Thursday, April 4, 2013

Sushant Singh Rajput

“I don’t know how efficient or talented I am, but I know that I’ve worked extremely hard will continue to do so”

By Ankita R Kanabar

(This interview was published in the February 23, 2013 issue of Super Cinema)

He enjoyed the status of a ‘television heartthrob’ for quite some time. And now, he has graduated; graduated from being a Television heartthrob to a young Film star. When Sushant Singh Rajput quit his popular TV show, ‘Pavitra Rishta’ for fulfilling his other aspirations, many would have thought that he has made a huge mistake. And now, with his film ‘Kai Po Che’ releasing, and garnering accolades, nobody can say that. But Sushant is not deterred by what people think of his decisions, though, he’s completely overwhelmed by the love he’s been getting. He’s young and just one film old, but his confidence belies the very fact. Though, it’s probably a little early to comment on the fate of his debut film, industry insiders and people who’ve seen the film can’t stop raving about ‘Kai Po Che’. His voice is brimming with happiness, anxiety, and a mix of all those emotions, as I catch up with him. We get talking about ‘Kai Po che’, his journey, and upcoming projects...

The release of your debut film…what is the feeling like? Any anxiety pangs?
Lots of anxiety! And I’ve been extremely excited all through. Whatever response we’ve been getting so far has been extremely encouraging. And we’re just hoping the audience likes the film, and connects to it.

How did ‘Kai Po Che’ happen?
I got this film 4-5 months after I quit TV. I was getting offers but the kind of offers I was getting weren’t exciting at all. I quit TV because I wanted to go abroad and learn filmmaking. But then, Mukesh Chhabra, the casting director, told me about this film, and so I auditioned. That was the first audition I gave in 7years of acting. If this film didn’t happen, I would have gone ahead and done a film-making course. But what really excited me about ‘Kai Po Che’ was the beautiful script, and working with such names in the industry. Working with a director like Abhishek Kapoor and a banner like UTV for my first film, is quite overwhelming!

And how did you go about preparing for it?
We did workshops for 2-3 months. And workshops are extremely important since they help to get into the character convincingly because you’re almost living that character. You think like your character, and behave like that. Since my character Ishaan is a cricketer, I trained in cricket for 2 months. I was overweight. I lost almost 14 kilos in 6 weeks. And that was quite exhausting because then I’d be like playing cricket for 3-4 hours, then working out at the gym, doing cardio and weights for 2 hours. So, it hasn’t been easy. Plus I’m a big foodie. But to be honest, when I as a performer decide to do something I decide that only when I think that the whole journey is going to be joyous for me and I’ll thoroughly love what I’m doing. I’ll have to have immense love for the character to be able to be him. So, even though, I’ve had to work really hard, it’s all been joyous for me. The entire process has given me immense pleasure – right from the workshops to the 60 days of shoot.

Do you find any similarities between yourself and your character Ishaan?
I couldn’t relate to him at all, initially. But then, that’s what acting is all about right? To play someone despite the fact that you can’t really relate to him. Having said that, maybe I relate to Ishaan, a little on an emotional level. Ishaan is a bundle of contradictions. He’s extremely practical from the outside, he’s slightly insecure, but from the heart he’s very vulnerable. And I’ve enjoyed Ishaan’s journey, as a character. In the course of the film, it’s interesting to see him graduating from one level to another, from being this immature guy to reaching a maturity level. 

You quit TV, when your show was at the peak of its popularity. And you had not signed any film at that point of time. Did you consider that as a huge risk?
I think it’s very important to be clear in your mind about your priorities. I was doing engineering, but I didn’t complete my engineering. I left it half way, because I thought I wanted to be an actor. If money had been my priority, I’d have done my engineering, got into some good corporate company, settled abroad, and made good money. But I decided to pursue something I wanted to, despite the struggle. Having the power of convincing someone of something you’re not, is amazing, and that’s what I love about being an actor. Then I was with Shiamak Davar, I did theatre, and then television happened. I learnt too much while doing television because you’re working with the best technicians there, who have deadlines, and they do so much work in one single day. I learnt too much about cameras, and the other technical things. I was enjoying till the time I thought I was learning and growing. But then later, I felt saturated, because I wasn’t growing. And so, TV was not a priority any longer. At that point of time, I had not even got any film in hand. Even if I didn’t get ‘Kai Po Che’ or the other films that I have got, I wouldn’t have regretted quitting television. I think a lot before taking any decision, and when I decide, I never regret it. So, quitting TV was never really a problem for me. Interestingly, the filmmakers who’ve signed me have never seen me on TV. I’ve solely been selected on the basis of my auditions. So, that’s very encouraging.

