The realisation of his childhood dream of making a film has turned out to be a "bittersweet" moment for casting director-turned-filmmaker Mukesh Chhabra, who lost not only his "Dil Bechara" leading man, but also a close friend in the death of actor Sushant Singh Rajput. Rajput was found dead at his apartment on June 14. He was 34.
In an interview with PTI, Chhabra talked about his seven-year-long friendship with Rajput, whom he remembers as a man of his word and a student of life.
"I don't know what mindspace I am in right now. It is a mixed feeling, it is bittersweet. The response of people has been overwhelming, the love for Sushant is overwhelming, but I am feeling weird about everything," the director, who was associated with Rajput since his 2013 Bollywood debut "Kai Po Che", said Chhabra.
"A big change happened in my life. I am not even happy about my first film, I don't want to celebrate it as Sushant's last film. The feeling of your first film where you are happy and excited. In my case, it is completely different," he said.
With "Dil Bechara", which is the actor's swansong, life has come a full circle for Chhabra.
"It is a very weird feeling, I keep thinking about this. I want people to take the charm, positivity of Sushant and be happy and stay positive."
The debutant director said that Rajput gave an instant nod to "Dil Bechara", without even reading the script as he had promised to be part of his first film.
"He was someone who could pull off any role. I wanted this character to be charming. Sushant was also charming in real life. He would think a lot behind every move of a character," he added.
The trailer of the film beautifully captures the soulful love story between Kizie (Sanjana Sanghi) and Manny (Rajput) and their zest for life. One of the dialogues by the late actor that struck a chord with Rajput's fans, who are still mourning his demise, was: "We can't decide when to be born or to die, but what we can decide is how to live our life."
Walking down memory lane, Chhabra said, the dialogues, penned by filmmaker Shashank Khaitan, hold a different meaning today.
"The dialogue comes in voice-over. While we were dubbing, he saw the film, I told him he has to do voice-over for this line. Now the meaning of every line is fully changed."
Chhabra, 40, said Rajput was "moved" by the rough cut of the film he watched during dubbing.
"I keep regretting that he couldn't see the final film. Whatever he had seen, he was very excited, he got very emotional about it. He was very happy about his dance on 'Dil Bechara' song, which was a single-take dance. He had seen the song so, so many times," he added.
A lot of people are discovering Rajput's love for science post his death, and Chhabra emphasised that the actor was "aware about everything", not just films.
"He was a very intelligent person. He understood life so well. As a person, he was very committed towards what he wanted to do. He made a bucket list. We all keep talking that we will do this or that, he was someone who would actually fulfil everything," he said.
Also starring Saif Ali Khan in a cameo, "Dil Bechara" is slated to start streaming on Disney+ Hotstar from Friday.