#CoverStory: Vedang Raina—wired to win

Actor Vedang Raina opens up to Cosmo India Editor Pratishtha Dobhal about his love for music and cinema, his passion for the arts, and why he chooses to live in the moment.

07 April, 2024
#CoverStory: Vedang Raina—wired to win

In the world of fashion, it is routine for the life cycle of trends to repeat or metamorphose into newer, cooler forms. However, in the world of cinema, it is routine to wait for the arrival of a ‘superstar in the making’ every time a new crew of actors makes their debut, although it is almost impossible to determine who will shine the brightest. Ultimately, the way the audience responds to the ‘object of their affection’ serves as the litmus test that finally seals the fate of an actor. FACTS: the 23-year-old Vedang Raina must be aware of...or so I would like to believe before my interview with the young actor, who by virtue of his disarming screen presence managed to create a perma place in everyone’s heart, in his portrayal of Reggie Mantle in the Netflix film The Archies (2023). 

When we finally first meet at our shoot and then later ease into our chat over call, it is clear as crystal that Vedang’s effortless charm onscreen comes from a place of quiet self-confidence that is refreshingly rooted in humility. He has come to the Cosmo set post a seven-hour flight delay the night before from Delhi to Mumbai, and a string of back-to-back media rounds, but he shows no sign of fatigue, staying ‘present’ through and through, making it easy for everyone to work with him without the ‘I’ve made it, especially post my soon-to-be-released film opposite Alia Bhatt’ hangover. Befitting of his recent onboarding as a brand ambassador for Crocs, driving home the whole #ComeAsYouAre vibe quite naturally. 

With no connection to the film universe, the natural proclivity to track down Vedang’s growing-up years therefore is a given. I find my way to his YouTube channel pre-catch-up with three videos on it and am shook—he can sing and the acoustic set-up is a dead giveaway that a fair amount of prep went into uploading the videos four years ago. As he settles into the car on his way back from the shoot in Mumbai, while I press record in Delhi, we jump straight into all things Vedang Raina. 

Born in Delhi, within a year, Vedang’s father relocated to Mumbai, with his first pit stop at Borivali in a one-bedroom apartment, moving around a lot in the city, to finally settle in on Andheri West, where he currently resides with his family. A school scholar who loved science, Vedang started participating in anything and everything from sixth grade onwards, which is also the time he picked up the guitar and started to learn a few chords. 

Curious to know more, he divulges the deets, “A rare fact about me is that I used to play the tabla because my parents really wanted me to play an instrument and, for some reason, thought that the tabla was the instrument to play—as it instils a sense of discipline—since a guruji comes home. I was in the fourth grade at the time, and within four months gave my first performance. I am pretty sure there is a certificate and some embarrassing things as well (I am telling you my life story now!), but here’s what happened. So, my mom came to school and I had a few friends who met her for the first time, and she told them about my tabla performance in this mandir...some girl was there and she was like, ‘Oh god, he plays the tabla...I thought Vedang would be playing the guitar!’ And I was like...this should not be my impression, so I picked up the guitar instead! I had a teacher who came home for two to three months, by then I had got the hang of a few chords and decided to learn the rest on YouTube—kicking off with the Karz (1980) theme song, which I practised a lot, alongwith Deep Purple’s Smoke on the Water.” 

I probe him, if he harboured any dreams of starting his own band, but he tells me it was only in the first year of college that he seriously started taking up music and toyed with music production. Thanks to the exposure to diverse genres in music he got from his uncle who was also a professional guitarist, he was listening to AC/DC and Metallica when he was 10 years old while enjoying the soundscapes out of Coke Studio. 

Clearly, with music being such an integral part of his life, as is the case with most artists, operating to various frequencies must also be a part of getting into the skin of the character as an actor. I find myself, for instance, writing differently on my select playlists. Turns out, so does Vedang. “There’s an artist called Quadeca, who feels like a rapper but he’s really not just that...he is making some really cool fusion music, which I like. Also, this Indian rock band called Agnee (fire), which has been around a while—the band’s lead singer is Kanan Mohan—I have been enjoying listening to their music of late. Ahem...fun fact, since I am talking about everything now...for every character that I play, I like to make a playlist of songs—you know songs that explain the journey of the character, at least in my head. I have a playlist, which is the name of the character I play in Jigra (2024) whose name I can’t reveal but there’s a lot of Agnee in it,” shares Vedang as we speak of music so deeply enmeshed with art and the semantics of it. He throws more light on it when he talks about his upcoming film: “When it comes to a scene that is very emotionally demanding, and I have to go to a certain place in my life that may not be comfortable, I do that by connecting through music.”

Speaking of how and when he found cinema as a compelling medium of storytelling, we dive into his appreciation of the art form. He loved Rang De Basanti (2006), followed by Lagaan (2001) since he was into cricket, alongwith Interstellar (2014) which really moved him. 

