When he made the big shift — from TV to films – after starring in the popular serial, Pavitra Rishta (2009-2011), for two years, Sushant Singh Rajput was an immediate hit with the audience with his first two films — Kai Po Che! (2013) and Shuddh Desi Romance (2013). But the 29-year-old admits that his parents had “flipped out” when he decided to drop out (of a popular engineering college in Delhi), and shift to Mumbai to pursue acting. We caught up with Sushant for a free-wheeling chat during his “intense” jogging session on a Sunday morning at Marine Drive.
‘I’ve seen extreme lows’
There are two ways of looking at the journey. From outside, my old friends say that it has been about the rise and rise of Sushant. And although they consider me hard-working and ambitious, they still feel chance and destiny have been major factors. And then, there’s my own perspective. I have seen extreme lows, because of factors that were not in my hands — be it not having money to buy my first bike, dropping out of a prestigious engineering college without having a single rupee in my bank account, living with seven boys in a single-room kitchen in Mumbai, or eating nothing but khichdi every day. But I cherish all those moments.
‘Outsiders are frequently scrutinised’
Things are difficult for outsiders in the industry, and it is very evident too. It does not mean that insiders have it easy, or that it’s impossible for outsiders to break in. More often than not, the difference is about how successes and failures are viewed and magnified. Outsiders are frequently scrutinised. Plus, they have to prove their worth with every step they take. But obviously, over the course of a long career, such things don’t matter much, irrespective of where the actor comes from. Whether you are an outsider or not, you always strive to make your first name more famous than your surname (smiles).
‘There’s just one life’
Today, I have everything that I could have dreamt of. But, unlike the past, your future is not fixed, and neither is it like the roll of the dice. It is dynamic, and with your belief, diligence and passion, you can write each and every moment of your life. But if you are too hooked to your future, you will sc*** up the most important gift, and that is the ‘now’. There’s just one life, so do we want to get to the end of our lives and think, “Well, it was okay, but I could have done better” or “I didn’t give enough time to the people who loved me.” No matter what you achieve, what you want to aspire to be or how famous and powerful you become, the most important thing is whether you are excited about each and every moment of your life, because of your work and people around you.
‘My parents thought I was nuts’
For a guy who comes from a middle-class family, and has no connection with the industry, and no financial backup, thinking of becoming an actor was like building castles in the air. My parents thought I was nuts. They flipped out when I told them that I wanted to leave engineering, and go to Mumbai. But when you are the only one dreaming that big, and the only one to believe in it, you will thrive.
‘I’m not a businessman’
I know it is important for films to do well at the box office. But, as an actor, I feel we should endeavour to be more creative, and less like businessmen. I’m not a businessman. If you choose films that help you evolve as an actor, and also have something new to say, you help the audience evolve their tastes too. If you incessantly choose characters that are challenging, then you are excited every day about how to pull such roles off, and that’s what happiness to me is.
‘The biggest problem for me is the mobile phone’
I put a lot of thought into building my characters, and then I consciously behave in a certain way to get it into my system. Actors here generally confuse spontaneity as opposite to method acting, which I feel is wrong. The more prepared you are for a role, the more character-specific spontaneity you develop. The biggest problem for me is the mobile phone. I’m very bad at using it, but people think I am arrogant because I don’t reply. But that’s not the truth.
‘You should not refrain from experimenting on the sets’
The process is different every time, but the objective is the same. On the first day of a shoot, you should subconsciously behave more like the character and less like yourself. It comes from faith, and that faith comes from preparation. If you keep thinking, reading and practising for a character over a period of time, you subconsciously pick up certain things that really help. When this basic preparation is done, you should not refrain from experimenting on the sets.
‘Training helps you to not take yourself too seriously’
Training helps in many ways. If you are trained, you know how to differentiate between facts and what you think is correct. Not talking to anyone, not using a phone, underplaying every emotion or being serious about your work does not necessarily mean you are a good actor or a method actor. These are the repercussions of the process, not the process itself. Being trained means you are aware of the acting tools, and your weaknesses. It helps you stay grounded, and not take yourself too seriously.
‘We are making not-so-great films’
As an actor today, there’s a pressure on you to do certain kinds of popular films that surprisingly do very well at the box office. We have a general tendency to pit actors against one another, and rate them on the money their movie makes, despite knowing that the success of a film depends on many other factors as well. Instead of supporting and encouraging new, committed actors, we are in a hurry to pull them down, which, I feel, is not correct for the future of our cinema. Since we, as an industry, are mostly making not-so-great films, and have made them successful with the help of marketing blitzkrieg, we have developed a certain taste among the audience, and they have started to associate us primarily with only those kinds of films. But, of late, the same audience has also made high-concept Hollywood films big successes in India. So, the big players of industry need to take drastic measures. The industry needs to work as a team to earn back the reputation before it’s too late.
‘Mediocrity and insecurity thrives’
TV and films are stuck in time warp. There is a dearth of original ideas. Mediocrity and insecurity thrives today; and we feel good by mutual admiration or by targeting others. There are a few makers in both mediums, who are trying to push the envelope, and have been successful in doing so. If we give them the atmosphere and encouragement to thrive, the niche of today will be the mainstream of tomorrow.
‘I am very chilled out’
People who know me and hang out with me have a different view about my fun side. I take my work with utmost seriousness, but it doesn’t mean I am the same in real life too. I don’t make it to the guest list of popular parties, but that’s a different issue. I’m very chilled out, and I know how to have fun.
‘I don’t take myself too seriously’
Once you get fame and success, either you realise they are not enough to give you a sense of fulfilment, or you get insecure and want to hold on to them with all your might. I want it all, but I don’t take myself too seriously. This paradox works for me perfectly.
‘Success and failure affect me’
Success and failure affect me a lot. Many things change with success and failure, but if you can find a way to survive, and still do the work that you want, it will be something to be proud of.
‘I want to be a good human being’
I want to do the best of films, realise my full potential and be a good human being. Honestly, it sounds impossible, but then, everything that’s happening to me now was once impossible. So, why not give it a try?