Actor Vikram Kocchar shares insights into his experience working on the film ‘Dunki,’ directed by Rajkumar Hirani and featuring Shah Rukh Khan, Taapsee Pannu, Vicky Kaushal, and Boman Irani. Vikram delves into the film’s narrative, shedding light on its portrayal of illegal border crossings and the real-life stories that inspired it. He also reflects on his journey in the film industry, highlighting the collaborative process with renowned figures like Shah Rukh Khan and Rajkumar Hirani.Excerpts…
Tell us something about ‘Dunki’.
A lot of people were confused about what the title of the film ‘Dunki’ means. Dunki is a term used for people who cross national borders illegally without a visa in search of better jobs and better lives. In Punjab, there a type of boat in which 3-4 people can be fit in. That boat is called Dunki. That’s where the film’s title comes from.
The story is about crossing borders illegally and the problems that come with it. Dunki sirf jaane ki baat nahin karti. Ghar waapsi ki bhi baat karti hai. Dunki is about homecoming. The central characters are played by Shah Rukh Khan and Taapsee Pannu. Then there are parallel leads which are me, Anil Grover (Sunil Grover’s younger brother), Vicky Kaushal, and Boman Irani. Other characters keep going in and out.
Is the film based on a true story?
The film is an amalgamation of true stories. After we completed the shoot in Budapest, there was a break of ten days so I thought of roaming around in Europe. I was traveling in a bus from Budapest to Vienna. There was a girl from Barnala sitting on the bus who was hassled and talking to someone in Punjabi. When she told us her story, we realized that this was our film’s story. She was going through the problems of illegal immigration. A friend of hers had been arrested because of the same. It was shocking.
We have not talked about a topic that doesn’t happen in real life. We have dramatized it, sure, so that it is entertaining for people to watch. But the stories are true.

How did you come on board for the film?
I got a call from casting director Mukesh Chhabra. He has been pushing me a lot. He had pushed me for the role with Shah Rukh sir in Jab Harry Met Sejal which was eventually played by Chandan Roy Sanyal. I had met Imtiaz Ali sir who had liked me as an actor, but he said, “Yeh naya hai. Pata nahin itne bade actor ke saath kaise tik payega? Kahin conscious na ho jaaye.” Cut to 3-4 years later, I got Dunki with Shah Rukh sir.
For Dunki, I did 6-7 rounds of auditions and look tests. Then Rajkumar Hirani sir gave a final nod after seeing my look test. It cleared all his doubts. Raju sir doesn’t let you take his script home. So, we would go to his office to read the script. We did some workshops at Shah Rukh sir’s house. We started devising scenes. And after 2-3 months of preparation, we finally went on floors to shoot.

Bollywood celebs attend special screening of Shah Rukh Khan, Taapsee Pannu starrer ‘Dunki’

On the first day of the shoot, one of the actors playing a small role could not deliver what he did in his audition. We spent three hours on that. Raju sir wondered what will happen to the film if the start is such. Then the actor was paid his per day and told, “Sorry, we will have to look for someone else for this role. We will try to fit you in another role.” Then Rohitashv Gaur was cast in that role and he did that scene very well. Anil Grover and I were terrified after that incident. But Shah Rukh sir made us feel comfortable and things went fine. I don’t remember a single scene where Raju sir said that he did not like the scene.
Tell us something about your character in the movie.
My character is a simpleton from Punjab who wants to go abroad to earn money. He has a few friends who are facing similar problems. He believes in living in today even when faced with the problems. He believes that if there’s a problem, there will be a solution. He is a positive person.

How was it working with Shah Rukh Khan?
I worked with Shah Rukh Khan for the first time. It felt really good. He was so well-versed with the script and its details. We could discuss everything during the readings. When I met him for the first time it was overwhelming but he made all of us so comfortable and that made it easy for us to incorporate our suggestions. We would develop a scene together as we do in theatre.
Being a huge star, Shah Rukh sir didn’t have to have so much humility. He could have said that his body double would stand for certain scenes. But he would stand behind the camera to give us cues in our scenes when he was not in the frame. It helps maintain the authenticity of the scene. He loves movies a lot.
How was Rajkumar Hirani as a director?
He is a gem of a person. He is very particular about what he wants. Neither does he want to waste a second of the audience nor does he want to curtail an actor’s performance. He tries to maintain a fine balance.
Once after Raju sir said okay to a scene, I asked him whether I could do another take. “I can do better than this,” I said. He said, “I have got what I wanted. But if you want to do it then go ahead.” When I work with Aamir Khan also, I work the same way. We build a scene together.
Can you share any fun or interesting anecdotes from the time you were rehearsing a scene with Shah Rukh Khan at his house?
There is a scene where I stand on a chair. So, I was in a drawing room at Shah Rukh sir’s house. I was so in the flow that I got onto a sofa in his drawing room. I soon realized what I had done. Then Shah Rukh sir also got onto the sofa to sort of tell me that it was okay.
My birthday was celebrated on the sets. Shah Rukh sir wished me and made me cut the cake. He didn’t have to do that because it was after pack-up, but he stood there.

How was it working with Vicky Kaushal?
Vicky has the strongest role in the film. He is placed at the centre and it’s an endearing character. I have worked with Vicky in Manmarziyaan. He is so comfortable to work with. He is like a friend.
On the set, someone said that Katrina Kaif’s husband is a good actor. So, we told this to Vicky. He laughed at it and said, “If you know your work you get what you want.” He is such a cool person and such a good person.
How do you look back at your journey so far?
It has been tough. When I came to Mumbai, I used to do a lot of theatre. I came to Mumbai two years after doing NSD. I didn’t get any work for 6-7 months. Then I started getting cameo roles in TV serials and ads. When films seemed to be in sight, people said he is an ad guy how would he act in a long format?
I started doing theatre again. Because I am an NSD graduate, I got to do theatre comparatively easily. I did a TV serial Sumit Sambhal Lega which gave me financial stability. I got a house for myself in Mumbai. To pay back the house loan, I knew that I had to work more.
Suddenly, I got Manikarnika. While doing that, I got a call for an audition for Sacred Games and I cracked it. During Sacred Games, Anurag Kashyap cast me for Manmarziyaan. Then I got Kesari and slowly I started getting more work. In my 12 years’ journey in films, now I have got a good break in Dunki where I am playing a meaty role. This is an already written character in which I have fitted myself. I am still looking for characters that are written for me.

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