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'I have been rejected many times because of my colour'

February 14, 2024 13:14 IST

'I have trained Ravish Kumar, Virender Sehwag, Harbhajan Singh, Irfan Pathan...'
'But if I approach somebody for work, I never get it.'

Photograph: Kind courtesy Vikas Kumar/Instagram

Vikas Kumar's unique face-off with Sushmita Sen in the Web series Aarya is among its highlights.

While the actor considers this among his best cop roles, he also enjoyed dancing with the former Miss Universe on their time off!

"," Vikas tells Patcy N/

Tell us about yourself.

I am from Bihar. I realised that one should finish education so that one has something to fall back on if things didn't work out in Mumbai, so I did my MBA.

Acting happened because I got bored of studies.

When I told my father, he was shocked because I was a topper in class. Everyone felt I would follow my father's footsteps and become a doctor.

My father saw acting as a huge risk because it was luck dependent and we had no contacts.

What made you think of acting?

I loved Dilwale Dulhania Le Jayenge so much that I saw it nine times in a theatre.

One month before that, I had been impressed with Rangeela.

When I was a child, my friends would tell me that I behaved like Aamir's Rangeela character and Shah Rukh's DDLJ character.

I thought this is fun, I would like to do this, not realising the hard work and luck that goes into it.

I was also a Manoj Bajpayee fan after watching Tamanna and Satya.

I came to know that both Shah Rukh and Manoj Bajpayee have been trained with Barry John.

I was in Delhi preparing for my medical entrance when I found out that Barry was still doing theatre there.

He asked me to join a three month acting course with him, as his theatre group was not functioning at that time.

After the course, the feedback from Barry John was very encouraging, so I started doing plays.


IMAGE: Then President A P J Abdul Kalam felicitates the cast and crew of The Legend of Ram - Prince of India including Vikas Kumar. Photograph: Kind courtesy Vikas Kumar/Instagram

When did you decide to come to Mumbai?

My first trip to Mumbai was with a play called The Fifty Day War based on the Kargil War. It was directed by Aamir Raza Husain. We did 75 shows of that in Mumbai.

Later, I shifted to Mumbai when I was 25 years old in 2005.

I knew someone from the Barry John workshop, and stayed with him for a week.

Fortunately, I found a place right next to his flat, and four of us would share the BHK (bedroom-hall-kitchen) flat.

I was doing plays so I had saved some money; my father also gave me some.

I was a very responsible person. I did not take the auto, did not have cold drinks, always cooked food at home, there was no extra expense.

We used to sleep on the floor on a mat. Later, we got a mattress.

How did you land your first job?

Before getting an acting assignment, I got the job of dialogue coaching.

Director Aamir Raza Husain was directing The Legend of Ram: Prince of India in Delhi. I was in Mumbai with no job, so he asked me to join his play.

I went to Delhi as my girlfriend and now wife (Raavi Sehgal) stayed there. I came back to Mumbai after 40 shows.

This time, when I came back, I told my father not to send me money.

Two of my roommates joined a call centre and Director Honey Trehan, who was also my roomie, started working as an assistant to Vishal Bhardwaj.

I joined a call centre too, and underwent the mandatory three-week voice and accent training. I got a certificate for best performer.

As soon as I finished my training, I got a call from a Hollywood production house to be a dialogue coach in the film One Night With The King (2006), which would be shot in Jodhpur.

Honey had recommended my name.

Then, I started getting voice coaching jobs for Gulaal, Ishqiya, Zindagi Na Milegi Dobara, 7 Khoon Maaf...

IMAGE: Vikas Kumar has trained Vidya Balan in Ishqiya and Shakuntala Devi. Photograph: Kind courtesy Vikas Kumar/Instagram

What happened to acting?

I did a short film called Shanu Taxi.

I was to play a lead in a show in Delhi, produced by NDTV, but it got shelved.

I was to do a film called Hero Heroine, produced by Anurag Kashyap and directed by Atul Sabharwal.

I prepared for it for a week by going to work at an Irani cafe, and serving, washing dishes, mopping, making Irani chai and Anda Salli. But the movie got shelved.

Atul knew what I was capable of so he called me when I was working on the sets of Ishqiya as a dialogue coach and asked me to audition for Powder.

Powder was my first big break on television. It was a proper role that I got paid for. It was followed by Khotey Sikkey,

After the first season, we got 10 days to prepare for season 2 of Khotey Sikkey, but YRF Television, which produced it, shut down.

I kept getting cop roles but since I had done it in Powder and Khotey Sikkey, I would refuse them.

But then I was offered CID and my family wanted me to do it. So I took that job.

In 2021, I produced a short film, Sonsi, with my childhood friend Sharib Khan.

I am also planning to start an audio-based show.

IMAGE: Vikas Kumar in Kaala Paani.

When things were not working out, how did you deal with it?

I did not have a phase when I was depressed because of missed opportunities. I just went with the flow.

When I was doing The Legend of Ram in Delhi, a big Hindi news channel's founding member saw the play and liked my voice. I was offered a job of a news broadcaster, and I auditioned for them. They selected me and they said I would be the next news anchor.

But abruptly, three days before the launch, I was dropped.

I have reason to believe it was because of my complexion because they said my look did not go with the look of the channel.

When I asked the lady, who told me, if it was because of my complexion, she said, 'Sir, you know better.'

But even that did not affect me.

You were rejected because of your colour?

Yes. I have been rejected many times because of my colour.

My auditions were good but they never gave me lead parts.

It used to affect me in school.

Any regrets?

It's not a regret, but maybe I should have used time better, maybe I should have been more proactive about looking for work.

I have trained news reporters like Ravish Kumar, commentators like Virender Sehwag, Harbhajan Singh, Irfan Pathan... I have even trained beauty pageant winners.

But if I approach somebody for work, I never get it. I have got work through word-of-mouth only.