Ever since he made his debut with Kai Po Che (2013), Sushant Singh Rajput has made some interesting film choices. In his upcoming project with director Neeraj Pandey, he is set to play Indian cricket captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni on screen.
In an interview, the actor talks about the challenges of playing the lead in a biopic, meeting the cricketing star, his special equation with Shekhar Kapur, and more.
Is playing Dhoni on screen a huge responsibility for you?
As an actor, there is always a responsibility when you are portraying any character on screen. You have to meet your own expectations, [because] you want a large percentage of audience to come and watch the film. As for Dhoni, he is an inspiration, and is loved by millions. The incredible response after the [film’s] announcement only punctuates the massiveness of the project, and we will make sure the biopic transcends general expectations.
Recently, you met Dhoni regarding the film. How did the meeting go?
Five minutes into the meeting, I was blown away by his personality. He is a unique amalgamation of hard work, intelligence, patriotism, humility, passion and God-like inner peace. I am looking forward to many such conversations with him to carefully understand why he is the way he is, so that I can honestly portray him on screen.
This film is one of the rare biopics where the protagonist is still active in his own field.
Yes, and so it gets much more challenging. Everyone has a strong visual reference [of the person], since he is still playing and is immensely popular. So you, as an actor, have to match him completely in order to pull it off convincingly.
It’s believed that you are media shy compared to your contemporaries.
It’s a personal choice. The main objective is to be part of exciting films with wonderful directors, and I don’t think the ‘buzz’ or the ‘number of appearances’ in a week increases the possibility [of working in those films] by any measure. I am living my dream and will continue to follow my instincts and passion, and hopefully entertain the audience.
You and director Shekhar Kapur clearly share a great chemistry. In fact, he recently tweeted that you are “probably one of the best young actors we have today”.
We share a special bond, and talk about so many things when we meet. I haven’t met anyone else who understands human emotions better. Now, after getting to know him a bit more, when I watch his films again, I am able to understand the deeper meaning behind the narrative options he has taken, and the creative decisions he has made. I can't thank my stars enough to have gotten this opportunity to work with him so early in my career.
Why are you taking so many risks when your contemporaries are playing it safe in terms of film choices?
I chose to be an actor for selfish reasons. I love living different characters, and something happens to me when I am performing on stage or when I am in front of the camera. And that’s very liberating. I work for that. It helps me fight the fear of all kinds of uncertainties and insecurities.
Lastly, how important do you think you next with director Dibakar Banerjee will be, since it's coming at a very important time in your career (after a gap of a year)?
It is important for me, not because of the timing or anything, but because it’s a very special film. Honestly, as an actor, I learnt more in these seven months than I did in eight years of theatre, TV and films combined. Dibakar is a genius filmmaker.