The first thing that you noticed about Sushant Singh Rajput was his nervous energy, his thirst for observing everyone and his amicable smile.
The year was 2017 and we were meeting him for a sit-down interview at his suite in a hotel in Downtown Dubai. He was in talks for a promotional campaign to showcase Dubai as a tourist destination and was chronicling his sojourn on his Facebook page.
He had just tried skydiving and was on an adrenalin high after that UAE adventure.
Rajput was dressed casually and wasn’t in a mood to be photographed at the time of our meeting. He was terribly apologetic about it and kept saying sorry for not communicating it to our team earlier. He punctuated his apology with the most endearing smile and seemed genuinely distressed about turning away our photographer and videographer. His mortification at acting like a typical Bollywood star, prone to tantrums, seemed genuine.
Judging by his demeanour and his body language, Rajput, who died in Mumbai by committing suicide on June 14, wasn’t like the usual self-centred rising stars. He seemed interested in people and this city.
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He wasn’t surrounded by publicists or didn’t have a secretary usher us in for the interview. The interaction was casual and comfortable as we spoke about the magic of movies. He seemed like a student of cinema than a Bollywood star who got turned on by adoring fans calling out his name. He spoke about how there were movies that were yet to be discovered.
During this meeting, his career was on an upward climb. He had just treated his fans to ‘MS Dhoni: The Untold Story’, a flattering biopic on the Indian cricketer and was basking in its success and critical reception. But it was the teaser of ‘Raabta’, his forthcoming re-incarnation drama, that he was keen to show off. Flipping out his phone, he showed me the initial trailer reel asking me if I liked what I saw.
As always, I gave a neutral, diplomatic response but he was very eager to know my truthful take on the trailer. It didn’t look promising, I finally told him, but he didn’t seem to be offended by my observation. He didn’t turn stroppy either. The man could take criticism like an absolute professional.
“I am here because I love acting and I love what I do. I feel I am here for the right reason,” said Rajput.
The interview wasn’t timed or limited to 10 minutes and played out like a conversation between two people who loved the world of films and books.
We spoke at length about what kept him going as an actor and whether he wanted to buy a home in Dubai.
“I was just discussing with my friend last night and he told me that he has some contacts. I am really looking into it … My pad should have two things: my library has to be big and the balcony or terrace should ideally overlook the ocean, river or sea,” said Rajput.
While he may not have realised his dream of owning a gigantic library in a home in Dubai, his strong spine of films will never be forgotten.