Sushant Singh Rajput, who committed suicide on June 14 by hanging himself in his Mumbai residence during the coronavirus lockdown, was a self-made star and a perfect antidote to the nepotism charges plaguing Bollywood.
The Patna-born dancer and actor, 34, was that quintessential outsider who made it through merit alone in an industry that prides itself on being clannish. It has been a year since we lost this icon, but he has not been forgotten.
Rajput didn’t have powerful industry connections or wasn’t born to an acting dynasty, but chose to make a mark through a clutch of meaningful films. His career catalogue is lean but rich with content-driven movies.
The actor, who made ripples in Bollywood through director Abhishek Kapoor’s ‘Kai Po Che!’, has acted in several good films including ‘Shuddh Desi Romance’ (2013), ‘Detective Byomkesh Bakshi’ (2015) and ‘MS Dhoni: The Untold Story’ (2016).
His sincere performance shone through in films like ‘Kai Po Che!’, a movie based on Chetan Bhagat’s best-selling novel ‘Three Mistakes Of My Life’. Rajput breathed life and verve into his role of a state-level cricketer Ishaan who becomes the victim of politics during competitive cricket selection.
Rajput’s short-lived career began with television. He became a familiar face in Indian household with the hit TV show ‘Pavitra Rishta’ as Manav Deshmukh. Just like Shah Rukh Khan’s career trajectory, Rajput also began his acting career from television projects and then graduated to films.
Instead of being prolific and acting in myriad projects, Rajput belonged to a new breed of actors who believed in quality over quantity.
Apart from a few creative misfires like his recent Netflix film ‘Drive’ and re-incarnation drama ‘Raabta’, the actor always shone bright in lead hero roles.
He was the kind of actor who believed in immersing himself in every role. The dedication that he showed towards playing a cricketer in MS Dhoni: The Untold Story and Detective Bymokesh Bakshi revealed his depth as an actor.
In an interaction with this journalist, Rajput had spoken about how he was excited about the world of films and it was not the stardom or the fanfare or the frills that come with fame that rocked his boat.
Apart from being a consummate actor, Rajput was also a great dancer.
His stints on the dance reality show in 2010 in ‘Zara Nachke Dikha 2’ and ‘Jhalak Dikhla Jaa 4’ remains one of his shining moments as a dancer.
Rajput was endowed with matinee-idol looks and he danced like a dream. But he was in no mood to be typecast as a romantic hero of Bollywood who sings and dances at the drop of the hat.
A cursory glance at his slim career catalogue reveals a line up of roles that are different from one another.
If he played a desperate lover in ‘Raabta’, he changed his gears in a film like ‘MS Dhoni: The Untold Story’.
The 2019 blockbuster hit ‘Chhichhore’ showed Rajput play a middle-aged father who has to grapple with his son’s suicide attempt. The scene in which he convinces his son that poor grades in school isn’t a reason to commit suicide remains etched in our minds. The irony now becomes more pronounced with his sudden death.
Rajput’s suicide and untimely death comes days after the news of his manager Disha Salian reportedly taking her own life.
While it’s yet to be confirmed if Rajput was facing mental health issues, it certainly puts a spotlight on the burning issue plaguing artists in the glittering Bollywood industry.
And while it’s yet to be know why Rajput took an extreme step in life, his career in films will always be hailed for its short, but remarkable shelf life.
Rajput proved that you don’t need to be prolific as a Bollywood actor to make your mark, all he needed was the conviction to be part of projects that challenged him.
Be it gangster drama ‘Sonchiriya’ or feel-good romance ‘Shuddh Desi Romance’, Rajput will be remembered for his impeccable knack at choosing interesting films.
He wasn’t a run-of-the-mill star, he was an actor who loved his craft above all the frills that came with it.