Vicky Kaushal is the star attraction of the latest episode of ‘Into The Wild With Bear Grylls’, which dropped on Discovery+ on 12 November. The adventure show presented by the British survivalist Grylls has become popular in India, where not many look beyond fiction shows and explore other kinds of audio-visual entertainment.
Grylls, however, has been making all the right moves. Kaushal's popularity had soared after he played the protagonist in the 2019 sleeper hit Uri: The Surgical Strike. His latest film Sardar Udham, in which plays the title role of the revolutionary who assassinated the former Governor General of Punjab Michael O’Dwyer to avenge the 1919 Jallianwala Bagh massacre, has been widely appreciated as well.
The film has contributed to his fan following, making his choice for the latest episode of ‘Into The Wild With Bear Grylls’ a timely one.
As Grylls and Kaushal are about to embark on an adventure ‘somewhere in the middle’ of the Indian Ocean, the former creates some suspense for the viewer: “If you could survive this place, you could survive anywhere.” He gives an indication of what the actor should expect: “If you have never been to this sort of terrain before, it is going to be a baptism by fire.”
Kaushal confesses he is afraid of deep seawater. Grylls shows him a video from his father, action director Sham Kaushal, who encourages the rising star with a smile. Others like industry senior Karan Johar and good friend and fellow actor Kiara Advani make brief appearances on videos as the show progresses.
The actor has several unusual experiences along the way. Surrounded by mosquitoes, he follows Grylls and rubs mud on his body to protect himself from the blood-sucking insect. He eats raw crab after Grylls shows the way. When Kaushal wonders whether they will be eating the uncooked crab, the adventurer tells him it is “good protein.”
During the show, Kaushal remembers the days when he was growing up in a 10 by 10 house without a separate kitchen or bathroom. He was studying to become an engineer but realised that a 9 to 5 job was not his cup of tea. Days of struggle followed. He gave ten and more auditions every day without finding any work. Towards the end, he admits that he has conquered his fear of seawater to some extent.
Kaushal comes across as a humble and soft-spoken person who can talk about his struggles and the odd fear without unease. We end up liking the tall and bearded actor for what he is as the episode heads towards the end.
Known as someone who does his stunts and performs in action sequences, Ajay Devgn had featured in the previous episode. A trained martial artist with a reputation for doing his stunts and action sequences, Akshay Kumar’s presence in an earlier episode made perfect sense. The much-loved southern superstar Rajinikanth has acted in all kinds of films, including those with his signature action sequences. His appearance in an episode would have been a gift from heaven for his millions of fans worldwide.
‘Into The Wild’ has moments in which Grylls gets the stars to talk about themselves. Calm, smiling and prepared to take on challenges such as being in the Indian Ocean with sharks not far away, Devgn tells Grylls that he did many wild things in his young days, among them driving illegally as an eight-year-old kid. He also got into street-fights and was put behind bars for a day.
The actor lost his father, action-director Veeru Devgan, a couple of years ago. He tells the presenter that we don't care for our parents until we turn 20. A person realises what a parent is when he becomes one himself, he says, adding that it might be too late by the time the realisation dawns.
Akshay Kumar remembers living in a small place in Old Delhi with 23 others. He feels the absence of those days when he worked as a waiter in Bangkok, where he learned martial arts. Forever smiling and cheerful, he too confronts and conquers tricky challenges as he accompanies Grylls on a journey through thick bush in Bandhavgarh National Park in Madhya Pradesh.
Famously modest, a quality that often surfaces when he speaks, Rajinikanth tells Grylls that his real name is Shivaji Rao Gaekwad. A bus conductor for five years until he turned 23, he had met producer-director K Balachander. The veteran filmmaker selected him for a film, a life-changing moment for him. Also shot in Bandhavgarh National Park, the episode shows the much-loved superstar mumbling, “Yes, God exists,” when faced with the mysterious unknown.
‘Into The Wild with Bear Grylls’ is a challenging experience for those who undertake the journey along with the battle-scarred adventurer. They bare their hearts along the way, express their apprehensions and get exhausted from time to time. The presence of those who make blink-and-miss appearances on videos and convey their best wishes makes no impact. But we do get familiar with the human side of larger-than-life personalities, a reward for seeing them without make-up.
Biswadeep Ghosh is a freelance writer. He is the author of the book, ‘MSD: The Man, The Leader’. Views expressed are personal.