Sushant Singh Rajput doesn’t sleep well. In fact, he has the making of an insomniac for he accepts that two hours is about all the shut-eye he gets. But when the man is so busy dreaming and achieving with his eyes open, sleep would probably be an impediment.
The three-film-old man is ready for his next release and he is already playing Mahendra Singh Dhoni in MS Dhoni: The Untold Story. Your third film is too soon to play a nationally-revered icon but then, at 35, it is too early to have a biopic made on you. Sushant and Dhoni are alike that way — they don’t believe in waiting for the right time, they make it happen.
Sushant is animated when he speaks about the man whose life he has literally been living ever since the project started. “I never think about what people will think when they watch me on screen. But after all the 52 characters I have played till now, this was the first time that people had a reference. It could not have my interpretation of MS Dhoni because people know him too well — his cricketing style, his mannerisms, his body language and his diction. The issue was how to play MS Dhoni without making it look like an imitation,” Sushant said in an exclusive interview to indianexpress.com.
WATCH VIDEO: MS Dhoni On His Involvement In Making Of His Biopic
So Sushant watched all videos, heard all audio clips and read everything he could find on Dhoni — over and over and over again. “Only to find out that most of it was wrong when I spoke with Dhoni,” Sushant says.
So, how did he understand what Mahi is all about? He played his own version of a quiz contest with MS Dhoni. “I asked him so many questions — how he thinks about himself, how he looks back, his dreams, his aspirations, what he thinks, what he considers right, rules he lives by… It was a little awkward for him to sit down and talk about it, not that he tried to hide anything.” Not satisfied by even this, Sushant actually came up with his own version of what if. “I asked him 250 questions to which the cricketer was supposed to give instant answers. These were situational questions and he was not allowed to think. He was very patient,” Sushant says.
And when everything was done, there was cricket. The self-confessed ‘not a great cricketer’ reveals how he prepared for the film. “I cannot think that I am a good cricketer and just become one. For this, one needs skill. Kiran More trained me. After four-five months of learning the basics of wicket-keeping and batting basics, an analyst came in and we were focussing on getting MSD’s style right. Every shot was broken into frames, Kiran More will fix the bowling machine and I would play every shot 200-300 times a day, for three to four days.” Now, you know what went into making of that impeccable helicopter shot.
WATCH VIDEO: Exclusive Interview With Sushant Singh Rajput About M.S. Dhoni: The Untold Story
But after the training was done, Sushant was Dhoni and that’s when the shoot began. “On the first day of the shoot, there was less pretending as I had changed. In my head, when I was shooting for it, I was Dhoni,” Sushant says.
What changed? Sushant realised that they both had one thing in common — the ability to live in now. “Both Dhoni and me, we are so interested in what we are doing right now that we don’t sit and think about future. This thing commands your attention because you love it so much. Your experience is not distorted by your fear or desire to attain something.”
And for those who want to know if MS Dhoni: The Untold Story will have controversies, no it won’t. Who are those cricketers that the trailer mentioned? Sushant’s answer is that it is not important. “Events are not important, what is Dhoni’s take on them is what we are trying to show. There is nothing in his life that is not on Google. We are portraying what happened behind the scenes, how did he deal with it… this defines him and it is compelling. He took a stand on a particular decision because he thinks like this.”
This ability to live in now has also helped Sushant brave a tough couple of months as his break-up with Ankita Lokhande was featured in media with a disturbing regularity. “I made it a point not to know anything. It was not my reality… but stories were being made up and it reached a point where people would come and tell me about it. A story would be made up and then another false story countered it. I would then put the record straight and once I had tweeted, it will not stay with me.”