Interview Hindi

Sushant Singh Rajput: I agree to play a character only if I don’t know how to play it

The M.S. Dhoni: The Untold Story actor gets candid over Raabta, his selection criteria for films and a recent controversy. 

Keyur Seta

Actors follow a certain criteria before signing a film. Most of the times, it is the pull of a good script or an interesting character. But these reasons are definitely not enough for Sushant Singh Rajput before giving his nod for a film. He goes ahead only when he gets to play a character that he doesn’t know how to play.

His filmography is proof as Rajput is always up for a good challenge. Look at characters like a Mahendra Singh Dhoni and Byomkesh Bakshy.

In his upcoming film Raabta, too, he has accepted a challenge of playing two diverse characters in different times zones.

In a chat with, Rajput elaborates his interesting criteria for selecting his work, the subject of Raabta and a recent controversy.

What is Raabta about and what exactly is your character in the movie?

There are two characters that I play in Raabta. The film is a very modern take on reincarnation. Basically what we are trying to punctuate is that there is something called pure love. It doesn’t dilute with time. Be it one life or multiple lives. Even if you don’t remember what happened in previous lives, you tend to have this tendency of getting close to somebody without any reason or you don’t like somebody without any reason. It’s basically that.

And also the flashback that you would see, there is no reference to it. So, everything that is there in those 20-24 minutes – the world, people, everything we deal there – has been created from scratch. They talk and behave differently. There is no similarity between the present and past life. But if you look through everything, then everything is connected. That is what the film is about.

Do you personally believe in reincarnation?

No, I don’t.

How challenging was it to play two different characters in the same film?

Acting is a very delicate job in terms that I have to convince you that I am somebody else. You know that I am not Dhoni. You know that I am not Byomkesh. But you are paying for it and for those two-and-a-half hours I am creating an illusion that I am somebody else.

It gets more trickier (in Raabta) if just when I have lured you into believing I am somebody else, 20-30 minutes later I have to prove that I am somebody else, too. So, it gave me this room that in the same timespan I have to use all my tools and skills as an actor to make sure that there is not even an iota of similarity between these two characters. That’s what I have tried to do.

One of your characters in the film involves extensive fight sequences. It must have have been physically taxing?

It is always physically taxing because you give 8-9 months of your life. And you are thinking in a different way. It is exhausting. You are changing the pattern of your thinking and trying to think in a completely different way. That is very, very exhausting if you don’t like it.

It is slightly different for me. Because first 19-20 years of my life before I started doing theatre, I realised that I act like myself most of the times. When I talk to you, I have this perception of myself so I act according to that. Acting like myself started getting boring. (I thought) Let me try and act like 2-3 different personalities every year and get paid for it. And hence I started acting. So, it gets taxing. But there are skills you need to develop. Like in M.S. Dhoni, it was cricket. In my next film (Chanda Mama Door Ke), I got to NASA and I almost become an astronaut; it’s just that I won’t land on the moon.

In this one (Raabta), one of the skills I had to develop was martial arts. Just before my character is introduced in the flashback, audiences and other characters are told that we have not seen this guy but we know about this guy because of his fighting skills. I have 50-60 seconds in the film to prove the story right that I am such a great fighter. It had to be of that level. So, we went to Bangkok for a month. I had weapons training daily for 12 hours. I had basic training in martial arts much before I started doing TV. Nobody knows because I never got a chance to show it.

You were a student of DCE (Delhi College of Engineering), which is a college that guarantees a safe career. From there you ventured into an unknown territory (acting), where there is no guarantee. How has the journey been from your perspective?

DCE is a good college. I was getting a scholarship. I was also getting calls from many international universities to come and study there. But it doesn’t guarantee you anything. It doesn’t guarantee job security or a secure life; you have to slog. But it does guarantee you a certain amount of money per annum and all those things. But every time I used to work for that kind of money, I didn’t like it. I used to study and slog and never liked it.

