“I was alive in true sense when I was performing”
–SUSHANT SINGH RAJPUT (1986-2020)
With a mind as bright as the Sirius A., with the unparalleled wisdom it nurtures. With the smile which broke a million hearts, and healed the souls of a few more, a boy from the other side of the tracks, dared to dream. With his unsinkable talent, he dreamt of happiness, dreamt of living every life, he dreamt of giving and giving, until he had more to give. He envisioned, persevered, conquered and became.
He was the Patna boy with an extraordinary mind, with a will to learn. A rank holder and an Olympiad winner— he parted ways with engineering, minutes away from a degree, and declined Stanford to pursue his true calling— and hence came to be admired by the youth and their parents alike.
“It is not about the pursuit of happiness, its about the habit of happiness. So, when you do what you want to do, you don’t care what people think.”
You were the underdog who we loved to see succeed, the first breakout star of our generation. You first etched on to our hearts with the sweet, determined and goofy Manav in Pavitra Rishta.
“Jis mehfil ne thukraya humko, kyun us mehfil ko yaad kare … aage lamhe bula rahe hai, aao unke saath chale”- Sarfaraz, PK
Even your small appearance in PK as the romantic Shayar Sarfaraz made us believe in love as we hummed to the tune of ‘Chaar Kadam’, remembering your evergreen smile as you peddled through the perfect European backdrop.
We found possibly our greatest and most authentic Byomkesh in you— whether it was your compelling Bengali mannerisms or potent genius, you introduced cinema lovers to the tale of this fabled detective.
Later, you took us along the triumphant journey of India’s best cricket captain with your indistinguishable resemblance and convincing conviction, which never once crossed the line into resembling a caricature. With your charm and talent, you roused us all. The film gave this Bollywood outsider a new lease of life. A life spent running from Friday to Friday at the box office. A life, ruthless to anyone without a surname or lineage to reckon with.
When in your movies you died, with that death, your immaculate portrayal of the characters stayed on with us even after we left the theaters. It began with Kai Po Che, when Ishaan’s disarming smile stayed branded on to our minds for weeks after the end credits rolled, and again with Kedarnath. Mansoor’s selfless, humane smile, well aware of what’s to come— not caring in the slightest, while the Earth beneath him caved and consumed him— remained with us. We cried, horrified, and consoled ourselves. “He would be in another movie soon. It’s just a character.”
“मुझे पता नहीं स्टार कैसे बनते है, अगर बनजाये तो उससे बचा के कैसे रखते है”
Termed affectionately “The Professor”, fascinatedly, you talked about the various complexities of the world ranging from Schrödinger’s cat to astrophysics. From political science and behavioral economics to Beethoven’s symphony, Descartes, Van Gogh and quantum mechanics, your quest to learn and to impart left no stones unturned.
“I was losing intellectual conversations with him, and then on set I’d lose to him there too” – Sara Ali Khan
Whether it was when you talked to about 200 of your fans on social media and posed with the so-called society rejects, or when you donated 1 crore on behalf of your fans to the Kerela Relief Fund— you truly used your fame for good. Your utmost humility made you different from other celebrities.
Belonging to a middle-class background and after years of struggle, shooting into unmatched stardom, you gifted us the true meaning of success,
“The biggest lie about success- Money + Recognition = Happiness, and the only truth- Now + Excitement = Happiness
Ever so curious, your mind didn’t rest. It demanded the secrets of the universe, the meaning of existence itself. In your quest for finding meaning, how did your pain retreat from our eyes? How did no one look beyond the hopeful and charming grin, into the turmoil and hurricane prevailing in your gaze? It pains me to admit that while I wonder and wonder— I wonder to no avail, I still cannot find the simple answer. Why?
We think we understand your oscillating mind, your misery and suffocation, but the reality is we know nothing. We couldn’t even let you depart in peace; your demise has become a tear gas to fuel one’s vendetta. We’ve allowed people to speak and interpret your truth and wage wars on your behalf, completely missing the point.
The outsider who wasn’t ever fully accepted. Targeted mental harassment always existed, but we never quite grasped the sheer viciousness of it, until now. We saw the firsthand account of the dark ugliness of this industry, where talent isn’t enough to rough it out. Your title still decides the magnitude of work you’ll get, if any. I wonder, where was the news of your achievements, your telescope, your passions, your academic excellence, your kindness, the fact that you bought a piece of land on the moon before? Why were news sites filled with unverified allegations and false reporting then? Plus, in this merciless field called journalism, where we cannot take a moment to absorb such a tragedy because you also happen to be a star— and they have stories to write on your life, your career, your dreams— they can’t avoid the dirt, the frenzy of fake news, accusations and trolls. We saw it all with Sushant Singh Rajput.
