Interview Hindi

Sushant Singh Rajput: I never needed a big hit like MS Dhoni


Though proud of his efforts, the actor plays down the film's success.

Photo: Shutterbugs Images

Mayur Lookhar

The road to stardom in cinema has never been easy for TV stars. Most have failed to translate their TV success on the big screen. Sushant Singh Rajput also found the going tough in his initial phase. He played a small part in the Aamir Khan-starrer blockbuster PK (2014). And then came MS Dhoni: The Untold Story (2016) the biopic on India's World Cup-winning cricket captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni. It not only resurrected Rajput's career, but he also experienced a new high with directors and producers vying for his time.

Rajput's next, Raabta, a reincarnation drama, hits the screens on Friday, 9 June. When Cinestaan.com met the actor, he looked like one who had discovered the elixir of life the previous night. He was pretty animated, constantly moving his arms while he spoke. At times, this writer found it difficult to gauge what he was saying as it was difficult to keep the attention off the body language on display.

Asked if he had a cough and cold, Rajput replied, "I’m fine. This cold and cough runs in the family."

Rajput and Raabta co-actor Kriti Sanon are former engineering students. In an interview with Cinestaan.com, Sanon had mentioned that it was Rajput who kept striking nerdy conversations. Ask him and he says proudly, “I like it.” However, Rajput had dropped out of engineering college to pursue his celluloid dreams.

"I don't like troubling somebody," he said. "But I like maths and physics. It is quite weird and I feel embarrassed saying it. But those are things that interest me. There are other subjects too, but science, physics, astrophysics are my favourite.”

That being the case, was he trying to teach his engineering graduate co-star?

"I wasn’t teaching but I just wanted to discuss," he said. "She was watching me very intently. Either she was getting what I was saying or she might be thinking I’m some weird guy!"

Much of the attention that Rajput is currently getting is due to his stellar show in MS Dhoni: The Untold Story. He recalled a momentous occasion that set things in motion for his Dhoni journey.

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

“Just before the start of the film, I was practising at the MCA [Mumbai Cricket Association] Academy with Kiran More [former India wicketkeeper]," Rajput recalled. "Sachin Tendulkar was sitting on the first floor watching his son Arjun.

"I had only 10 minutes left of my practice. I was given the licence to strike the ball as I wished. So, I started hitting the ball to all parts of the ground, playing the helicopter shot.

"Tendulkar walked down to the ground and asked More, ‘where does he play from?' More told him I’m the actor who is going to play Dhoni. Tendulkar walked past me, he didn’t say anything, but that expression on his face cannot be described. I can never forget that moment."

The conversation then veered towards his career. Rajput's earlier films as the lead, Detective Byomkesh Bakshy! (2015) failed while Shuddh Desi Romance (2013) was slammed by critics. MS Dhoni resurrected his career, but one swallow does not a summer make. The industry is replete with tales of one-hit wonders who have disappointed after scoring a hit. Thus, the fate of Raabta is important in deciding the actor’s future.

Rajput disagreed. "I never needed a big film. I was expected to do a big film,” he said. So, after delivering a hit in MS Dhoni, doesn't it become all the more important to follow it up with another? After all, consistency is what he would be judged by.

“Not that I want to disappoint you. But the one who is expecting will be the one who is disappointed,” responded Rajput.

"There are two or three things about me. One is that I work really hard. I did that for Detective Byomkesh Bakshy!, and invested too many hours in it, but for some reason it didn’t open well on the Friday. Nor did it do well on Saturday and Sunday. Yes, I was disappointed, but by Monday I was fine.

"I didn’t deliberately try to make myself feel good. What I had learnt was that I cannot screw up six-seven months of my life for these 2-3 days, even if they are commercially viable," he said.

So what does Rajput think will work for Raabta?

“I don’t know," comes the anti-climactic reply. "There is no formula for it. We only make sense in retrospect. When something has happened, everybody would come with their knowledge. It’s not cause and effect. The effect happens and then we manufacture cause so that creates an illusion that we know everything. But it doesn’t happen like that. A story ought to be good, so also the acting, but nothing guarantees success.”

A lot of the talk began to feel like Dhoni evading a fast and fiery bouncer.

Rajput's newly obtained abs and dancing skills are quite distracting. He will be shaking a leg in Raabta, something he hasn't done in his previous films.

"I think like a dancer even when I act," he said. "I started dancing before I started acting. Dancing was the first time I started communicating with people. It was magical.

"This is something you haven’t seen before. A Dhoni or a Byomkesh Bakshy couldn’t dance. I could have used my USP. Usually people are eager to show what they can do.

"Why do I have a good body? I play two characters in the film. The first guy is lean, but the other is ridiculously lean. He is a ferocious character wired for the most basic survival instinct — kill or be killed. He walks barefoot in the jungle, carries two swords which are very heavy. He had to have a chiselled look. It was a completely different transformation. I can't help it,” he said.