'I once thought Shah Rukh Khan to be the most knowledgeable actor in our industry,' Paresh Rawal once told me.
'But Sushant was just as well-informed on any topic under the sun.'
Subhash K Jha recalls his many conversations with the actor.
The first time I spoke to Sushant Singh Rajput was after I saw him steal the show in Kai Po Che!
I saw a spark and I congratulated him.
I reminded him that I had messaged him after seeing him on Nach Baliye.
Contrary to the claims being made by Ekta Kapoor about her 'dear Sushi' being discovered on her show Pavitra Rishta, Sushant's journey as an actor began with his display of dynamic dancing on Nach Baliye.
I reminded him of the unanswered text and his response was classic: 'I thought the text message was a hoax. Why would you congratulate a Nach Baliye contestant?'
I also congratulated him for each of his big screen performances -- Kai Po Che! (2013), Detective Byomkesh Bakshy (2015), M.S. Dhoni : The Untold Story(2016), Kedarnath (2018), Sonchiriya (2019) and my favouruite Sushant performance as Anushka Sharma's Pakistani love interest in Rajkumar Hirani's PK.
I remember Sushant telling me that quite a few stellar names had refused the cameo in PK because it was the role of a Pakistani.
Sushant never spoke about the roles he turned down, including three Sanjay Leela Bhansali epics. Which actor would dare do that?
There are some things about Sushant that I used to find annoying, and I never hesitated in telling him off.
For example, his over-exuberant personality.
Sushant would always over-do the warmth.
Once he called to say, 'Sir, I was sleeping just now, when I heard your voice on television praising me for my performance (in Kai Po Che). It made my day.'
I knew he was faking it.
But then he was trying to be nice.
Sometimes he tried too hard to say the right things.
Sushant was always trying to be Mr Congeniality. I always wondered why.
Though there was always a bedrock of sincerity to back up his over-enthusiasm I realise now that he was a hiding a deeply-embedded sorrow behind his bravado.
I remember once I has asked him to meet some NRIs, who wanted to meet the 'top stars'.
Sushant had recently moved in his new home and was happy to entertain my guests. 'Aapke mehmaan sar aankhon par.'
To my horror and embarrassment, the guests turned up a good hour late. This, I got to know when he texted me, 'Sir, aapke mehmaan kab aa rahen hain?'
Nothing about making him wait.
Always smiling, always patient.
When I would get irritable with him, he would say, 'Sir aap mujhse naraaz ho jaate hain.'
His proudest celluloid moment was M.S. Dhoni: The Untold Story.
Playing the Indian skipper was a matter of pride for Sushant because his first career choice was cricket.
He told me, 'My sister Mitu is a state-level cricketer. I had an inclination towards cricket from a young age. I was a national-level player too. I did think of taking up cricket as a profession when I was in Class 8-9, but there was too much family pressure.'
'I was the youngest child and the only son. I was expected to shine in academics. It seemed like too big a risk to take up cricket as a career. I thought I had to live up to my family's expectations. Not that I didn't like academics,' he added.
'So I chose to be an engineer. I gave up my dream once, but I wouldn't let myself give it up a second time.'
Sushant had many dreams.
He constantly spoke about science, astronomy and philosophy.
He was such a talker that once Paresh Rawal said, 'I once thought Shah Rukh Khan to be the most knowledgeable actor in our industry. But Sushant was just as well-informed on any topic under the sun.'
I can see Sushant discussing life, art, science and destiny with Rishi Kapoor and Irrfan in heaven.