Sushant Singh Rajput On Why He Still Feels Like A Regular Guy
Post the sweet success of his latest celluloid offering M.S. Dhoni: The Untold Story, Sushant Singh Rajput is on a roll. Caught up with the routine that goes with any release, he has been on a metaphorical trot — travelling from one city to another. On his return to Mumbai, we fix a date with the man who made Captain Cool so real that even die-hard fans of India’s cricketing icon loved the rendition.
So, on a Saturday morning, Sushant reaches the venue at the appointed hour, disappearing swiftly into the huge vanity van that looms large in the courtyard of The Park, Lodha. I walk into the van and find his smile far brighter than the lights lighting up the space.
Through the hours our team is at work, I watch him closely — curious to know how the simple, grounded Manav Deshmukh of the tele-serial Pavitra Rishta has changed — and grown — with the advent of stardom and its inevitable trappings. Awards and the accompanying attention for his role in the small screen soap opera, for his debut as Ishaan Bhatt, a district-level cricketer, in the film Kai Po Che!, and for his cameo of Sarfraz Yousuf in PK have been part of his life for the last few years. But these accolades and awards — and this can be said with a degree of veracity — have been definitely surpassed by the excitement that his latest flick has created.
The boy who was born in Patna, grew up in Delhi and subsequently moved to Mumbai for a career in acting, seems to have taken recent developments in his stride, even though his enthusiasm at small things — like a kid at a candy shop — comes through in our interaction. As do his curiosity at every shot, his willingness to incorporate suggestions, his restlessness when there is a lull in the action and the unusual ability to laugh at himself!
Our conversation continues in a break between shots. Having munched on some sea-salt and Nutella cookies, he’s completely relaxed in an environment he is comfortable in, shedding his shirt to revel in the almost-freezing air of the vanity. “I am hot,” he states, on seeing my amused smile, as he offers me the last cookie in the blue box. I decline politely and congratulating him on his recent hit, dive into a conversation that is peppered with very few pauses.
“Every character is real for an actor….”
Ishaan was as real for me as Dhoni. As far as playing the real cricketer was concerned, there were certain things that I needed to take care of. I could not have had mannerisms, intonations or a body language that was different from Dhoni’s and then asked you to believe that I was him. I needed to create the illusion that I was Dhoni, and for that I had to first perfect all his superficial qualities. I watched his videos for hours over long periods of time till the details became an instinctive part of me. It was like learning a language — you don’t know the grammar, but you just pick it up!
“I experienced a powerful feeling.”
Since I had always been such a quiet guy, I did not know what it felt like to express myself. Growing up as the youngest of five siblings, I was pampered. But, I think that was also one reason why I was quiet outside the house. As a king at home, I didn’t know how to deal with people when I stepped out. I used to think that if I was good at studies, that would tell everyone I exist.
When I went on stage for the first time for a Barry John play in Delhi in 2006, I was confident, because I was not myself. I was pretending to be a character and I reasoned that people would not judge what I was doing because it was a character.
I realised that I could make strangers think I was someone I was not, someone radically different from me. That is when I decided that even if I don’t get paid much for the rest of my life, I still wanted to do this. That is what I have done for five years in theatre, then television and films. I’ve been doing the same thing. It’s just the medium and the pay cheques that continue to change.
“Acting is the only time I am excited.”
In any field, you should be clear about the ‘why’ of what you are doing. There’s no right or wrong why, but you need to be honest about it. Some people want to prove a point, some want to be number one, they want to be famous; they want to earn money. For me, acting is the only time I come alive. If you talk about films to me, I can go on and on; you’ll have to stop me!
I sleep for two to three hours a day. And this has been my pattern for the last ten years. My doctor says I’m always excited about nothing, but I know what it is about. I am not obsessed with what is going to happen. It may be a negative way of looking at it, but it is a game and at the end of it you may have to lose. So, why not enjoy it?
“My father was shocked.”
When I told him I wanted to act, my father didn’t say much. He was quiet, and I grabbed the opportunity. But, my four sisters understood what I wanted to do. I told my family that I was not doing this to arrive somewhere or to prove a point to anyone. Even today, I don’t think too much about the journey. I know there are times when I will be very good and there will be times when I won’t.
“I’ve become immune to all talk about me.”
Living in the limelight is not easy. Initially, it was a strange feeling to have people discussing me when I wasn’t a part of the discussion. Nobody was concerned about what I had to say. Earlier, I would brood over it a lot, but then I realised that it has nothing to do with my work. Now I make sure that I don’t read newspapers; I don’t watch some channels just to tune things out. I tell people I have a Teflon coating over me; so nothing sticks any more.
I have gone through many highs and lows in my life. Losing my mother when I was in my teens was a terrible tragedy. I did not know how to react as I was not ready for it. At that point of time I did not know what death meant. Back in the day, it was harder to cope with everything. But now, I use my work as a happy distraction.
“I cannot put up with repetition.”
For me, every day is exciting. I do not follow a fixed routine to create the illusion of control, because any kind of repetition creates boredom. I cannot put up with it and that is probably why I quit TV when I was at my peak. I was getting loads of money, I was being recognised, but I knew what I was supposed to do every single day.
I always tend to do something that will take me out of my comfort zone. That is the only time I feel alive. Unfortunately, even though I do not like repetition, sometimes I have to repeat myself.
“I can now say no!”
Often, when you are asked to do things, you find it difficult to say no. But, as a star, I can say no. Also, as a star you have so much money that you do not know what to do with it. But after a point, money does not get me excited nor does it change my lifestyle in any significant way.
My biggest strength is curiosity. It is an understanding of the emotions that I have to portray on screen because I have dealt with those in my life. And, because I do not take myself seriously, it’s easy to change. If you do not have a rigid way of looking at yourself, then you tend to be quite fluid. And that works for me as an actor.
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