Since the untimely death of Sushant Singh Rajput, a lot has been said in the media on the circumstances leading up to this death. But in the midst of all the noise, what seems to lie forgotten is the inspiring tale of an intelligent and shy boy from Patna, who quit his engineering course in Delhi in his fourth year to head to Mumbai to become an actor. And the “outsider” succeeded, beginning with television, which he left at the peak of his popularity to give Bollywood a go. Only a film old, he was signed by Yash Raj Films. In a cinematic career spanning eight years, Rajput’s credits included hits such as ‘MS Dhoni: The Untold Story’ (2016) and ‘Chhichhore’ (2019), besides critically acclaimed titles like ‘Sonchiriya’ (2019). His swansong, ‘Dil Bechara’ (2020), released online posthumously and drew millions of viewers. For many starry-eyed acting aspirants, Rajput, much like Shah Rukh Khan, was proof that one could succeed in the industry without a godfather or a film lineage.
In what would have been his 35th birthday today, BizAsiaLive.com looks back at some of Singh Rajput’s most memorable performances.
‘Kai Po Che!’ (2013)
Adapted from the novel ‘The 3 Mistakes of My Life’ by Chetan Bhagat, Singh Rajput’s debut film was highly praised for being the perfect mixture of friendship and triumph, guaranteed to make viewers smile between the tears. His character in the film is not only the driving force behind the story and the friendship it revolves around but exuberates sheer happiness and passion which everyone, friends and foes, love and covet in equal measure. For his first film, this was a flawless, heartfelt performance.
‘Shuddh Desi Romance’ (2013)
Throughout this film, Singh Rajput expertly played the role of an adorable, boy-next-door, grappling with the fear of commitment common to most millennials. In the scene where Raghu (Singh Rajput) and Gayatri (Parineeti Chopra) are in a stuffy Volvo bus on the way to a wedding where they are hired guests, it doesn’t take long for Raghu to start making moves on Gayatri and he’s terrible at it. He starts by talking about having second thoughts about his own engagement and then suddenly suggests that he and Gayatri would make great partners someday. When she says ‘Chance toh nahi maar rahe?’ he argues that a man with a lame name like Raghuram Sitaram can never have ill intentions. ‘Mujhpe nahi toh naam pe toh bharosa karo?’ he pleads. The innocence and slight diffidence with which Rajput delivers the line is a real laugh out loud moment.
‘MS Dhoni: The Untold Story’ (2016)
Despite playing a living legend, Singh Rajput’s portrayal won over the audience. Mostly because, Singh Rajput understood Dhoni as a person but never tried to mimic the cricketer. At this moment, it was the actor’s conviction that brought alive the pain and struggle of Dhoni’s journey. It’s one thing to read about the cricketer’s struggles, but quite another to relate to them, and feel for them, as they play out in front of you on the silver screen. A particular scene which stands out is the opening scene of the film in which Dhoni is thinking of reshuffling the batting line-up: that he will go out to bat when the next wicket falls instead of Yuvraj, who’s already got his pads on. And then he sets into motion, calm yet fidgety, raring to go, responding to the call of duty. Singh Rajput walks down the hallowed steps of the dressing room onto the field as chants of ‘Dhoni, Dhoni’ fill the atmosphere, and we believe in him. Game on!
‘Kedarnath’ was a love story between a Hindu girl named Mukku (Sara Ali Khan) and a Muslim man named Mansoor Khan (Singh Rajput). Whilst the two face several obstacles due to their different religions, the sudden floods which devastate the region, puts their love through another test. A highlight of the film is the picturisation of the song which is best described as a love in motion. It starts off with Mansoor Khan’s indifference towards Mukku, one that stems from fear of loving an upper-caste Hindu woman, and morphs into beauty- she perfuming herself for him, and him decorating his horse for her- and shared warmth, literally, the splitting the warm chai in the cold evenings of Uttarakhand. In the last moments of the song, when the love is culminating, he looks away as he sips the chai from the glass she sipped seconds ago. He is shy, he is happy, but he must not show either. He looks away, blushes, looks down, composes himself, and becomes steely. It’s all so effortless and charming, like love, and Singh Rajput himself.
In a film starring Manoj Bajpayee and Ranvir Shorey, Singh Rajput still managed to capture the audience’s attention. The film tells the tale of dacoits who term themselves Baaghis – the rebels. There have been many dramatic scenes in Singh Rajput’s film career, but a quiet moment during the existential chaos of Abhishek Chaubey’s ‘Sonchiriya’ shines through. The dacoits, led by Lakhna (Rajput), are on the run with a woman (Bhumi Pednekar) and a sick little girl. Late at night, Lakhna notices that the girl can’t sleep. He drops his gruff baaghi avatar for a minute, and to amuse her, shows her a terrible magic trick with his hands. We see Rajput from her point-of-view: The camera tits a bit, his head tilts with it. Lakhna in the film is still haunted by the incident in which innocent children are killed in an accident. During this trick, he manages to be both playful and haunted: we can sense that her presence is hurting him, but this act is also his salvation.
Even with his relatively short innings, Singh Rajput has left us with enough of a legacy to mourn the loss of what could have been. A gifted actor, whose natural performance always left people impressed, his death was truly an irrevocable loss for the film industry.