With the slick trailer of Detective Byomkesh Bakshi getting an enthusiastic response, actor Sushant Singh Rajput who plays the intrepid sleuth is more than happy.
Sushant Singh Rajput breezes in for his interview after a quick smoke break at the Yash Raj Studio—his hair much longer than the look he sports in his upcoming film Detective Byomkesh Bakshi, is perhaps in preparation for the biopic on Indian cricket team skipper M.S. Dhoni. There is a measured confidence in his demeanour since the time he went about promoting his earlier films, namely Kai Po Che and then Shuddh Desi Romance. Singh admits to being the quintessential shy guy who never imagined himself an actor and had enrolled in Shiamak Davar’s dance class instead—It was the dance lessons which gave him confidence and then came Pavitra Rishta—the television
soap that made him a household name.
Close on the heels of Ayushmann Khurrana’s (another television success story) film Vicky Donor, Singh’s chances looked bright when he appeared in Kai Po Che, based on Chetan Bhagat’s novel titled The 3 Mistakes of My Life. Although it was a three-hero film, Singh benefitted the most from it, given his versatile looks that work well for an ordinary character as also the quintessential Hindi film Hero!
Soon after, he landed Shuddh Desi Romance, the most unusual love story, helmed by Manish Sharma and landed his second big hit, so critical to his nascent film career. And ever since, there has been no looking back. As the tally stands, he has Dibakar Banerjee’s film Detective Byomkesh Bakshi, the biopic on Dhoni, a film with Homi Adajania and Shekhar Kapur’s Paani, when it takes off. His stint with Yashraj was something that seemed predestined, he admits with a smile. He had once visited the premises when he was part of a troupe of dancers for a show and much later, Bhumi Pednekar, now famous as the heroine of Dum Laga ke Haisha had emailed him a few queries as YRF was scouting for young talent. “I did not reply to those mails. I did that only after Kai Po Che became what it did.” And the rest is history. The actor, who was once an engineering student in Delhi College of Engineering, now counts among the rising stars at YRF and if the promos of Detective Byomkesh Bakshi are anything to go by, his clout is likely to grow stronger. He describes the experience as unique because he was working with a director, who instead of telling him what to do, told him what he certainly should not do. “It is amazing that he (Dibakar) does not tell you what he wants and yet draws a performance from you which is exactly what he has in mind!” he says with a laugh.
Singh from all accounts made painstaking efforts to get into the skin of the character—he cut himself off from regular distractions to understand and portray a character who is highly intelligent and as a result, something of a loner, following the tradition of popular detective fiction. The loner bit is the natural fallout of one’s intelligence, he explains, adding that such people usually find a kindred spirit in a friend who is a sounding board for them and hence characters like Dr Watson, or in this case Ajit Bandopdhyay, are inseparable from
the genius legacy.
Off-screen life, he confesses has changed since he attained stardom. Singh is still a little wary about the lack of privacy, especially concerning his personal life. “I have always been very open about my personal life,” he says, referring to his relationship with longstanding girlfriend Ankita Lokhande and as if to prove the sincerity of his statement, in a heartbeat says that a wedding will be on the cards as soon as he’s wrapped up his immediate project. The break would give him a chance to put his life in order, he says with a smile,
admitting that when stardom arrived, it left him feeling listless, as though he was in vacuum. “Everything that I had dreamt of in my life till then had suddenly come true like that Range Rover I fancied was now in my possession. It was wonderful but it also left me feeling a little empty. It helped me figure out that all my energies would be directed at bettering myself as an actor, to pick interesting and challenging projects…” It also brought with it an uneasy question about the motive of people who now flock to him, “That question: ‘what does this person want?’ does crop up often,” but Singh is finding his feet regardless, focusing on his craft.
The fact that the early part of Singh’s life before a shift to New Delhi was spent in Patna where he studied in St Karen’s, a private school run by a prominent Anglo-Indian family has made him a poster boy for several people from the state. Quite like M.S. Dhoni, youngsters idolize Singh because he’s built a career that has just a handful of successful actors (Shatrughan Sinha, Manoj Bajpayee, Shekhar Suman and Neetu Chandra) from the state.
“It just takes that one person to make a feat look achievable to several others. It took a Shah Rukh Khan to make the shift from television to film seem within reach,” avers Singh who is glad about being a catalyst in changing mindsets.