Sushant Singh Rajput, thirty four years of age, with only a decade in the world of entertainment and 11 odd films behind him, deserved much more of them all — life, movies, roles, plaudits and his due place in the sun — but could not enjoy them because of the stardom and the ups and downs of life itself. He was a true blue shooting star who leaves behind a sparkling legacy of films.
He debuted on television in Balaji Telefilms’ Kis Desh Mein Hai Mera Dil (Star Plus) and presented himself to everyone as Manav Deshmukh in Pavitra Rishta (Zee TV), also a Balaji Telefilm production, in a role for which he went on to win major awards.
He was in top form in his big screen debut in 2013 — Abhishek Kapoor’s Kai Po Che!, based on Chetan Bhagat’s book ‘The 3 Mistakes of My Life’ in which he played Ishaan, a frustrated, angry and agitated local cricketer who tames his restlessness to help a poor child, Ali, become the best batsman of the country. You couldn’t take your eyes off him on screen and the finale left a lump in the throat, quite similar to his death has left among his admirers today.
Sushant embraced cricket again three years later, in one of the biggest hits of his career — Neeraj Pandey’s M.S. Dhoni: The Untold Story (2016). Through his demeanour tried to internalise the focus and steadfastness of the former Indian captain but never became a “pretend” Dhoni from the outside. “Mahi maar raha hai (‘Mahi is hitting it’),” shouted a fan in the film. One saw a similar thrill and electric urgency, and also many a wet eye, cheering on for Rajput as Mahi on the big screen.
He was recognised as a hard working actor who was always industrious but there were duds like Dinesh Vijan’s Raabta (2017), in which Rajput was made to take his charm on an overdrive, or the recent Drive (2019) on Netflix, the Tarun Mansukhani directorial that careened into nothingness. However, despite this not being so evident to many, Rajput kept making very interesting choices, whether they hit the bull’s eye is another story.
He opted to play a small role in Rajkumar Hirani’s PK (2014), became the lead in Dibakar Banerjee’s ambitious Detective Byomkesh Bakshy (2015). In times of political polarisation, he opted to play a Muslim pitthu (porter) Mansoor, who transports pilgrims and their luggage to and from Kedarnath in the 2018 film of the same name by Abhishek Kapoor.
Last year he appeared as a baaghi (rebel) in the 1970s Chambal, in what is arguably the best film of his career — Abhishek Chaubey’s Sonchiriya. This was followed by one of his biggest hits, Nitesh Tiwari’s Chhichhore. Ideally, 2020 should have been the time for him to peak, but the year chose to play cruel with him, as it has with many others. There were a bunch of shelved projects, including Shekhar Kapur’s Paani, a film after his heart. For now, Mukesh Chhabra’s remake of The Fault in Our Stars titled Dil Bechara is all we have left of him.