Sushant Singh Rajput had dropped out of engineering to pursue a career in acting, completing only three out of the four-year course at DCE. But the brilliance of the man, who had cleared as many as 11 engineering entrance exams, shone through his presence on screen, as well as his off-screen persona.
After his stupendous success on television with Ekta Kapoor's Pavitra Rishta, Sushant’s Bollywood journey got off to a great start with Kai Po Che! (2013). The film, based on Chetan Bhagat's novel The 3 Mistakes of My Life, revolved around the 2001 Gujarat earthquake and Godhra train burning. Sushant played an ex-district level cricketer who is a victim of politics in the cricketing selection fraternity, and won the Best Male Debut Filmfare award for his performance.
Kai Po Che was sort of a phenomenon, and everyone looked forward to more powerful performances from Sushant. With his second film, Shuddh Desi Romance, the actor proved that he was not just another Bollywood hero. With this non-formulaic and non-conforming rom-com, Sushant proved he was willing to take risks, and make a space for himself in the industry that was purely his own.
He continued off the beaten track to star in Dibakar Banerjee’s Detective Byomkesh Bakshy!, slipping into the legendary Bengali sleuth’s role with ease. After a modern-day romance, Sushant fully immersed himself into the 1940s' hairstyle, body language and accent.
Sushant’s most successful film came in 2016, when he brought to life the legend of MS Dhoni for millions of cricket fans in India. M.S. Dhoni: The Untold Story, directed by Neeraj Pandey, sealed Sushant’s spot in Bollywood like no other. He was the director’s first choice given how both Dhoni and Sushant hailed from the same part of India, which made it easy for him to get the dialect right. A self-confessed Dhoni fan, Sushant watched hours of footage to get his mannerisms right, and trained extensively in cricket. The efforts paid off in box office numbers and critic’s praises.
After MS Dhoni, it was assumed that Sushant’s journey would be towards bigger projects and greater stardom.
Unfortunately, his next release Raabta received lukewarm critical reception. Although nothing matched the adulation of MS Dhoni, Sushant was back in the good books of critics with Kedarnath, Sonchiriya and Chhichhore.
Kedarnath was an inter-faith love story between a Hindu Brahmin girl whose family owns a lodge and shops near the historic Kedarnath Temple in the Uttarakhand mountains and a humble Muslim boy who is a 'pithoo' (porter). It served as Sara Ali Khan’s debut vehicle, and reunited Sushant with his Kai Po Che director Abhishek Kapoor. The actor was praised for his nuanced performance, being the solid support a newcomer needed in a co-star.
In 2019 he headlined the multi-starrer Sonchiriya, directed by Abhishek Chaubey. Set in ravines of the Chambal valley against the backdrop of the Emergency, it tells the tale of dacoits in 1975. The film's entire cast, including Sushant, was praised for their top notch performances.
After earning acclaim for Sonchiriya, he went on to impress audiences in the more mainstream Chhichhore, a comedy-drama which was lauded for its portrayal of hostel life in Indian colleges. Sushant once again proved his mettle, easily going back and forth in time to play the love-struck college student as well as a middle aged man worried for his son.
With Sonchiriya and Chhichhore, 2019 seemed to be a good year for Sushant on the big screen, despite his last film Drive going straight to digital. Multiple factors decide the fate of a film, and he did face many disappointments in his career. But Sushant continued to make brave choices and deliver with sincerity as an actor. He showed potential for greatness, and his audience will remember him for that.
Follow @News18Movies for more