We see stories about depression repeatedly, and yet we don’t grow. Its only when we saw you that we wondered, if such a vibrant soul and exceptional mind, constantly exuding positivity, pursuing his passion, someone who once said “I just like to act. And if there are no film or TV shows, I’ll do plays or make my own short films and watch it alone, I don’t care. At this point I can’t think of anything else that is more exciting than this”— in his peak could actually choose death to veil himself, then humanity has a problem that we aren’t talking about.
“When I play a character, I find a way to fool/convince myself, I’m not me, I’m somebody else and that is such a relief, to not be yourself”
You were screaming for help, but your voice, fading into an empty void, never reached us. You called us, the audience, your GODFATHER! But we failed you. Perhaps, we never deserved you and your inherent goodness. We don’t know the truth, we may never know, but I promise you, we will do better. As your fans, as a society, as humanity, we will care more, listen more, communicate more, learn more and love more.
Can you see the world grieving for you? Can you see the sensation of utter loss everyone feels? I wish there was a way to make you realize how much we love and value you, and maybe if we did, you would’ve talked to us. Any of us.
Your bucket list of 50 dreams which sways from working for free education to visiting Disneyland, from learning at least 10 dance forms to helping train women self-defense, from travelling through Europe by train to understanding Polynesian astronomy, perfectly encapsulates your childlike innocence, gifted mind and your heart of pure gold.
During such tragic times, we wish to celebrate your life, your work, your mind, your heart and your talent by breaking down some of the most iconic and unforgettable characters you brought to life!
“I always wanted to be an astronaut, then talked myself into being a pilot. Then engineer, and then I was confused so I thought let’s be an actor and be everything.”
1) ISHAAN (Kai Po Che)
“तेरे सिक्कों की छन छन,
से मेरे हवा की कीमत काम हो रही है!”
In your film debut, we witnessed an indescribable presence in Ishaan— the district-level cricketer whose talent goes unrecognized in the web of politics. So, he transforms into a very hot headed but giving coach. Once his gaze catches on to the unhinged capability of a certain Muslim youngster, Ali, our lad leaves no stones unturned to train and nurture his talent. You perplexed us with Ishaan’s endearing love for his passion and for his friends. Above all, this is a story about real friendship— and we are all desperate to have a friend like Ishaan. Even during the rising tension between their religious groups, he stayed committed, and sacrificed his safety to save his star apprentice. We see him as being very impulsive and driven by his emotions— in instances like the one when he gives away the trio’s hard earned money so Ali’s house can be repaired (after the devastating earthquakes) or when his father insults his friends’ capabilities. What makes us fall in love with him, however, is his earnest compassion for his friends, for the kid and for this sport. Ishaan is the guy who would go to any lengths for his friends. When his father reminds him that it’s a blessing that his mother died before witnessing his violent temperaments, the sudden, pain and remorse in his eyes was heartbreaking to watch. His proud and satisfied smile when his protégé puts the skills imparted by him, fading into the sun as the credits rolled, laid the seeds of your success in our hearts. It was then that we knew, a star was born.
2) MANSOOR (Kedarnath)
“हम तो हमेशा से यहाँ है I पुश्ते हमारी सेवा करती आयी है,
श्रद्धा में हम उनके शामिल हुए है, कंधो पे बैठके तीरथ कराया है I
और ये बात हमारी आपकी नहीं, ये पूरी केदारनाथ की बात है!”
