"Acting is a very diligent job in terms of convincing people that I am somebody else. For those two and a half hours, I create that illusion that I am somebody else," says Sushant Singh Rajput as we catch up with him for a quick chat.
Of course he has achieved this feat with his last film 'M.S Dhoni: The Untold Story' where he hit it straight out of the park for a six!
But it wasn't all easy! 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'.
Suddenly every mother wanted a son like Manav (his character name in the serial) and every girl secretly harboured a wish to have a doting husband like him.
However just at the peak of his popularity, he quit the show to pursue films and look, the gamble paid in his favour as the actor never looked back since then.
Excerpts from our conversation...
"It Was A Magical Feeling To Know People Can Understand What I Am Feeling, Which Never Happened In The First 19 Years Of My Life"
Q. You were a student of DCE which is considered to be a safe career for a student. From there you ventured into an unknown territory and took baby steps by doing TV and then eventually moving towards films. How has the journey been from your perspective?
A. "I was a very good student. I was offered a scholarship in Delhi College of Engineering and was getting offers from many international universities to come and study there. But it doesn't guarantee you anything. You have to slog.
But yes, it does guarantee you a certain amount of money per annum. But everytime I used to work for that kind of money, I never liked it.
But during my first semester when I started dancing with Shiamak Davar, I used to like it; even though no one could see me, because I was right at the back. Shaimak asked me to venture into theatre, and for the first time, I could see people getting affected by my performance when I said my lines, and I felt powerful.
It was a magical feeling to know people can understand what I am feeling, which never happened in the first 19 years of my life. That magical feeling has remained the same from 2006 till now. Absolutely nothing has changed."
"Saying No To A Film Which Had Chances Of Being Successful And Earning Me A Huge Pay Cheque, For A Play Just Tells Me Something About Myself
Q. What is the first aspect that you consider before giving your nod to a film?
A. Primarily the story attracts me to a film. Secondly, there should be something which I should not be able to understand. And hence to understand that, I do the film. If I know what how to do it, I will never do it no matter how commercially viable the film is.
Post the release of 'M.S Dhoni: The Untold Story', for some reason, the film which I was supposed to shoot right after (Takadum) failed to take off and I suddenly had three to four months gap in between. During that period, many filmmakers including the ones I really wanted to work with, approached me for their films.
But somehow those scripts had that missing- 'I know I could do it'. I refused to do those films and instead started preparing for a play. I could have done any of those films.
Probably there could have been about 50% chances of them being successful but I would definitely be getting a huge pay check for it knowing that my last film did well.
Saying no to that for a play just tells me something about myself. That I need those three-four months of excitement of not knowing how to do things. This is one thing which I definitely want in a script for me to say yes to it.
"I Am Not Future-Obsessed"
Q. Has the success of last film changed or affected you as a person?
A. "My stardom is new for people who didn't consider me a star earlier, but for me, nothing has changed. I have played 54 characters till now, and every film is different. I worked extremely hard for Byomkesh Bakshi.
The film released on Friday and didn't open well. I was miserable on Saturday and Sunday. But on Monday, I was completely okay.
In case of Dhoni, the film had a massive weekend, and ideally I should have been flipping with joy. But, I was completely in control then too. I cannot let these 2 - 3 days of spiking and dropping affect my 7 - 8 months of my life, which I have invested in a film. I am just not future obsessed.
As far as stardom is concerned; the day I dropped out of college in my third year and started dancing behind Aishwarya Rai and Shahid Kapoor, I became a star. Because at that time I was doing something I really wanted to do."
"If People Are Investing So Much Time In Writing Fiction Stories About Me, They Should At Least Make Them Interesting Enough"
Q. How do you react to the stories which lately has been doing the rounds regarding your personal life?
A. "If I read these rumours and take them seriously then it would affect me. However I do read them at times and it gets to me. Recently there have been stories that are so new to me that I am also reading them for the first time. (laughs)
I have no problems with these stories because I can understand that living in this digital age where there are ten trending topics every hour, we need a talking point. I have no problems against these 'amazingly frivolous' stories coming out about me.
I am just saying that if these people are investing so much time in writing fiction stories about me, lets have this symbiotic relationship, make them interesting! So when I read them I feel that 'Oh I am so spicy' (laughs).
But all I am getting to read are the same boring, repetitive stories.
Q. Your recent spat with a senior journalist at the trailer launch of Raabta grabbed a lot of eyeballs. Do you feel that being a star there is a flip side to freedom of speech as well?
A. A journalist was asking me my opinion on something. I was saying, "Excuse me, I don't have an opinion because I am not well-informed." I could have gone with the popular opinion as I knew what was happening with him. I could have boasted that I am a patriotic.
It was very easy for me to do that. Instead I chose to be extremely honest about not being well-informed." By having said that I will get facts correct and the next time when I meet that person, I would have told her my opinion.
So, the next time when I give you my opinion, you would respect it thinking that he knows about his facts and that's why he has an opinion. So I just said that.
No matter how big you think the fight was, anybody who saw that would have easily found out how rational who was.
"I Know The Importance Of Looking At A Fan For An Extra One Second Or Waving At Them Or Writing Something For Them"
Q. Recently it was alleged that you misbehaved with a fan who had tried to ask you for a picture...
A. I am a big fan of Shahrukh Khan and he is the only actor whose autograph I wanted. I came to Mumbai and visited the sets of Swades just for his autograph.
But for some reason, I couldn't meet him and felt very bad about it. And then few years later, when I was a background dancer, I was dancing behind him in one of the award functions; and he just turned, and I said hi, and he said hi too. Now he probably says hi to 10,000 people in a day, but it was such a big thing for me, that I am telling you this story 10 years down the line.
So, I know the importance of looking at a fan for an extra one second, or waving at them or writing something for them. I make sure that I do this so that they have something to talk about.
I do not stop and click pictures with all the fans who ask me to, no, but that is because I am very particular about my work commitments.
If I am going somewhere and getting late, and a person asks me to stop and click a picture, I won't even probably listen because I am thinking about something.
So, that is one of the few instances when I will not stop and meet a fan, otherwise, 98% of my waking time, if someone asks me for a picture, I let them."
If You Google DCE's Most Successful Alumni Now, My Name Tops The List And It Also Says That I Am A College Drop-Out"
Q. What advice would you like to give to people who are hesitant to pursue their dreams?
A. When I dropped out of my college, everybody was laughing at me. Imagine being in a top notch college, 8 months away from graduation, and dropping out to become a hero! It sounds very funny.
But ironically, if you Google Delhi College Of Engineering's most successful alumni now, the name of the guy who invented the Pentium chip is second in the list. My name tops the list, and in also says that I am a drop out.
So the most important thing is not to arrive at some place where you would tell yourself that I made the right decision. Instead the he most important thing is to make the right decision at the right time, and do what you really want to do.
All the things that we are taught in business schools about perseverance and luck and risk taking, all these things are by products.
We don't have to work on any of these things, you just have to identify and do something that you like to do. And since you like it so much, even if it take multiple attempts, you will become very good at it.
Belief also goes a long way. Most of the people who don't make it have some sort of disbelief.