“Some are bound to die young. By dying young a person stays young in people’s memory. If he burns brightly before he dies, his brightness shines for all time”.
These lines came up as I was going through posts celebrating the life of late actor Sushant Singh Rajput, whose death has cast a shadow of gloom on the industry and once again brought to the surface the gloomy dark side of showbiz.
The many obituaries written about someone who has died so young, it’s true you don’t look at their body of work which was still in progress, but rather what would have the future been for them, what were they striving to achieve.
I last met Sushant Singh at the promotions for Kedarnath, in 2018 the focus being on his co-star and he was well aware of the fact and played along as he was being dragged for one promotional fare after the other. So much so he had once told me that when working with debutants he had his own theory, “you know they may come up with tools I don’t know, they are new age and know new things, so am learning from them and if I am good it’s because of me and if am bad it would be because of them, he added with laugh.
However, it were my previous interactions with him which gave me an insight into the beautiful mind of the young actor, an engineering student who had danced his way from the small screen to the big screens, the inspirational story like that of Shah Rukh Khan, who inspired him.
Meeting him for the first time as he along with Rajkummar Rao and Amit Sadh promoted their debut film Kai Po Che, he was still Manav for most, his character from the tele-drama Pavitra Rishta, which made him a household name, he shyly admitted, “if I get to be known by the name of my characters that means am doing my job well”. Aware that the industry is a tough place for outsiders, he had said, “there is a certain level of nepotism as everywhere else, mediocrity thrives but as long as you are professional, good at what you do you will survive, whether you are an insider or outsider. Don’t think about the other factors that are not in your hands it gets confusing, just be sure about what you are doing”.
He was touted as the next big thing after Kai Po Che, another small town boy all set to make it big, he bagged a three film contract with a studio, he chose to take risks with his films and roles. Choosing to do one film a year initially, giving his all out to Bomkyesh Bakshi and Dhoni, not signing projects in between saying these films needed that commitment from me. “For many years of my life I was completely planning my future, what I want to achieve and become, but I have realised it doesn’t translate that way, you end up losing time that you have in the present and whatever you have in the past and the future is intangible. It’s the present, give your 100 percent and in all your senses be here right now. It’s an extended present for me”, he said as began promotions for Dhoni.
An engineering student, he was often seen carrying books on engineering, exponential technology, quantum physics, astrophysics with him. I had remarked seeing the books in his hotel room as we waited for the cameras to roll, “Are you studying for an exam?” He laughed, “No, reading. I love reading these, space, time, the cosmos and it’s dynamics enthral me”. So much so he would put up videos of him solving complicated formulae, drawing diagrams with both hands and according to sources he was studying coding to develop an app. Whenever I met him, I chose to address him as Professor like many others and he laughed, though a few from the troll universe chided us saying we were mocking his intellect no we weren’t, he was proud of his academic background and we were impressed with his knowledge, he had also networked with government’s think tank Niti Aayog.
In one of his last interactions, I casually asked him you would be perfect in a college teaching Physics Honours, he had promptly responded, “This is my own insecurity you need to understand, I dropped out from Delhi College of Engineering six months before graduating, my father happy to see me on screens wishes I had my degree as well. That insecurity over a lack of degree I keep over compensating and it’s totally not impossible I may just start teaching some day”, he said.
An actor who had a lot to offer, a filmography with less than dozen films, a man whose success story was entirely based on merit, as he rose from the ranks from the world of television to films, he could dance, act and had a physique to go with it, the pre-requisites for being in Bollywood, he chose to be known for the content based films he did, he was an actor first and a star after.
When asked about his career graph in a film journey which was just seven years old, there were films which worked and those which didn’t go according to plan, he said, “I cant predict anything, I chose to do those films those which make me feel I won’t be able to do this but to prove my capability that I could manage, I chose films on that basis because after a point money and fame are not the driving force, your expectations of you is what keeps one happy, engaged and successful”.
So, as we all wonder why did this bright actor and young man take the extreme step, what was going on in his mind, these are questions which will remain unanswered. But what we know the industry which takes you on a whirlwind romance with fame and glamour one day is the very place which will crash land you into oblivion the next. A place where fates are sealed on a Friday, there is adulation one day and disfavour the next, the very person who is the object of affection one day becomes inconspicuous the other. There is hero worship but that hero may just be very lonely amongst the crowds and flashbulbs, fighting a tough battle internally with no one to reach out too and putting up a brave front and a facade which is crumbing within.
A young actor who had plenty to offer, wanting to fly planes to train for Iron Man, learning the morse code and send kids for a workshop in ISRO/NASA, he fulfilled a few, and the rest left unfulfilled. Ironically his last screen outing Chhichhore, too, dealt with the issues of mental health and being an over-achiever, a telling dialogue which said “tumhara result decide nahi karta tum loser ho ya nahi, tumhari koshish decide karti hai”.
As Sonu Sood said, he should have held out at the crease a bit longer on his tribute to the young star, but all I can say is, you fought hard, Sushant Singh Rajput and played well, hopefully now you have found your peace and are exploring the cosmos as you always wanted to.