A Muslim Pithho carrying Hindus to the epitome of religious pilgrimage was the true imagery of secularism we needed. As a headstrong, wise, righteous, reserved (only to slowly let his guard down), good man— Mansoor showed us how beautiful life can be if it is lived by being positive and helpful. An eternal ray of sunshine, he taught us the power of love in its purest form, without the constraints of religion, caste and creed. He stood up for the women in his life, and for his people. A life lived only in the service of others may not be the longest, but it sure is the largest and the most memorable. He is a total sweeheart. His courtship with Mukku is played out with such dignity, grace and respect, reversing so many Bollywood stereotypes, but still coupled with authentic chemistry. Mansoor charmed us with his awkwardness, honesty, selflessness and ability to love, which even the wrath of nature couldn’t annihilate. His goodness might seem off-putting on paper, but a certain someone’s earnest and assiduous portrayal, made him land smoothly on everyone’s heart. (We will not be addressing the end)
3) LAKHAN ‘LAKHNA’ SINGH (Sonchiriya)
“गैंग से तोह भाग लूंगा वकील,अपने आप से कैसे भागूंगा”
In your own words, he is the rebel who contemplates. Lakhna was our moral compass in this gratuitous tale of the baaghis of the Chambal valley. He isn’t one to blindly follow the herd, he requires answers and a purpose. He demands to know what a rebel’s dharma is. Fiercely loyal and a complete badass, he doesn’t think twice before revolting against his own leader to defend the honor of a woman he barely knows, and that of a child of a caste much lower to him. Fighting a fight he no longer believes in, Lakhna is haunted by the wraith of a young girl, who is said to have cursed the gang. He seeks redemption for his past wrongdoings and assumes saving the life of the child to be his road to unloading the massive burden of guilt. In this testosterone fest, he is a feminist (without even once coming off as preachy and inauthentic). The sharpest tool in the box, he cares about his fellow gang members unconditionally and yearns for the trust and recognition of his ‘dadda’. In such violent, tumultuous and graphic circumstances, he brings in elements of heart and humour— that is when he is not suavely chewing tobacco, threatening people, blowing up houses and taking headshots. Completely transporting us to the ravines during the emergency, you brought in both grit and vulnerability in Lakhna. Effortlessly adopting the bundeli language and characteristics, you made us root for this dacoit’s journey through and through.
4) ANNI (Chhichhore)
“हम हार जीत, सक्सेस फेलियर में इतना उलझ गए है.
की ज़िन्दगी जीना भूल गए है.
ज़िन्दगी में अगर कुछ सबसे ज़्यादा इम्पोर्टेन्ट है .
तो वो है खुद ज़िन्दगी”
Undoubtedly, this portrayal is the one which is embedded in everyone’s mind right now. From the hopeful mindset of an IIT fresher, ready to take on the world and its many challenges, or that of father who wants to have a nurturing and friendly relationship with his son and isn’t rigid in his ways— you managed to play the transition part between college days and middle age effortlessly. Anni’s endearing playfulness and determined outlook are what makes him an exceptional character. Perplexed, when his son decides to take an unexpected step, we see Anni’s genuine paternal side appear, one which would go to any lengths to have his son believe again. A hopeless romantic and the only guy who got the girl in an engineering college— he dwells on the relationship between parents and their child and reiterates that life is much more than passing a test or what other people think of you. Not only this, he shows us the undying strength and impact that genuine friendships have in our lives.
“I want something to happen in my life or do something in my life so I can make a biopic on myself. (And I’d like to act in it)”
Thank you for your invaluable contribution and efforts to make our cinema more consequential and worthwhile. Not only that, but you’re the truest inspiration for the millions of youngsters who also dare to dream! You always challenged yourself by stepping out of your comfort zone— be it by leaving an engineering degree to chase your dream, or leaving the biggest television show in its peak to go into films, and with each film broadening your horizon. Immensely hardworking and resilient— you said
“For me, the opposite of happiness isn’t sadness. It is boredom.”
The man with abundant ideas, unsurmountable talent, with the biggest telescope and the greatest will to reach the stars. Your passion and love for your craft will keep on motivating us to strive to achieve more. Learning from your wisdom, we’ll keep on dreaming and chase those dreams. That will be our biggest tribute to you!
Our dear stargazer, your genius lives on! Rest well Sushant…
“…and through that telescope I’ll spot you again, it will be easy- cause you will be the youngest and brightest amongst many we love up there. You truly are a double slit photon, A Neutron Star.” – Bhumi Pednekar
FACTS TO LOOK INTO:
- 42.5% of India’s corporate employees suffer from depression.
- 1 in 5 people in our country need counselling, psychological or psychiatric
- In 2012, there were 371 suicides daily.
- Suicide is the 2nd leading cause of death in 18-29 age group.
We have to reach out more and care more!
Below are some helplines to contact if you or someone you know shows depressive symptoms.
- https://www.vandrevalafoundation.com/ -tel: 18602662345
- https://www.roshnitrusthyd.org/ – +9140 – 6620 2000 / 6620 2001 /
- http://www.icallhelpline.org/- 022-25521111
- http://www.aasra.info/ – 022-27546669
- http://www.snehaindia.org/ -044-24640050 (24 HOURS) / 044-24640060 8 AM – 10 PM