Sushant Singh Rajput’s sudden demise has shocked the entire country and the incident has sparked several debates and discussions. Yesterday, actor Manoj Bajpayee and filmmaker Shekhar Kapur had an Instagram live chat to speak about the deceased actor and how they remember him. While Manoj Bajpayee worked with him in the dacoit drama Sonchiriya, Shekhar Kapur and the actor were supposed to work in the former’s ambitious project Paani, which never took off. Both the celebrities spoke highly of Sushant and shared their personal experiences with the actor.
Speaking about their first impression on meeting the actor, they said…
Manoj Bajpayee: I cannot forget the image of him coming to me on the first day and suddenly touching my feet. To me, his one gesture questioned all the perceptions that people were floating around him. It said so much about his background. From there, our journey of knowing each other started. He said ‘sir, I’m also from Bihar’. I observed his craft and the way he worked towards getting that perfect shot. Whenever I gave him any suggestion, he was so grateful. His side-table on the set had two books on quantum physics. He carried his telescope on set, inviting everyone to gaze through it like a curious child.
He used to go in one corner and rehearse in his mind. He was very restless. Looking for the answers was his hallmark. We used to talk about astrology, astronomy, quantum physics, ways of people, relationships, and human conflict. He used to listen to me so intently as if he was hearing it all for the first time. His laughter at any joke that we cracked used to be the loudest. I remember him jumping around when I used to cook mutton.
Shekhar Kapur: The first time I met Sushant, he was bouncing like a child, so excited that he was going to work with me in Paani. The great thing which I observed about him was that acting did not stop for him. His interest went way into it – what will the set look like etc. Every time I had a production design meeting, VFX meeting, DOP meeting, for everything, he was there. He would say ‘sir Gaura mil nahi raha abhi (Sir, I’m unable to find Gaura right now). He would call me at 3 am, would come over and discuss Gaura’s mannerisms to make him unique. He was particular about the smallest things. Because Paani was based in a small city, he came back after a week losing weight. That was his dedication. We did this for three months and I started loving this boy so much.
Before casting him in Paani, I had seen his Kai Po Che and a Pepsi ad which he had done. Both had a similarity, a restlessness. He was unpredictable like a spring which can bounce anytime. And that’s what I needed in Gaura. That unpredictability is creativity and his unpredictability had an innocent charm. If you don’t wish to work with such an actor, it is the director’s weakness. He was perfect. When the film got shelved, he cried a lot. And seeing him, even I cried.
While several theories suggested that the actor had become too big for his shoes and his honesty was misinterpreted as arrogance, both of them said that the actor was far away from being arrogant
Manoj Bajpayee: I hate the star-system, in the manner ratings happen, trade is set, business is analysed, statistics are thrown at your face, but still, coming from Bihar, a middle-class family and to be on top of all that, was his contribution. He was as good as anybody, rather better. I was very proud of his journey because I could relate to him.
Shekhar Kapur: Sushant used to worship the set. I don’t know why people are talking about his arrogance. I never met somebody so humble. His smile had humility. His eyes had a childish gaze. He was ready to leave his real side for his character. The worst thing that happened was I couldn’t make that film, work with Sushant or else he would’ve made it something else.
Both regret the fact that despite knowing the actor so well and loving him utterly, they weren’t able to do something that could have helped the actor to fight his demons
Manoj Bajpayee: I should’ve sat with him alone, had a one-on-one chat with him to understand where he comes from, what are his definitions about things, how he perceives anybody’s else’s journey. As an actor, I was quite mesmerised in the manner he pulled off Dhoni. Neeraj Pandey told me this boy never played cricket. But he came in, he mastered the craft and he became Dhoni.
Shekhar Kapur: Producers said we won’t make Paani with Sushant. I left the country out of anger. Now I think I should’ve made some other film with Sushant instead. Though we used to chat over the phone once in six months or so, now I remember things that we didn’t do together, why didn’t I call him sooner. We could’ve tried a little more to stay connected with him.
When they were asked how will they remember the actor, both said that he was a great actor and much greater human being
Manoj Bajpayee: There was no dearth of talks with Sushant, about so many subjects. Let’s remember him as an actor, as a human being. Let’s not speculate about how it happened, why it happened.
Shekhar Kapur: Part of us love drama and because we are in the movie business that has a very high profile, people look for drama. Right now, we are going through the phase where everybody is dramatic, and I hope the dramatics of it all settles down in a few days. We forget very easily. We are short term attention span people. And once that happens, we’ll watch his films again and again and remember what a fantastic actor he was.
Speaking about the anger amongst netizens, Manoj Bajpayee said, “People had seen a hero in Sushant who rose from amidst them. And the passing away of that representation who gave them hope, has somewhere left those people angry. I see the cacophony around him, where people are trying to find a reason behind his suicide. Everyone has their own theory, and we aren’t talking about the contribution Sushant has made at such a young age, the journey that he took and where he reached.”
Sharing his views about the whole nepotism v/s outsiders debate ongoing on social media, Shekhar Kapur shared, “Whoever is supporting nepotism, is restricting their own journey, their creativity. Both you and Sushant are self-made. Kangana might fight for herself but see how successful she is. People who come from small towns have more strength. Those from Mumbai are weak.”