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Portraying the ‘Best Man’: Vicky Kaushal on playing Field Marshal Sam Manekshaw
Vicky Kaushal

Portraying the ‘Best Man’: Vicky Kaushal on playing Field Marshal Sam Manekshaw

| @indiablooms | 11 Nov 2023, 08:14 pm

Vicky Kaushal needs no introduction today. From a blink-and-you-miss-him role in Anurag Kashyap’s Gangs of Wasseypur to critically acclaimed Masaan,  bagging two Filmfare Awards and the National Award for Best Actor for Uri – The Surgical Strike, he has come a long way indeed. In a one-to-one chat with Shoma A. Chatterji, he talks about his most ambitious project,  the title role in Sam Bahadur, a biopic on the legendary Field Marshal Sam Manekshaw directed by Meghna  Gulzar

Excerpts of an interview:

How difficult has it been to bring to life the personality of Sam Manekshaw?

It has been the most difficult and challenging task to bring to celluloid the persona of Sam Manekshaw. As everyone knows he was Chief of the Army Staff of the Indian Army during the Indo-Pakistani War of 1971, and the first Indian Army officer to be promoted to the rank of Field Marshal. There were many challenges like trying to copy his body language, his walk, the expression in his eyes, but most of all, to try to peep into his mind and bring it out. He used to walk bending slightly forward; I acquired that walk as best as I could.

What kind of homework did it demand?

I read as much as I could about him and watched videos featuring him, to try putting in my best to bring Bahadur-ji to life on screen. I had heard a lot about him from my parents but had never seen what he looked like. Day after day, including Sundays or holidays, I sat with Meghna  reading the script for long hours and discussing the role. The  entire team worked very hard in the making of this film.

I met his family members and spoke to them at length. His two daughters also shared information about their father we might not have got from anywhere else. I have around 200 pictures of him on my phone to capture every aspect of his life.

What about the regimen to shape up?

Bahadur sahib, I have been told, lived on a strict diet and kept himself physically fit. I followed the example for the role.

You have played a variety of roles on war heroes. What was more challenging about portraying  a great personality like Sam Bahadur?

In one of his interviews, once he was asked, ‘in your 40 years of career what was your biggest achievement’ and he said that he never punished any of his jawans. I really admire that compassion which he had despite the power he wielded.

When I walked in just before the trailer launch of the film recently held at Delhi’s Manekshaw Centre, with the special presence of Chief of Army Staff, General Manoj Pande told me “Do not forget that you are portraying the role of our “Best Man” and I was awe-struck.

What about your co-actors, Sanya Malhotra and Fatima Sana Sheikh?

They both had the challenge of bringing historical characters to life on the large screen. They are relatively new in Bollywood but were picked for their commitment, talent and of course, looks that would make them resemble the original characters though they had never met them. While Sanya portrayed Siloo Manekshaw, the Field Marshal’s wife, Fatima Sana Sheikh played Indira Gandhi who Sam Bahadur addressed as “Sweety”, the only person who could address her like this. As a director Meghna knows who to cast and how to extract the best out of her actors. Both of them have given me wonderful support.

I must also give credit to Ronnie Screwvala who returned to film production after a long hiatus.

You have already worked with Meghna Gulzar in her last film Raazi. How was the experience  this time?

Meghna had mentioned her intention of making the film when we were working on Raazi. At that time, not knowing whether she would cast me in the film, I began digging up as much information as I could on Sam Manekshaw. I am really very grateful to her for casting me in this very difficult role in my entire career till now. The most challenging part was to try and understand the kind of man he was which needed concentrated and focused effort.

What’s next in the pipeline for you?

Sam Bahadur is scheduled for a theatrical release on December 1. The next two films I am waiting for are, Chava directed by Laxman Utekar scheduled to release on December 6 and Karan Johar’s romantic film directed by Anand Tiwari scheduled to hit the theatres in February  next year.  Rashmika Mandanna is cast opposite me in Chavi. I have a good comfort level with her as we have worked together in several TV commercials. Karan’s film has Triptii Dimri and Ammy Virk along with me. That is all I am allowed to reveal at the moment.

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