When I was in my first semester, I started dancing with Shiamak Davar. I was dancing behind all the stars. I was liking it, although nobody was looking at me. Shiamak asked me to do theatre. I was shy and an introvert. For the first time I was on stage saying my lines, I could see the strangers affected by it. I felt very powerful. It was a magical feeling that they could understand what I am feeling, which was never the case for the first 19 years of my life. That is something that has stayed like that since 2006 till now.

What do you look into before agreeing to do a film? Is it the story, filmmaker or your role?

Of course story is number one. Number two, there should be something that I can’t completely comprehend or understand. Hence, in order to understand it, I will do the film. If I already know how to do it, I will never do it. No matter how commercially viable I think the film is, I will not touch it.

And I will give you an example if you feel this might not be true. After M.S. Dhoni released, I had three films back-to-back. But for some reason, the film I was supposed to shoot right after Dhoni didn’t start.

Sushant Singh Rajput in
M.S. Dhoni: The Untold Story

I suddenly had a 3-4 months gap in between when many filmmakers, few of them with whom I really wanted to work, came with the script and somehow that thing was missing in the scripts. I knew I could do it. So, I didn’t do it. And I was preparing for a play. I could have done any of those films. Probably they would have had 50-50 chances of being successful also. But I would definitely get a pay cheque for it, which would be huge, considering that M.S. Dhoni just did very well.

Saying no to that for a play, which nobody has seen till now, just tells me about something about myself that I need those 3-4 months of excitement. I should not know how to do it.

Was Paani one of the films that didn’t start?

Yes, Paani didn’t start. But I worked for it for 10 months.

Does it affect you when a lot is wrote about your personal life?

If I read and take it seriously, then it will affect me. It’s not that I don’t read it. Sometimes it gets to me. Very recently there have been stories that are so new to me that I am also reading them for the first time. I am just saying that I have no problems with it because I can understand that living in this digital age where there are 10 trending topics every hour, we need talking points. Since we need so many talking points, even I can get into it sometimes. So, I have no problems with these amazingly stupid stories on me. I am just saying and requesting that if you are investing time in writing fiction stories about me and I am investing time in reading them, make them interesting. So, when I get to read them, I feel, ‘Oh I am so spicy.’ (laughs). But these days there are same old stories; I don’t enjoy them.

Recently there were stories about you not obliging a fan for a photo.

I was a big fan myself of Shah Rukh. I still am. He was the only actor whose autograph I wanted. I came from Delhi to Mumbai and went to Swades’ set just to get an autograph. And for some reason, I couldn’t meet him. I felt very bad. Then few years later when I was a background dancer in an awards function, he just turned and I said ‘Hi!.’ He also said, ‘Hi.’ He normally says ‘Hi’ to 10,000 people every day. But it was such a big thing for me that 10 years down the line I am telling you this story.

I know the importance of looking at a fan, waving or writing something. So, I make sure that I do this so they have something they could talk about. But do I stop and click pictures with all the fans who ask me? No. Let me be very honest. Another thing I am very finicky about is that I don’t want to get late. No matter where it is, I would be there 10 minutes before time.

So, if I am going somewhere and getting late and somebody asks me to click a picture, I won’t probably even listen because I am thinking about that. These are very few times when somebody would ask me and I would not stop. But 98% of my waking time, if somebody asks me to get a picture, I agree.

How was it working with Kriti Sanon?

Sushant Singh Rajput with Kriti Sanon

I was surprised. It’s not that I look up to or down upon any actor. But we have some sort of perception of everybody. I thought she would be very good because I gave an audition with her. The most important thing for an actor is that he or she should be listening. So, she reacted to my prompts and she came up with another one. This means that the basic fundamentals are in place; we are listening to each other.

So, I was expecting very good working relationship. But she actually did really well. There were times when I would look at her doing something and feel ‘Oh wow.’ So, when the film releases and many people see it, they would definitely appreciate what she has done. They will be surprised.