There was a part of Mahendra Singh Dhoni in Sushant Singh Rajput. It made the World Cup-winning former Indian captain's Untold Story a guilty indulgence for masses and the actor, who played the titular role, a household name in his short and eventful career.
It wasn't a cinematic masterpiece like late Irrfan Khan's Paan Singh Tomar but there was hardly anyone who disliked Neeraj Pandey's feel-good blockbuster either. Sushant, who committed suicide at his Mumbai home on Sunday, took fans to places where an introvert Dhoni, fiercely guarded about his private life, never took anyone.
To that school match he won, to those tennis ball 'khep'' (term used for games in Bengal) in Kharagpur or dealing with selection heartbreaks or romancing his wife Sakshi, Sushant was the gateway to the Dhoni no one knew before or never knew after.
He gave everyone a sneak peek into Dhoni's life. He got that gait, the mannerism and the helicopter shot so perfectly, that he became Dhoni. He was believable.
"Dhoni after watching me play had said that Sushant can easily play Ranji Trophy," Sushant had said with a wide grin during promotion of his last released film Chhichhore, where cricket was a part of the climax. In fact, Digvijay Deshmukh, who played the role of young Ali in Abhishek Kapoor's Kai Po Che is still not able to fathom that the actor is no more.
"I don't know what to say," Digvijay said in a choked voice from his Pune residence.
"Sushant bhaiya was the nicest of human beings. Six eventful months of my life was shooting for Kai Po Che where he played the role of my coach (Ishaan). Trust me he was a good cricketer. We played so much cricket off camera. I was a kid and he would keep me entertained," Digvijay, who is now a professional cricketer and will play in IPL for Mumbai Indians, remembered.
Digvijay remembers his last conversation good eight years back after the shoot got over.
"Sushant bhaiyya asked me what would I like to become when I grow up. I told him just like in film, I would become a cricketer.
"Maine kahaan tha jab cricket mein kuch karoonga uske baad hi aake aapse miloonga. Since MI picked me at IPL auctions, I thought once IPL starts and I am in Mumbai, I will go and meet him. That won't happen anymore," Digvijay wasn't able to gather his thoughts beyond this.
Call it the irony of life, in his last film, Sushant counselled his on screen teenage son, who tried to commit suicide after failing an entrance exam, telling him stories of underdogs.
Real life is brutal than 120 minutes on 70 mm.