Sushant Singh Rajput was a star-gazer with a bucket list that went beyond Bollywood, the tinsel town of dreams where he made a place for himself by playing characters who triumphed the odds in films such as "MS Dhoni: The Untold Story" and "Chhichhore".
He was interested in the mysteries of the universe - who loved looking at the skies through his Meade 14" LX600 telescope when not working on a movie set.
One of the most talented actors of his generation, Rajput was found hanging at his Bandra apartment on Sunday at the age of 34. He is survived by his father and four elder sisters.
Last year, the actor had shared his bucket list of 50 dreams with his fans on Twitter, where among other things, he talked about visiting faraway places, painting aurora lights, writing a book and getting a selfie with his favourite Hollywood star Robert Downey Jr.
Sadly, most of these dreams will remain unfulfilled with his untimely death.
The last social media post shared by the Patna-born actor was dedicated to his mother, who passed away in 2002 when he was a teenager.
"Blurred past evaporating from teardrops. Unending dreams carving an arc of smile. And a fleeting life, negotiating between the two," read the Instagram post he shared on June 3 with his mother's picture.
Rajput was a quintessential Bollywood outsider who impressed everyone with his debut film "Kai Po Che!" in 2013.
With critically praised roles in "PK", "MS Dhoni: The Untold Story", "Kedarnath" , "Sonchiriya" and "Chhichhore", he proved that his success was not a fluke.
"Chhichhore" ironically saw him playing a father who helps his son with messages of hope and affirmation after the youngster attempts suicide.
The film also helped Rajput relive his engineering days, a course that he left to pursue stardom, first as a dancer and then as an actor.
He enrolled in celebrated choreographer Shiamak Davar's dance classes, later joining acting guru Barry John's classes.
As a struggling actor, he juggled between theatre and dancer. He appeared in "Dhoom again" with Hrithik Roshan and Aishwarya Rai Bachchan in the 2006 film "Dhoom 2".
But it was the small screen that gave his breakout role as the mild-mannered Manav in Ekta Kapoor's soap opera "Pavitra Rishta" in 2009. He previously starred in a supporting role in "Kis Desh Mein Hai Meraa Dil", also backed by Kapoor.
In 2011, he quit "Pavitra Rishta", in which he starred opposite then girlfriend Ankita Lokhande, to pursue a filmmaking course abroad.
Two years later, he made his Bollywood debut in "Kai Po Che!", the screen adaptation of Chetan Bhagat's "Three Mistakes of My Life", along with Rajkummar Rao and Amit Sadh.
Rajput was one of those rare actors from the current generation who worked with prominent directors - Rajkumar Hirani ("PK"), Maneesh Sharma ("Shuddh Desi Romance"), Abhishek Kapoor ("Kai Po Che!", "Kedarnath"), Abhishek Chaubey ("Sonchiriya"), Dibakar Banerjee ("Detective Byomkesh Bakshy!", and Nitesh Tiwari ("Chhichhore").
He hit a rough patch in 2015 when the ambitious "Detective Byomkesh Bakshy!", in which he starred as the titular character, did not do well at the box office. He saw a resurgence as Dhoni the next year.
On bouncing back after a failure, Rajput told PTI in a 2017 interview that he wanted "to fail for the right reasons".
"I really want us to be exposed to all the wonderful cinema. It is not that we don't know right now. It is because we are very fearful. I am just trying to break through that shackle and till now I have survived," he said at the time.
Already an ardent fan of the wicketkeeper-batsman, Rajput as Dhoni fit like a glove when he convincingly played the part of the notoriously private former Indian cricket captain in "MS Dhoni: The Untold Story". It was a peek into the personal life of the cricketer and his struggling days.
The preparation on the film also helped the actor bond with Dhoni.
In 2018, he purchased a piece of lunar land on the far side of the Moon, in a region called the Mare Muscoviense, or the "Sea of Muscovy" from the International Lunar Lands Registry. The property had no legal value but that did not stop the actor from indulging his inner nerd.
The same year he starred in "Kedarnath" as Mansoor Khan, a humble porter who ferries pilgrims to the historic Kedarnath Temple in the Uttarakhand mountains. The film, which was the debut of actor Sara Ali Khan, received mixed reviews.
In 2019, he starred in Chaubey's Chambal-set dacoit drama "Sonchiriya" and played the dacoit Lakhna who wants to surrender to police.
A critically acclaimed film with a star-studded cast including the likes of Manoj Bajpayee, Bhumi Pednekar, Ashutosh Rana, "Sonchiriya" failed to strike a chord due to a bad subtitle job to its Bundelkhandi language. It was later dubbed in Hindi.
"Drive", a Hindi remake of the Hollywood film of the same name, went straight to Netflix for digital release and was slammed by viewers and critics alike.
His film "Dil Bechara", the Hindi adaptation of "The Fault In Our Stars", is yet to release.
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