Watching Pavitra Rishta years ago, one thing stood out. Even in a show that had every element demanded of a mega series on television, especially one from the Balaji Telefilms stable, there was a certain earnestness about Sushant Singh Rajput’s Manav, a healthy dash of real-ness that was hard to shake off. One just knew, like many others did, that this boy was meant for greater things.
And so, when Kai Po Che happened, we all patted ourselves on the back for having got it right all along. MS Dhoni: The Untold Story only reaffirmed our faith. Here was an actor, fluid grace seeping in every movement. See him in the ‘Maanja’ song — even warm-up exercises in cricket seem like poetry in motion. He seemed to tell the world that see, I possess a set of skills, and he was so compelling on screen, you watched him. Hell, you even watched Pavitra Rishta long after it stopped being interesting, just for Sushant’s Manav.
If you’ve been scrolling through his filmography (it’s a taut 10 films where he played substantial or lead roles, and excludes his last film Dil Bechara, which was to release in May), his television appearances and his dance videos and shedding a tear or two for a fine talent snatched so young, you’re probably paying Sushant his best tribute. For, in his very first film outing, he showed you what he was capable of. Every film, then on, built upon that solid foundation. What I’ll miss most is Sushant’s trademark reaction shots. There’s always a micro-second of delay where the expression builds up, just like it would in real life. In Kedarnath, when Sara hands him her tea glass, he takes his time to blush, almost as an afterthought. In Kai Po Che, when he sees that Ali does love cricket after all, and has drawn his instructions on the wall, there’s pride on his face and eyes that mist over, but after a delay. That time allows us to prepare ourselves, in a way, to experience the emotion his character was going through on screen. MS Dhoni was full of such instances, a curious film where he not just aped a living cricketer’s mannerisms, but the very spirit that makes Dhoni, Dhoni. His earnestness was endearing even in a film like Shuddh Desi Romance, which got dissed by many, but which is a delight for the performances. What joy he was as a kiraai ke baarati, who walks the tightrope between love and commitment.
Sushant was a master of the half-smile, and of full-throated laughter. He was an intelligent man in an industry that does not look very kindly upon IQ. Sushant is probably the only young actor who’s received a warm tribute from a scientist.
Sushant – seeker, actor pic.twitter.com/Ro1SqIQjKd
— Dr. Karan Jani (@AstroKPJ) June 14, 2020
Dr Karan Jani, black hole astrophysicist and LIGO scientist (among Sushant’s bucket list was visiting the Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory) “I had the rare privilege to witness the other side of Sushant – that of a profoundly curious human being who had an impressive reading habit… His social media bio read – ‘Photon in a double-slit’. He was indeed like that, living a duality. With one being a Bollywood star with millions of followers, while the other being an honest seeker finding a meaning in this universe,” he wrote.
Indeed, Sushant’s Instagram timeline was a lesson on all matters science. He passed on his love for celestial bodies, for the moon and planets. His much-loved telescope, through which he sought meaning in the black expanse above, was a prized possession that he took along while shooting for Sonchirya in Chambal.
Everyone is busy conjecturing why Sushant chose to end things this way, they rain down on people they hold responsible for his death, they raise the nepotism battle cry again, and they target his former partner for moving on. These are ways, not always right, in which fans cope with the death of someone who was not quite the star, but someone better than an actor, a boy they considered their own. A TV actor without a background who came from small town India to make it big. If Shah Rukh gave some generations hope that the outsider can become the insider, Sushant raised that hope for some years for his generation. With him gone, that hope is gone too. And now, everyone knows that behind the smiles and the glitz and glamour and arclights is a deeply lonely world, where stars shine or burn out in isolation. Be well, dear Sushant. You made the world a better place with your talent.
We leave you with Meethi Boliyaan from Kai Po Che. Remember him as the boy who lived life, the boy who delighted in jumping off the heights into unknown depths with a smile on his face.