He speaks his mind fearlessly, isn’t looking to fit into the archetypal mould of a Bollywood hero, and is treading his own path. Still, Sushant Singh Rajput, who started his Bollywood career just four years ago, has created a niche for himself. “Success is very subjective,” says the actor, as he talks about life, career, his new film Raabta, and his journey so far.
You completed four years in the industry this February. Has the journey been eventful or more of a learning experience?
Experience is all that I work for. I crave for new experiences that are not diluted by any worries for the future. So, my four years of working in the industry have largely made me two things — one, totally fearless about the consequences [of a film], and second, genuinely excited about my work.
Do you ever feel you ought to deliver hits at the box office to be called a successful and good actor?
I know that I am a good actor. So the idea is not to prove anything, but just to reinvent and improve myself, and have fun in the process. As far as being successful is concerned, that’s very subjective. I was successful the day I started working without giving a s**t about success.
Recent stories about your run-in with a scribe and then an alleged squabble with fans led to reports describing your behaviour as ‘high-handed’ Does it upset you?
Honestly, it does affect me. To admit to not having an opinion due to lack of information is an honest and a graceful thing to say, and it should be acknowledged that way. But these days, all they [media] want are talking points.
After the big success of the MS Dhoni biopic, are you feeling any pressure vis-à-vis Raabta’s box office performance?
Everyone wants their films to do well, so, I also want that. But there is no point to prove, goals to reach, or reputation to hold on to. In our industry, success is really overrated, as there are only a handful of films every year that we can be genuinely proud of. But [box office] failures are under-appreciated even when they help us decipher what we did wrong, and help us try to make better films [in the future].
Nepotism has been a hot topic of late. Since you are also an outsider to the industry, do you see it happening around you?
Nepotism is just not about outsiders finding it hard to score films and insiders getting projects easily. It is also about how your successes and failures are perceived and magnified. In that way, it exists and anyone saying that it doesn’t has to be blind or really powerful. But I have no complaints, and I’m genuinely grateful for the opportunities I’ve had.
Do you think you have found your footing; or your niche in the industry?
Presently, all the five films that I’m doing are the ones that I want to do. So, technically, yes, I have [found my footing]. But, the day my films don’t work, I won’t have offers that I really want, and so, I would lose my footing. But the key is to keep walking, falling and getting up.
How much does the success or failure of a film affect you?
Success and failure would definitely have different repercussions. You have to deal with them accordingly. I worked really hard on Detective Byomkesh Bakshy (2015), but it didn’t start well on Friday. I was upset during the weekend, but on Monday, I was completely fine as if nothing happened. Similarly, I worked equally hard on the Dhoni biopic, and it had a fantastic opening on Friday. But, I was again normal by Monday. So, I can’t screw up the six months that I give for a film for such a spike of highs-and-lows for just a weekend.
By now, are you used to the pattern and preparations of a new film’s release?
Now, I actually have two jobs. One is a very personal process, which is to do with the performance. As far as this job is concerned, I keep reinventing my process so that I don’t get bored. My second job is that of a salesman wherein I’ve to sell the film. This guy tries his best to sound extremely energetic and have the conviction. However, it’s something that I’m still working on (smiles).
Was it doubly challenging to work on Raabta, since it is a contemporary romantic film with a reincarnation angle?
Yes, because an actor has to create this illusion that he is a different guy in a film and that is a delicate job. So, if one is supposed to portray two characters in two hours, you better know your job properly so that you are convincing in both roles. In the film, both the characters that I play are diametrically opposite each other. I’ve ensured that they are different and convincing at the same time.
You have been making news because of your rumoured relationship with your Raabta co-star Kriti Sanon. Does it ever get frustrating?
I’ve realised that these kind of stuff would keep happening. Not only do I have to put up with my personal life being discussed openly, I also need to laugh along. Now my high is to find how innovative these fictional stories could be (laughs).
Looking at other actors, especially your contemporaries, do you ever feel that you need to do more films?
I’m already doing more films that I thought I could ever do in a year. I think I am improving a lot (smiles).
You seem to be mixing up your film choices nicely. You are putting a lot of thought to it?
I am actually not thinking a lot. A lot of paralysis happens because of analysis (smiles). I actually act as a myopic. I think really hard as to what film I should do to make six irreversible months of my life exciting.
You’ve also fulfilled a childhood dream of buying a Maserati Quattroporte recently. Do such things bring happiness to you?
They don’t bring a great deal of happiness, but this one genuinely felt like taking off a huge burden of a [long-standing] dream. When I was in the fourth standard, I would play with a blue miniature Maserati. I always wanted to own a real one. I still have that [miniature model]. So getting the car was like getting rid of the 20-year-old burden.
You recently did a photo shoot with supermodel Kendall Jenner. How was the experience?
It was great. It started with Anaita (Shroff Adajania) asking me if I would want to be featured in the special issue [of a magazine] before working with the master Mario Testino (photographer) and then, of course, being in the same frame as Kendall. For the longest time, my niece thought that I was lying and only believed me when she saw the pictures.
Did you talk a lot with Kendall?
Not a lot, but we spoke about India, Rajasthan, the food, weather and Bollywood too. Kendall told me that she is relieved that I am tall (smiles).
You are also going to appear in a segment on Keeping Up With the Kardashians. Are you excited?
I should be, right? Honestly, I found out that it’s a big deal only when my niece told me how much she likes it.
You also shot with Mario Testino in a pose made famous by his well-known towel series…
Mario is a master photographer. I strongly believe that I am quite bad in front of a static camera. I was pleasantly surprised to find that he really liked clicking my pictures. He was happy to an extent that in the middle of a shot he asked me if I wanted to be in his towel series. I knew how exclusive the series was. So, I quickly jumped at the opportunity.
A few people, especially on Twitter and other social media platforms, are upset that Kendall Jenner was picked up over Indian models and actresses for the shoot…
It’s really uncalled for. People from India and other Asian countries have regularly featured in American magazines. If we could be on each other’s covers, it would only punctuate the fact that we care less about nationality, colour etc., which would be a great thing.