What's common between Shah Rukh Khan and Sushant Singh Rajput? It's their successful transition from the world of television to the big screens!
A small town boy who decided to drop out of his engineering course to pursue his acting dreams, Sushant turned into an overnight sensation with Ekta Kapoor's 'Pavitra Rishta'. Every mummy wanted a son like Manav (his character name in the serial) and every girl secretly wished to have a doting husband like him.
But who knew that life had something else in store for him! At the peak of his popularity the actor bid goodbye to the show and got his big break in Bollywood with Abhishek Kapoor's 'Kai Po Che'. Since then the actor never looked back. The gamble worked in his favour and today he is one of the most sought-after talent with maximum number of films in his kitty all belonging to different genres. From doing a biopic on M.S Dhoni, some intense romance in 'Raabta', a 'rockstar' transition in 'Takadum', dabbling with space odyssey in 'Chandamama Door Ke' to a film on India's first Paralympic gold medalist Murlikant Petkar, Sushant has a lot of surprises in store for us.
In a candid chat the young lad opens up about his journey of 'M.S.Dhoni', his approach towards films and also comes clear of all rumors surrounding his love life.
Excerpts from the conversation-
1. How excited or nervous are you for the release of your upcoming film 'M.S.Dhoni: The Untold Story'?
The kind of experience I have had while preparing and shooting for this film was simply amazing. So ya, I am quite excited about it.
2. What was the most challenging part for you?
Just like in each and every film, what we are supposed to do as actors is to convince ourselves that we are the characters that we are playing. For fictional characters we don't have a reference point but when I am playing M.S.Dhoni we have him in flesh and blood. Be it his playing style or mannerisms or body language or diction, so I have to take care of that too. I realized that I had to be very good in the film not just as an actor and a cricketer but also had to be equally convincing. I had to understand him and become that person in the head.
3. After doing a biopic on Dhoni, do you respect him even more?
Of course. There were things I knew but didn't know why the way he is what he is. Every time I used to be very surprised. As I said that there are films that you do with great directors and great scripts and you learn as an actor in the process, but there are very few films where you become a better person and this is one of those films.
4. How hard was it for you to pick up his mannerisms for the film?
It wasn't so hard. We structured the progression of the film in three different ways. One was the script. So director Neeraj Pandey knew the film inside out, the bottom line of each and every scene and did research to get the facts correct and then understanding what exactly we are punctuating on each and every scene. Second was the mannerisms and the playing styles. So I was very clear from the start that once I am shooting on the sets I shouldn't be thinking about these things. Instead I should be concentrating on my scenes and listening to my co-actors. I wasn't analyzing anything and writing it down. Instead I used to watch him for hours and hours and few months later people were like 'oh there is some similarity between you two' and I was like 'okay we are going right'. Third thing was cricket. I had to convince everyone that I am M.S Dhoni.
5. When you do a film like this what input do you put in as Sushant, the actor?
As an actor the first thing we strive for is to convince ourselves. The second best thing could be that I should feel that I have the authority..so that complete immersion, knowing each and every scene and then if I am in the scene and my co-stars..they do something and I have to react to it, then it shouldn't be my spontaneity, it should be Dhoni's spontaneity. To create that illusion in your head you need to convince yourself. For a certain period of time we analyze and spend time and then pick up the skills and mannerisms sub-consciously. So that's something different we have tried and worked upon.
4. What is your favourite moment of the film?
Signing the contract (laughs). I was and still am a big fan of Dhoni. From there to here I was talking to him, asking questions. It was surreal. There are many memories that would stay with me forever.
5. Did you ever try to convince him to be an actor in the future?
He is a very good actor. If you watch that video that we did where he is asking me what's there in the film, the script had just 5 to 6 lines. I came up with a line just like that and he reacted to it and then it continued. If you listen to it he is 80% of an actor.
6. Do you think he would look good on-screen?
If he decides to be an actor then we will need to think about Plan B. (laughs) Because he is very good at whatever he does.
7. Apart from you which actor do you think could have played Dhoni onscreen?
Anybody who is very skillful. (when prodded to pick up a name he says) I never thought about it (pauses) no one..well that's what my director says. (smiles)
8. Was it taxing for you to play this character?
Not at all. As a kid when I used to come back from school the first thing that we were supposed to do was to complete our homework and then from 4 to 5.30 pm I was allowed to play and then again coming back and preparing for the next day. The entire day I used to wait for 4 to 5.30 timing and that one-one and an half hour felt like 5 mins. So I am living those one and half hours now in my career. I don't get to know that I am working hard now. I try to figure out things which I don't understand completely and in order to understand what I don't understand I do it. I am having the time of my life.
9. Apart from your films your personal life too has been lately talked about. So from where do you get that 'care a damn' attitude and how do you stay unaffected by all these things?
I am a very selfish actor. I do everything for myself right from choosing a script to working on it. It's only when just before the release of the film I interact with the audience for the first time, also because we are selling a good film, so then you think about all these things. Like I said I am a very selfish actor. If there is somebody who looks at me and is happy or gets inspired by me then I will be happy. If they are neagative or envious then it's their problem. It's not my problem. Firstly because I didn't get to know these things. And secondly, I am unaffected by them. If it's them, that's what they are talking about. So they need to figure it out, it's not my problem. These link-ups have always been there and have now become strong. However I don't take them seriously.
So even if I become very successful it doesn't change anything. Let me give you an example. When I was in fourth or fifth grade, in some random magazine I saw a very fancy car and I was like one day I will buy it and very recently, in fact two years back, I bought that car. A night before I couldn't sleep because of the excitement and the day the car arrived, I took my friends out.But after a day I got the habit of owning it, and that excitement didn’t stay with me, so I felt cheated because I stayed with that car for 10 to 15 years and it couldn’t stay with me for a day. So this thing doesn't really excite me for a long period of time. But if you like what you do then that thing excites you. So I don't take myself seriously, neither the failures nor the success.
10. Do you get upset with all these link-up reports and rumors when instead of talking about all the hard work that goes in making the film, they end up discussing your personal life?
No they shouldn't be. We are telling an engaging and entertaining story with this film. We are trying to say something very important and have worked hard on it. And then there are a few who are only interested in my personal life. There's no relation to it. Either they should let the film release and then talk about my relationships. I have always been very open about my relationships. I will talk about it. It's just that this is not the time and right now I am on a duty..I have to sell my film. So ya..people should understand that.
11. Neeraj said that he was very unbiased when he made this film. Do you think that's a good approach for the project?
I will tell you why it became very difficult for me just because I was his fan. As I said the thing I had to strive for was to convince myself. And then if you have been following Dhoni's work for like 12 years and he's one of those people who you look up to, and then to convince yourself that you are him is very difficult. So it is always good to not get swayed away by a personality. The film too doesn't glorify or hide anything.
12. You are picking up films belonging to different genres, be it 'Dhoni', 'Raabta', 'Takadum' or 'Chandamama Door Ke'. So is that a conscious move on your part?
Ya. I invest months of my life for some films and if I knew what I had to do I won't be very excited. The only thing that keeps me excited is not to know how exactly to do it. So I would be deliberately trying to choose different characters.
13. Lastly, are you jittery about the backlash that you might face from Dhoni fans if the film fails to work its magic?
They will never find me. (bursts into laughter)