are 100 people [crew] around you, but my behaviour should reflect that I’m all alone.  That loneliness should get transmitted to the audience.

Outside the set, did it require any kind of particular effort where you needed to spend time alone?

No. That wasn’t the case here. This is not a film where you needn’t carry any baggage. The only thing important was to be in that zone on the sets.

Do you watch horror films?

I watch horror films very rarely.  I watched Paranormal Activity [2007], The Conjuring [2013], Annabelle [2014]. I prefer watching with a set of friends. Preferably, one who is more petrified than me. I’d urge people to have a community viewing of Bhoot – The Haunted Ship [2020].  You would be dejected while watching alone.

Was the unique concept the primary reason for you to do this film after Uri: The Surgical Strike [2019]?

It [concept] was the primary reason. But this film was offered to me when Raazi [2018] had released and before Sanju [2018] had come out.  We had decided to shoot Bhoot at a later date. I liked the geography of the film. It felt like Stanley Kubrick’s The Shining [1980]. I liked the thought – an empty hotel, so many rooms and just one man in the hotel.  Bhoot has a similar geography. Here’s a dilapidated big container ship, it has 10 floors, 300 rooms.  When you have a playground where there are many swings, slides, see-saw, it creates that many possibilities. With a ship, once you are locked inside, no matter how much you scream, but no one is going to hear your voice.  Add a paranormal presence, then the stakes are too high. The conflict is too rich and potent.  All of this attracted me to the script.

You say you are too scared of horror tales. After doing this film, have you been able to get rid of your fears and watch more horror films?

I feel so.  But if it’s a really good, spooky film, then I will still get scared. I am a very indulgent viewer. I can cry easily.  Before this film, I had the phobia of water.  The phobia has reduced a bit through the film. But the litmus test would be once I am able to do scuba diving in the night.  If I can come through it, that’s when I can be fearless.  We shot in 20-25 feet pool but to swim in an sea, that requires more courage.

In terms of freshness of the genre, reinventing it, what is so special about Bhoot?

Firstly, I feel the freshness to the fact that it is really sticking to the genre in the first place. There is no sidetrack, no album, or comic relief. This is just a horror film.  Secondly, [director] Bhanu Pratap Singh keeps mentioning that where it comes to the genre,  it has entered into a very eerie human space.  We are now playing more on the emotions. The creature was waned.  Our film is a mix of both, where it is a psycho thriller but it also a pure horror because there is an entity.

Is the film industry now perceiving you differently after the success of Uri?

There was a time where once selected you were even willing to pay money. , You have now received such accolades, and future work, especially with filmmakers who you always wanted to work, then it builds your confidence.  You feel you are on the right track.  Uri was made by a first-time filmmaker. No one had put their faith in me in a solo film before.  There was pressure on me. Luckily, the audience accepted it. As long as a script works for you, you never know what that Friday might bring for you.  Today, people are no longer thinking about the packaging. If a film has weight, then people will buy tickets to watch your film.  With Uri, I felt, people took it away from us and owned it.  More than the box office, that was the special feeling for all us.  For me, the most satisfying thing was to see my parents enjoy the film. 

My father struggled a lot. When his good time came, grandfather was too old. I’m happy that my parents are able to see my good times.  

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