Reaching for the stars

Sushant Singh Rajput spent his life in search of a higher purpose


Hindsight can sometimes be quite eerie. The last question I asked Sushant Singh Rajput after a day of working together on a photo-shoot and interview for THE MAN magazine in Mumbai a couple of years ago, was whether he would give it all up.

The actor replied that he may just go and do anything, and always has, throughout his life. He pointed out how he gave up engineering a few months before getting his degree, and the TV show he was headlining (Pavitra Rishta) when it was getting good TRPs. “I [will] do [anything] when I feel like doing it,” he said. “As long as I enjoy the process and have different methods to try, I will keep doing it.”

At what point did Sushant run out of that joie de vivre and all the glorious uncertainties that life could throw his way? For, a little earlier, he had stated with self-assurance, “I like not knowing, not being careful at times and trying out different things.” He had his reason, too. “[Only then] will you stumble onto something that is absolutely new.”

Sushant’s might have been a life gone too soon, but it was certainly spent in search of a higher purpose beyond a stereotypical starry existence. Born in the dusty plains of Bihar, he was brilliant at everything he did. A National Olympiad winner in Physics, he cleared all 11 entrance exams he appeared for, finally choosing to study mechanical engineering at the then Delhi College of Engineering.

However, music and dance soon beckoned, and he abandoned engineering to move to Mumbai, joined a dance school and started looking for acting gigs. After taking acting classes, going for several auditions and generally roughing it out—things that every outsider in Bollywood has to go through—Sushant hopscotched his way through dance and television soaps to the big league in Bollywood. His first film Kai Po Che (2013) was a rage, followed by seven years of delivering mostly hits like PK (2014) and M.S. Dhoni: The Untold Story (2016). His last release Chhichhore (2019), in which he played a father who nurses a suicidal son back to life, grossed more than 0200 crore at the box office.

But satisfaction never comes easy to a thirsty soul. His financial issues may have been solved, but the mind was still restless. Nothing illustrated it better than how he got his first luxury car, a blue Maserati. As a child, from the time he got a blue toy Maserati from an instant noodle pack, young Sushant always dreamt of owning one once he grew up. After becoming a star, he went to order one, only to be told they did not have it in blue. “I waited for seven months and got myself a blue Maserati only to realise two days later that [the high was gone],” he had said. “I got used to it very quickly. Now, I needed another high.”

What he perhaps did not find on terra firma, he looked for in the infinite skies. His fascination with space was well known. He regularly posted on social media what he saw from his high-end telescope. He also did a certification course at NASA to prepare for his dream project of making India’s first space film. He had even installed a VR-set in his home, which let him virtually fly Apollo 11. “After you do that… you feel something is missing, after that complete immersion of looking at the moon, the earth, and being in space,” he had said. In hindsight, Sushant was probably meant to be a wandering star up above, not a shooting star down below.