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Image Credit: Supplied

Bollywood’s man-of-the-moment Vicky Kaushal plays a war hero in his latest film ‘Uri: The Surgical Strike’.

Based on true events that happened in the town of Uri near Srinagar on September 2016, the film chronicles the valiant efforts of Indian army commandos who carried out surgical strikes in Pakistan-administered Kashmir, killing 38 terrorists.

The epic cross-border surgical strikes, conducted with utmost secrecy by Indian soldiers, were carried out following a deadly militant attack on Uri that killed 19 Indian soldiers, escalating tensions between neighbours India and Pakistan. While Pakistan has denied this violent episode, the Indian army considers it one of their highly successful missions in dismantling terror camps.

Directed by Aditya Dhar, Kaushal plays the stoic army official Major Vihan Shergill who spearheads that high-profile mission.

“‘Uri: The surgical Strike’ is our tribute to our brave Indian army,” Kaushal said in an interview with Gulf News tabloid! ahead of the release of the film, which also stars Yami Gautam and Paresh Rawal.

Excerpts from our interview with Kaushal about his new film, his blazing career and jingoism:

Q: What should we know about Uri: The Surgical Strike?

A: This movie is based on a true events around the surgical strikes after the Uri attacks in September 2016 when 19 of our great Indian soldiers lost their lives [when militants attacked an Indian army base in Kashmir]. It was a cowardly act of terrorism.

Q: Before the film, did you know a lot about the Uri attacks? Plus, the covert surgical strikes by India has been denied by Pakistan…

A: When the Uri attacks happened in 2016, I remember that we were all glued to our TV sets soaking in every bit of information that appeared in our newspapers about how the attacks on Indian soldiers by militants happened. We all knew that 19 of our soldiers lost their lives that fateful day. After that, there was a surge of emotions that erupted across India. ‘Will we give a befitting response to those terrorists? Will India take action? Will this lead to war? What is going to happen next?’ were some of the questions that plagued us.

At that point, our media and the people were constantly asking questions too. But within days after that news of Uri attacks emerged, we heard that surgical strikes were conducted on four militant bases in PoK Pakistan-administered Kashmir and 38 terrorists were neutralised. None of our soldiers even got a scratch.

Regarding the debate about whether those surgical strikes happened or not, if my army tells me that this is what they have done, I will believe them. I have immense respect and love for them. I have no reason not to believe them. I would never want to question their actions or sacrifice or their valour, considering that they are the ones who provide us with all the security. It’s sad that such an act of collective bravery got messy when it got politicised. I came across the same point of view when I spoke to a few real army officials. On talk shows, they had to prove the fact that it had happened, which is sad. Personally, I am extremely proud of all those army men who went on that mission. After watching ‘Uri: The Surgical Strike’, you will know how exactly the mission was planned and executed.

Even though the process was difficult, it was a humbling experience for me as an actor to play an army officer.

- Vicky Kaushal, Actor

Q: What was director Aditya Dhar’s brief to you? Was it difficult to step into the shoes of a stern army man without making your character look overly harsh or jingoistic?

A: You have to view the sternness that I display in the film through a different lens. If you see me being stern while talking to my soldiers in the film, you have to remember that I play an army officer. My character would never speak to a civilian in that tone. You may find it harsh or jingoistic, but remember he’s just prepping his team to go on a mission before they get on that chopper. They are the ones who have been given the dirty job of pulling the trigger. And since I am the captain of my troop, I have to make sure that when that moment arrives where they have to pull the trigger, they are not questioned by their conscience. They shouldn’t think twice about laying down their lives either. They don’t talk to each other over breakfast with that same degree of firmness. Director Aditya Dhar had a simple brief before the shoot: ‘I don’t want people to come and just enjoy my film. I want the army to be proud of us. I want them to think here’s a team who portrayed us with as much authenticity as possible’. The men in our army perform their duties with such valour and efficiency. We were all sleeping peacefully and celebrating festivals during Uri attacks, while they were across the border fighting for us.

Q: How did you prepare for this role physically?

A: For six months I was training hard. I gained weight for this role and I had to go through intense physical training in Mumbai for several weeks. I interacted with many Indian army men privately to know more about them. Even though the process was difficult, it was a humbling experience for me as an actor to play an army officer. After that process, my love and respect for them knew no bounds. Every role requires its own time. But there are times when you can pop from one filming set to the other. For instance, for ‘Manmarziyaan’ we didn’t know the script until the day before the shoot. All we were asking was about our character and the world he inhabits. So preparations vary for each film. When I am on the set, you have to just be completely honest to the director and surrender to them.

Q: 2018 was a phenomenal year for you. All your films including ‘Manmarziyaan’, ‘Sanju’ and ‘Raazi’ did exceptionally well. Did you expect it all?

A: I am immensely grateful for 2018 and it feels surreal. I look at the year gone by with a lot of gratitude since it has been a great year. This is the kind of acceptance that every actor craves for. We may give our heart and soul into our performances, but to watch the audiences connect to your roles is the greatest feeling on earth. The last few months has all been about playing varied characters. I just feel blessed and I want to keep pushing boundaries with my roles. I want to keep surprising my viewers in 2019.

Don’t miss it!

‘Uri: The Surgical Strike’ releases in the UAE on January 10.

DID YOU KNOW?

Vicky Kaushal loves watching war and espionage thrillers.

“I have seen Saving Private Ryan multiple times.”

YAMI GAUTAM GETS TOUGH IN UNIFORM

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Director Aditya Dhar, Kirti Kulhari and Vicky Kaushal on set. Image Credit: Supplied

‘Uri: The Surgical Strike’ may come across as a testosterone-charged war drama, but actress Yami Gautam claims she plays a crucial role in the Vicky Kaushal-led thriller.

“I play Pallavi Sharma, an intelligence officer, who plays a pivotal role in the Uri surgical strike operation. Vicky’s character works on the ground with the paramilitary forces, while my character works in the intelligence department handling classified, sensitive information. Her department, along with organisations like Isro [Indian Space Research Organisation], helps with their mission,” said Gautam in an interview with Gulf News tabloid!.

The actress, who has been a part of films such as ‘Kaabil’ and ‘Vicky Donor’, plays a clinical woman in uniform in the film. In one of the scenes in the trailer, her character is grilling a potential enemy of the state with a mix of menace and firmness. In preparation for her role, she cut her hair short.

“The whole idea is to suggest that we expect the character to look sharp and not like someone who spends times on hair and make-up … I had to draw a lot from within to play this character. There were not many external references to latch on to,” said Gautam.