'He was very concerned during the making of the movie about whether he would be able to live Dhoni's life on the big screen.'
Mahendra Singh Dhoni's close friend and co-producer of his biopic, Arun Pandey on Sunday recalled the unforgettable moments they both spent with Sushant Singh Rajput when the lead actor constantly battled the "enormous pressure" of replicating the iconic cricketer's magic on the big screen.
While it is almost impossible to gauge what goes in the mind of enigma that Dhoni is, Sushant left no stone unturned to do justice to his character.
Whether it was spending nine months with former India wicketkeeper Kiran More to learn the tricks of trade or tirelessly trying Dhoni's trademark helicopter, Sushant gave his all and in the end, his on-screen performance was well accepted by the Indian captain's legion of fans.
"He was very concerned during the making of the movie about whether he would be able to live Dhoni's life on the big screen. He was under a lot pressure before the movie release (in 2016)," Pandey said.
"He use to say it often to me that 'I hope I am able to deliver, else Mahi's millions of fans will not forgive me ever'. But the hard worker that he was, I was sure that he would a fine job and he did," Pandey, who is yet to come to terms with Sushant's shocking death, said.
Sushant spent months with the cult cricketer to prep up for his role and Pandey said the actor's penchant for detail helped him immensely in playing Dhoni in reel life.
"One day he was practising the helicopter shot and he suffered a strain. We thought he would take some rest and comeback after a while but he said "there should not be delay because of me" and was back practising that shot in a week's time," recalled Pandey.
Such was his dedication that by the end of the movie shoot, Sushant became more than a decent cricketer, something Dhoni also acknowledged.
"He used to ask a lot of questions to Mahi, the little things that make the difference. The fact they both had a Bihar connection also helped them develop a bond," said Pandey.
Pandey would never forget the time when he and Dhoni relived their cricketing days through Sushant. Dhoni, who used to play for Air India, stayed in Delhi for a significant period.
"I always cherish the time when Mahi and I took Sushant to his Air India Colony house in Delhi. He went with us as Mahi recollected his old days and things like where he used to sit and eat, Sushant would do the same to feel the character.
"There was a spot in the house where Mahi used to lie down on the ground and Sushant did that too. He always felt very lucky to be playing Dhoni's character."
Now that he is gone too soon, Pandey said the slight possibility of a sequel to Dhoni's biopic goes out of the window.
There were no plans for a sequel and with him not being us, I don't think it is even a possibility. The news of him passing away is unbelievable.
"I never expected him to do something like this, he was so full of life. Before the lockdwon, we had a gym session together and we were in regular touch.
"But this can happen with anyone and just shows that why it is very important to not lose your old self when you reach the top," added Pandey.