Tell us about the experience of working with the entire team, on ‘Kai Po Che’
We all know that UTV makes such wonderful films. And I’ve been an admirer of Abhishek Kapoor’s films. His first film ‘Aryan’ didn’t do well commercially, but I had loved the film. So, for me the most exciting bit was to be working with a director like him. While shooting, I realised he’s so passionate about his work. His energy and passion is contagious. It’s rare that filmmakers have that kind of perfect blend that he has. He has worked on the script for 2 years, and he knows what he exactly wants from every member of his team. You know, people might think this is not a typical launch, because it’s not a single hero film and all that. But I feel extremely fortunate to have this as my debut film since it’s a character-driven film. The story, with these three characters and the camaraderie between the three of us, I think it’s a wonderful blend. The chemistry that the three of us share is very rare. There was no insecurity of any sort among Rajkumar, Amir and me. We didn’t really bother how many dialogues the other person is getting, because we realised right at the beginning that this film would only work if there is chemistry between these three characters. Plus, we gave our auditions together, then, there were workshops, so there was this camaraderie that came naturally, because we were behaving like our characters. We were always there for each other whenever we required each other. And none of us have been selfish, which was the best thing. I’ve had such a wonderful experience with my co-actors in this film that I’m wondering if I’ll ever have that kind of an experience again, for any film.

From Engineering to Theatre to Television to Films…how has the whole journey so far been?
I believe that the journey can be memorable and nice only if you enjoy the process. Had I been thinking, ‘I just want to do films. I just want to do films’, while I was doing theatre or TV, then I would have screwed it all up. I wouldn’t have enjoyed the process of doing theatre or TV, or wouldn’t have learnt anything if I was only thinking about films. So, today, if I look back, I think my journey has been extremely pleasurable.

You’ve already signed few other projects, with top-notch directors, banners, even before your debut film released. That must feel good?
These are the people I’ve always wanted to work with. Be it Abhishek Kapoor or Rajkumar Hirani or Aditya Chopra or Maneesh Sharma. So, I’m extremely excited! After I signed ‘Kai Po Che’, I was again getting offers but none of them were exciting. Then I came to know about ‘P.K’ and that time I didn’t even know that Rajkumar Hirani was directing it. It was the second film I auditioned for, and Rajkumar Hirani was right there, and he just told me, ‘Come on board!’ and that made me so happy, because something like that coming from that man is extremely overwhelming. Then came Maneesh Sharma’s film. There was another audition. And both Adi and Maneesh thought I fit the bill. I don’t know how efficient I am, or how talented I am, but I know that I’ve worked extremely hard for everything, and will continue to do so.

And working with Aamir Khan must be adding to your excitement?
Who’ll not be excited to work with someone like him? He’s one of the finest actors we have. And I’m obliged that I’m getting the opportunity to work with him, and a director like Rajkumar Hirani so early in my career. I’m sure it would be a huge learning process for me, to be directed by him.

Last words on ‘Kai Po che’?
Cinema is changing, as we know. And the variety of films we’ve had last year, prove that. ‘Kai Po Che’ is yet again, a film that is different. It has a wonderful screenplay, and I’ve had a wonderful time working on it. It’s a completely fresh take on friendship. And I feel the audience would definitely connect to it.

You wanted to learn filmmaking…so is making a film someday, on your agenda?
Filmmaking is one thing that really excites me. So much so, that even when we’re not shooting my part, I still like to be present on the sets, and observe how the director works. I keep asking questions, and just try and learn as much as I can. Maybe, someday, I would like to make a film, but not anytime soon. 

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