Not many know that Sushant Singh Rajput worked with Nadira Babbar’s Ekjute theatre group before entering the film and TV world. The actor credits a lot of the rave reviews for his latest film, the MS Dhoni biopic (that has already made over Rs 125 crore in India), to his stint in theatre. “Theatre is a must for actors. They should try it at least once. It makes you disciplined, teaches you to respect your work and boosts your confidence as an actor,” says Sushant, as he talks about his career, and more.
The general belief at the moment is, ‘Sushant has finally arrived…’
I can understand it from other people’s point of view. But it doesn’t mean much to me, because there is no place to arrive at. There are no goals and there is nothing to prove to anybody, not even to myself. I feel more alive when I act and that’s the only reason for me to work. As the captain (Dhoni) would say, “It’s all about living in the moment.”
Has your journey from a theatre actor to a Rs 100 crore hero been full of adventures?
Absolutely, but I crave for adventure. It makes me feel alive and excited. It’s a constant tussle between what you want to do and other parameters that aren’t in your hands. What keeps me going are my learnings, which I would rather call my ‘experience’, and my urge to explore. Also, you learn about the industry and you have to adapt quickly. The industry surprises you in more ways than one, but no one promised it was going to be easy.
For ages, the perception is that actors who come from TV are unlikely to find success in films.
We form opinions to create the illusion that we understand everything. So, something happens and then we try to logically explain why it happened. People will keep changing their opinions. Hence, I strongly believe in the saying, ‘He who thinks he can and he who thinks he can’t are both usually right.’
Being an ‘outsider’, do you find yourself on equal footing as compared to the ‘insiders’?
If I say yes, I would be fooling myself. Having said that, I don’t have a problem with it. Film-makers often hire you because they are only concerned with your passion and skills. Then there are times when an outsider’s failures are magnified and their success is discussed in hushed tones. But over a period of time, if you have skills, passion and a reason [to be in the industry], you will be sorted and will survive.
How critical is it for your movie to be a big hit to make your hard work get noticed?
It is very important for any actor. Your work should reach a large number of people for it to be noticed, and that gets reflected in the box-office numbers. But, I have a personal equation with my craft, so it’s all about my work rather than recognition.
You’ve said that you’ve a Teflon coating when it comes to people talking about your personal life.
I am indifferent. In fact, I don’t have a problem with people talking about my personal life. Also, I don’t get to know most of the times. It’s their ‘reality’. They need to put up with that headache.
While some actors are okay talking about their personal lives, others are not. What do you prefer?
If I am promoting a film, I am doing my job. At that point, I will only entertain discussions about the film because that is what I am supposed to do. I do not mind answering questions about my personal life, but for that, the media first needs to catch hold of me (laughs).
Were you expecting such a positive response for your portrayal of MS Dhoni or has it taken you by surprise?
I have been getting positive feedback for my work since my first release, Kai Po Che (2013). Before the release, Neeraj (Pandey; director) and MS (Mahender Singh Dhoni) appreciated my performance. Since both of them don’t mince words. I was confident that I have done a good job in the movie. The question was; how much the masses will connect with the film. But, thankfully the response to the film has been overwhelming. The credit for which also goes to MS’s popularity, and the content.
Watch: Har Gully Mein Dhoni Hai song from MS Dhoni - The Untold Story
Your preparation for the character of MS Dhoni was discussed a lot. Was it easy for you to perfect the role because you have a theatre background?
For me, it is about the excitement the role generates, and not about how easy or tough it would be to prepare for the character. I believe if you are incessantly excited about your work, other things hardly matter. Plus, you are a little immune to the result. I have been working with the same intent and excitement since 2006, when I started doing theatre. But with ‘popular’ films such as MS Dhoni: The Untold Story, you get a large number of audiences (to notice your work), and then they can form opinions about you.
Do you think the critical acclaim and box-office success that you have got for the movie, will make your journey in Bollywood easier?
I will always follow my heart. There is no other way (of doing things). Having said that, I also understand that making films involves as much commerce as art. As an actor, you are relieved if your producers make profit. Also, it gives film-makers more courage to take bigger risks, and try something new the next time.
What’s the way ahead?
This recent development (the success of M.S. Dhoni: The Untold Story), would only help me to go about my career the way I have done till now. It’s all about the passion and ‘nothing to lose’ attitude.