Over the years, actor Sushant Singh has acquired a reputation as a politically active celebrity, who has time again spoken out on burning issues in the country. From standing in solidarity with the MeToo movement and taking firm actions against the perpetrators during his tenure under CINTAA to joining protests against the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA), Sushant has been hitting the headlines for his stances on various issues.
In this interview, he spoke to us about the importance of being a politically aware celebrity, how he tackles the online hate that comes his way for voicing out, and his recent web show 'Kaun? Who did it?' which is streaming on Flipkart Video. 'Kaun? Who did it?' has been produced by Guneet Monga under her banner Sikhya Entertainment, which has produced films like The Lunchbox, Peddlers, and Soorarai Pottru.
When you first heard about 'Kaun? Who did it?' and read the script, what were your thoughts on how you would be a part of this show?
I was a bit hesitant because of the number of days required and the number of episodes we were going to shoot in a 15-minute format. I didn't really know how it would work and what the shooting style would be. But I was immediately on after a couple of discussions with Guneet Monga and the team. This is a very innovative show and the first of its kind in the Hindi language as far as I know. As an actor, it was challenging to break the fourth wall.
How would you describe your character in the show?
Adi Bhagat can be a jerk. He loves to outwit other people. He is very confident and throws witty one-liners, which is a part of my personality trait also. So, some of my personality might have seeped into Adi also. But Adi is very different from me. There's certain bitterness in him towards the system and because of his past which you'll see towards the season end. But overall, he is an empathetic man who likes to help people.
How was shooting this show different from A Simple Murder or even something like Rangbaaz? Did this one get in your head?
Shooting 'Kaun? Who did it?' was very different from everything else I have ever done. When it's a web series like Rangbaaz or A Simple Murder, there are so many other characters and sub-plots happening around you that you get more time to build your character. You can relax between the shots because there are other actors also working. You are not the only one who is working 12 hours nonstop. But in this show, the whole setup is such that it's all happening in Adi Bhagat's house. So, it can be very tiring physically as well as mentally because we tried to shoot at least one episode each day and that's quite a lot. But at the same time, at the back of your mind, you need to be aware that you cannot let the viewers down and they shouldn't start feeling bored. You cannot fall into a trap where you start sounding monotonous especially when you are working nonstop, episode after episode.
Is there any difference between a show produced by a woman and a show produced by a man in terms of the sensibilities, the atmosphere of the set, or inclusivity?
That's an interesting question! I never really thought about it. I don't think aesthetic sensibilities change but that’s my personal opinion. Professional sensibilities might change. I think women are more aware of the problems that women face on the sets. I think men have not still begun to think with that perspective that women have different kinds of hurdles to cross in different environments as far as safety and security is concerned. And when we talk about sexual harassment, I think of course with a woman producer, girls would feel much safer. But times have changed. Now, most of the male producers are aware of the Vishaka Guidelines which I'm very proud to say that the CINTAA (Cine & TV Artists Association) contributed a lot to that. Apart from that, I don't see any other difference. Moreover, Guneet is such a chilled out producer. She has full faith in her team and she gives them full space which I really admire about her. Apart from that, more than gender it matters what kind of a person you are.
Are you comfortable working with someone whose political beliefs or ideology don't match yours? If so, how do you navigate through it?
I really haven’t faced that situation till now because my political views have become actively known to the industry or the outside people, especially during the MeToo movement and then the anti-CAA protests, and now farmer protests. There was only one project where I think I worked with actors whose ideology didn't incline with mine but that was only after the show had ended that I realised it was different. Ideally, I would prefer to work with people who think like me because your sensibilities would dictate what kind of a movie or a show you would produce. Although there are exceptions to that. So let’s see. I’ll cross that bridge when it comes.
How do you tackle and cope with the barrage of hate that comes at you online for voicing out your opinions?
Social media is a very powerful tool if used wisely and intelligently. But of course, humans always tend to do it differently always. You invent gunpowder and they immediately think of guns, bullets, and wars. I have always been outspoken throughout my life. I can’t help it. I am like that. I think it’s a tough question. I don’t know why I do it. I have to do it. When I think this is the right thing to do, I do it openly. Backlash happens. I think Jaaved Jaaferi tweeted something beautiful after my anti-CAA stand-- 'If it doesn’t cost you money, it’s really not a principle.' In today's time, if you take a stand for something that is just and a human thing to do, there will be a cost. So, be prepared for it and that’s how I take it. It doesn't matter if I lose a project or get fewer projects, at least I can sleep peacefully. I can look at myself without feeling ashamed. As far as hate and trolling are concerned, I ignore that completely. I don’t bother about that. But I do apologise if I make a mistake. I think it’s a decent thing to do if one has made a mistake.
What does it mean for you to live a politically aware existence? Do you feel it is your responsibility, especially as a public figure, to lend support to public causes?
I think it’s very important to live a politically aware life because as I have learned over the years, we all do live a political life so better beware of it. Nothing and no one is apolitical. That’s a proven fact of life. Politics dictates everything that we touch, buy, consume, see, hear, and the language we speak. Everything is political. So better be an aware political person. As a celebrity, although I hate that tag, a lot of people lend their ears to you which means you have a strong voice that can reach out to more people. Then it becomes your responsibility to be more aware and speak up about the truth. You have to give it back to society because it's the society that has given you this voice. You must use it for the good of society. Not everyone is capable of fighting, so I feel it’s the responsibility of people like me or people in positions of power to fight for such people.