What is happening to the world? Irrfan, Rishi Kapoor…and now Sushant Singh Rajput???!!! How can Sushant be gone?I am still trying to process the information hoping it is untrue. Flashes of our conversation play in my mind . Those long conversations where you held forth on your ideological commitment to staying true to your beliefs.
“I will never sell myself to commercial success,” you said to me more than once with a grating righteousness which at that time I thought was overdone.But your dedication to your roles was beyond anything I had seen in any actor of your generation.
In your last interview with me you had declared, “I work entirely for my job satisfaction. Otherwise I could have made money in any other profession. I am here to make a difference, firstly to myself. When I look back on my body of work I want to feel a sense of pride.Whether it is Kai Po Che, Byomkesh Bakshi, Dhoni, Kedarnath or Sonechiriya, I am happy and proud to be associated with these films.”
Whether it was Byomkesh Bakshi or Shekhar Kapoor’s Paani, you were fully and unconditionally into it. Preparation for Paani took two years of your life and finally the film didn’t get made. In the process you lost Sanjay Leela Bhansali’s Bajirao Mastani. But you had no regrets.
“Just the time spent with Shekhar Kapur made the whole experience worth the while for me. True the film didn’t get made finally. But for me every film I do is a journey. The destination doesn’t interest me,” you declared.
You were always close to me. Proud to be the Patna boy forever. I remember the first time you promised to come to Patna to visit your family and friends was after the success of Kai Po Che. You were very excited.You made plans about what you’d do. That visit to your home town with your then-girlfriend Ankita never materialized.
You told me Anikta was your wedded wife eventhough you were not legally wedded to her. “Sir, koi farq nahin padta saat pheron se.”
Then suddenly the two of you split. You never told me why. You never spoke a word against her, although I knew what the truth behind the split was. Thereafter you never spoke to me about any of your girlfriends. There were many, I am told. The last love was apparently with you in your final days when you had gone into avery deep depression. You had stopped communicating with everyone. It was apparent that you were suffering a huge psychological disorder. Apparently you were hearing voices.
No one came forward to help . You didn’t want anyone to touch your anguish. I tried reaching out. But your number had changed.I mailed you. There was no response. You had locked yourself away from all communication. No one broke the door down.You didn’t allow your doting sisters—ek eklauta sabse chota bahi aur do badi behnen, you’d say affectionately—to break the door down.
In India we don’t address mental illnesses as illnesses.
I had been hearing of your disappearance from the industry radar for some time now. Until a year ago we used to converse very closely. I remember how excited you were when you started playing the guitar .You took it up with singleminded passion and spent hours every day practising on it.
You had big plans . You wanted to be the only actor since Shah Rukh Khan to make a successful transition from television to cinema, which you did. You wanted to make a difference. I am not too sure you got to do that.
During our last interview you said to me, “I wouldn’t be able to sleep peacefully if I didn’t give all of myself to every character I accept. Agar main apne kirdaar ko theek se pehchan na paaon usski antar-aatma ko choo na loon toh yeh toh beimaani hogi(if I don’t get to know my character well and touch its essence it would be a betrayal). Either I don’t accept a film.Or if I do, I surrender to it completely.”
Like Karen Carpenter who also died very young, you were looking for perfection in an incurably imperfect world.