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The Great Indian Family and Sam Bahadur: Vicky Kaushal Contemplates His Pivotal Year Post-Pandemic; Can He Recapture the Success of 2018?


Vicky Kaushal started 2023 with Zara Hatke Zara Bachke, and is now looking at a lineup which includes The Great Indian Family, Sam Bahadur and a special role in Shah Rukh Khan’s Dunki. What happens now?

Shortly before the release of his 2018 Anurag Kashyap drama Manmarziyaan, Vicky Kaushal was glowing. The humble breakout actor of Masaan was a star in the making, having delivered consecutive acclaimed performances in four films the same year. “I feel there’s a halo around me,” Vicky had famously said. “A constant sunshine wherever I go.” Five years later and in a post pandemic theatrical world, the actor is watching the sun rise again with multiple films lined up for release. Will the morning be just as beautiful?

Vicky unlocked his first theatrical release in three years with the romantic comedy drama Zara Hatke Zara Bachke co-starring Sara Ali Khan and is now looking at a new Friday with the arrival of his latest Yash Raj Films backed comedy The Great Indian Family. After a short two-month break the actor will return with possibly the biggest film of his career Sam Bahadur, where he will lead the biopic of India’s first field marshal, Sam Manekshaw. While he will open December with the Meghna Gulzar directorial, he will close the year with a special role in Shah Rukh Khan’s Dunki.

This looks like a career-cementing year for Vicky as the fight for stardom among the younger generation intensifies. Vicky finds himself in an interesting–and an advantageous– position as he is perhaps the ‘newest’ entrant in the club of actors aiming to go higher from where they stand currently. Ranbir Kapoor and Ranveer Singh, two of the biggest stars from the current lot, are technically his seniors. Varun Dhawan and Kartik Aaryan had an early head start as well. But Vicky is now at the cusp of breaking out of a zone that the audience has comfortably placed him in.

It is this wonderful, but often short-lived space, which provides rising stars the comfort of steady love from the audience and the window to make more mistakes. The space which helps stars-in-the-making find what best works for them, what the audience wants to see them as more often and if there is a balance they can strike between the two. The audience in this phase for any actor is far more forgiving, until the actor reaches a tipping point, after which, they aren’t.

The claws are sharpened, the expectations skyrocket, and the warm glow of a halo feels like a trial by fire every Friday. Vicky, perhaps, will stand at the edge of this cliff by this year-end–or the next year, at best–before he takes a plunge into his shot at stardom.

Golden phase of Vicky Kaushal

In 2018, the best run for the actor so far, Vicky starred in films like Love per Square Foot, Raazi, Lust Stories, Sanju and Manmarziyaan– a mix of blockbusters and hits, with solid performances of his in every film. While Love per Square Foot had a streaming release and Netflix anthology Lust Stories featured him in a segment directed by Karan Johar, the other three films were theatricals and had him in prominent roles, even if they were shouldered by more popular names– Alia Bhatt, Ranbir Kapoor, Abhishek Bachchan and Taapsee Pannu.

The films quickly turned Vicky into one of the rising stars of Hindi cinema. His popularity reached its peak a year later, when the actor headlined the biggest hit of his career with Uri- The Surgical Strike doing a whopping Rs 245 cr at the box office.

The film ensured Vicky coming very close to becoming a movie star, but there was obviously a catch. The numbers of Uri were hugely boosted by the government lapping the film up and endorsing it in every public forum possible. People flocked to the cinemas to watch the film, which had become a movement, and not necessarily for Vicky. It did help him to tap the widest audience base possible in his career, but to test the lasting star power, it was important for Vicky to return with a film which continued his momentum.

When he did return to cinemas in 2020, he had a box office dud with the ambitious horror film Bhoot – Part One: The Haunted Ship. Soon after that, the pandemic brought everything to a standstill–and viewers forgot about the film just as quickly. Vicky returned to further his glory with the multiple National award-winning biopic Sardar Udham, which had a direct-to streaming release in 2021.