Obituary | Sushant Singh Rajput leaves behind a short, but sparkling, legacy of films

A true blue shooting star, Rajput was a superstar even before he took his first step into Hindi cinema in 2013.

June 14, 2020 08:36 pm | Updated November 28, 2021 12:23 pm IST

Bollywood actor Sushant Singh Rajput. File

Bollywood actor Sushant Singh Rajput. File

Thirty four years of age, with barely a decade in the world of entertainment and 11 odd films behind him, Sushant Singh Rajput deserved much more of them all — life, movies, roles, plaudits and his due place in the sun — but could not enjoy them for the vicissitudes of stardom, and the ups and downs of life itself. He was a true blue shooting star who leaves behind a prematurely abbreviated but sparkling legacy of films.

The regular boy-next-door was a superstar even before he took his first step into Hindi cinema in 2013. He debuted on television in Balaji Telefilms’ Kis Desh Mein Hai Mera Dil  (Star Plus) and endeared himself to everyone as Manav Deshmukh in Pavitra Rishta  (Zee TV), also a Balaji Telefilm production, in a role for which he went on to bag many an award. Manav’s character was underlined with a sincerity and maturity, and sincere is the quality for which industry insiders remember Rajput most.

Top form

He was in top form in his big screen debut in 2013 — Abhishek Kapoor’s Kai Po Che! , based on Chetan Bhagat’s book ‘The 3 Mistakes of My Life’ — as one of a triumvirate of friends on whom the film rests in a tale of politics and ideology with cricket as the thread that knits fractured social fabric. Rajput played Ishaan, a frustrated, angry and agitated local cricketer who tames his restlessness to help a poor child, Ali, become the best batsman of the country. You couldn’t take your eyes off him on screen and the finale left a lump in the throat, quite like the sudden vacuum his passing has created among his admirers today.


Three years later, Rajput embraced cricket again, in one of the biggest hits of his career — Neeraj Pandey’s M.S. Dhoni: The Untold Story  (2016). In his gait, demeanour and attitude, he tried to internalise the focus and steadfastness of the former Indian captain but never became a “pretend” Dhoni from the outside. “Mahi maar raha hai  (‘Mahi is hitting it’),” shouted a fan in the film. One saw a similar thrill and electric urgency, and also many a wet eye, cheering on for Rajput as Mahi on the big screen.


Most remember him as an extremely hard-working actor who also took pride in his industriousness and brought something of his own to each of his performances. There was an inherent energy and dynamism, youthfulness, spontaneity and likeability about him, and an oddly rooted star quality, with tremendous screen presence to boot. It got channelised really well in films like Maneesh Sharma’s Shuddh Desi Romance  (2013), about young people’s views on love, commitment, live-in relationships and marriage. But he tried not to bracket himself in the youthful romance zone.

There were duds like Dinesh Vijan’s Raabta  (2017), in which Rajput was made to take his charm on an overdrive, or the recent Drive  (2019) on Netflix, the Tarun Mansukhani directorial that careened into nothingness. However, despite this not being so evident to many, Rajput kept making very interesting choices, whether they hit the bull’s eye is another story.

Also read | Fan remembers Sushant Singh Rajput’s kind act

He opted to play a small role in Rajkumar Hirani’s PK  (2014), became the lead in Dibakar Banerjee’s ambitious Detective Byomkesh Bakshy  (2015). In times of political polarisation, he opted to play a Muslim pitthu  (porter) Mansoor, who transports pilgrims and their luggage to and from   Kedarnath in the 2018 film of the same name by Abhishek Kapoor.

‘Outsider superstar’

He never fit in any mould, didn’t belong to any camps in Bollywood and stood separate from the crowd. He was an “outsider superstar”, quite like a Shah Rukh Khan, with a similar boyish charm about him.

Last year he appeared as a baaghi  (rebel, dacoit) in the 1970s Chambal, in what is arguably the best film of his career — Abhishek Chaubey’s Sonchiriya . This was followed by one of his biggest hits, Nitesh Tiwari’s Chhichhore . Ideally, 2020 should have been the time for him to peak, but the year chose to play cruel with him, as it has with many others. There were a bunch of shelved projects, including Shekhar Kapur’s Paani , a film after his heart. For now, Mukesh Chhabra’s remake of The Fault in Our Stars  titled Dil Bechara  is all we have left of him.

In Sonchiriya , the title is a metaphor for a rare bird of redemption. “ Apni apni  Sonchiriya, apni apni mukti ” goes a line in the film. It’s all about a journey towards finding your own bird of salvation. Like in the film, Rajput has also opted to go on his own journey to infinity, to find deliverance that life couldn’t give him. A journey that he embarked on way too soon.

Those who require assistance for overcoming suicidal thoughts may contact BMC mental health helpline 022-24131212 (24x7); Vandrevala Foundation: 18602662345/ 18002333330 (24x7); I Call: 022-25521111 (8 a.m. to 10 p.m., Monday to Saturday); The Samaritans Mumbai: 8422984528/ 8422984529/ 8422984530 (3 p.m.- 9 p.m. all days).


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