It wasn’t until 16 or 17 that he took to acting and found supportive parents who were okay with the profession of his choice. It was later in college that he took to auditioning, with a pragmatic outlook intact on how he couldn’t put all his eggs in one basket, and needed to finish his degree first. Vedang relents, “When I was auditioning, I fell in love with it. I remember this particular day when I went to my parents who knew I was into music, and told them I think acting was my real calling. This happened before any audition landed. It was a weird thing to say but it intrigued and excited me. When I did join The Archies (2023), even though I didn’t have any experience, I really got into learning and studying acting. I used to read a lot to educate myself.” 

For someone who was an all-rounder checking off everything that was on his plate and quite obviously very good-looking, Vedang is surprisingly down to earth as we speak of the time he was auditioning for Zoya Akhtar, and the zero expectations attached to the process until he was on board as one of the protagonists. He quips, “My school friends used to keep me grounded and I would never hear from anyone that you are the best or anything of that sort, so it wasn’t something that was on my mind at all times. The only reason I started auditioning was that I joined an agency, which had a music division, so I sent my music and some portfolio pictures, which is when they also started pushing me to audition, which I would do over the weekend. The Archies audition was in December 2020, and I went to the agency to do it since there was better lighting at the studio compared to my house...the second and third auditions were underway, but it was after the fourth audition that I was locked in. It was the best thing to be given the opportunity to act in a Zoya Akhtar film. There was no validation seeking while shooting, so I didn’t really know how I was doing. Before the release of the film though, I did get a call from someone at Netflix who told me I had done a good job in the film.” 

Little known factoid—Vedang was signed up for Jigra seven to eight months after wrapping up The Archies in December 2022. Without missing a beat, he tells me as we speak on the relevance of formal education in acting and cinema, “I used to hate business, and when I look back, I wish I did something in acting, which I feel I really missed out on. You can’t just show up on set thinking you know how to act. The learnings at the acting workshop were comprehensive and I was really enjoying it even post-filming. After radio silence post The Archies finished filming, Jigra magically sprung out of nowhere, because there was some chatter within people that ‘he’s done a good job’ or something along those lines.” 

A brother-sister film hasn’t been seen in a while, and with Vasan Bala directing it, you know it will be compelling. Vedang’s look in the film is also a far cry from the very dapper Reggie Mantle look in his first outing as an actor. How did he get into the skin of the character given, it is giving me Prison Break (2005), road to reformation feels?... I wonder out aloud while I can hear the strains of Mumbai traffic over our call. Vedang lets me in, “The character wasn’t emotionally draining (while playing Reggie). With Jigra, it felt like I had to get into this character, which was very different from what I did in my first film. I had to adapt and learn a new skill set, which led to a very different kind of growth as an actor in my second film.” 

It is given that learnings and turning points lead to immense growth as an artist, so we dive straight into cathartic moments like acting workshops where there is methodical performance that ends up in performative breakthroughs. Vedang tells me he experienced that in a seven-day-long schedule for Jigra, where he was coming to the set in a solo capacity. It is there when he felt like he was going through a state unlike any other, which in turn made him start to view things around him differently. At workshops, he needed to reach the peak of his anger, followed by crying afterwards, which seemed almost meditative and therapeutic in retrospect. 

When I quiz him on his dating and relationship grid, he doesn’t indulge me, but speaks of his family and dog, Hugo, with me sensing a cheeky snicker at the other end. Instead, we speak of the amazing directors he continues to be inspired by like Sanjay Leela Bhansali, Vikramaditya Motwane, Vidhu Vinod Chopra, Denis Villeneuve, and Ruben Östlund, amongst others. A homebody largely, who enjoys his night outs and clubbing whenever the desire or the need arises, I want to know of his bucket list, but Vedang turns that around to bring me right back to savouring the momentous joys of living in the present. He says, “I can’t give a travel check-off list or a bucket list, because I realised early on in life that you must grab the opportunities you are being given at the moment and do the very best no matter what. I feel that with acting I have been put in a place where I now need to be a good actor and proficient at what I do. I can’t plan things.” 

I coax him into acknowledging then that he is perhaps, very ‘sorted’ for his age, but it elicits an expected response (of someone who has his head on his shoulders and isn’t taking what he is given for granted), “I’d say it’s gratefulness for whatever is happening so I’m just feeling like you should cherish moments and take them as they come. I wouldn’t have thought I would even be here. I couldn’t have ever imagined or manifested this. This is already bigger than anything that I could have dreamt of, so I’m just living life as it comes and making sure that every opportunity that I am given is made the most of.” 

Shoot talent:

Photographer: Tito; Stylist: Selman Fazil; Editorial Coordinator: Shalini Kanojia; Hair: Team Hakim Aalim; Make-up: Vivek Singh; Styling Assistant: Prachi Potnis

On Vedang: 

Look 1: Classic Marbled Clog in black and white with Jibbitz™ Charms, Crocs; A jacket and jeans, Dhruv Kapoor; vest, Shivan & Narresh; neck chain, Esme

Look 2: Classic Clog in lavender with Jibbitz™ Charms, Crocs; jumper, Kanika Goyal Label; cargo pants, Dhruv Kapoor; neck chain, Ishhaara

Look 3: Classic Crush Clog in latte with Jibbitz™ Charms, Crocs; polo T-shirt, Shivan & Narresh; jeans, Kanika Goyal Label; neck chain, Ishhaara; ring, Esme