Sonil Dedhia in Mumbai
After a successful stint on television, Sushant Singh Rajput made a smooth transition to films with the big hit Kai Po Che.
The 27-year-old actor will now be seen in Yash Raj Films’s Shuddh Desi Romance, releasing this week.
In the conversation that follows, Patna-born Sushant tells us why he doesn’t want to become a star and whether marriage with girlfriend Ankita Lokhande is on the cards.
Have you got used to the media adulation that is coming your way?
No, I don’t think I will ever get used to it (laughs). It is out of my comfort zone. As I interact with the media, I also learn from them so hopefully, things might change.
Kai Po Che was well received by the critics as well as at the box office. There were two other actors with big roles but it was you who stole the maximum limelight.
I think everyone did a fabulous job in the film, especially Rajkumar Yadav, who was brilliant. I was sure that people would like the film but at that time I wasn’t really concerned about the box office figures.
This is the most exciting phase of my life because I am getting to work with some really good directors.
'I signed Shuddh Desi Romance and Peekay even before Kai Po Che released'
A lot of scripts must have come your way after Kai Po Che released. How do you select the films you want to work on?
The main reason is the script. Whatever little knowledge I had about filmmaking helped me understand that the scripts of Shuddh Desi Romance and Peekay had something new to say.
I was offered five or six films before Kai Po Che but I didn’t find them interesting. I have auditioned for all my films. I was signed for Shuddh Desi Romance and Peekay even before it (Kai Po Che) released.
Did you fear that rejecting some scripts might end up affecting your relationship?
Ultimately, if one doesn’t want to be a part of the script, no one can force him. If I would have taken up any film on the basis of relationships, then my work would have suffered.
I have been honest if I haven’t liked a script, because of which I have been able to maintain my relationship rather than ruining them.
'I am fine about being in a live-in relationship with Ankita'
Photographs: Pradeep Bandekar Sonil Dedhia
Shuddh Desi Romance is quite a modern take on relationships. Tell us more about the film.
Generally, in a Hindi film, the hero will go to the heroine and say 'Main tumse mohabbat karta hoon' (I love you) and then they fall in love. Phir ek villain aata hai jisko end main hero maar deta hai and then it’s a happy ending. This doesn’t happen in real life.
Shuddh Desi Romance is a very real and rooted romantic film. We are showing romance as it normally happens, in a very real space. The audience will be able to relate to the characters.
The film also deals with a live-in relationship. What is your take on that?
Most of the youth today are confused whether to stick to our orthodox Indian culture or whether to allow ourselves to be seduced by western practices.
Indian culture has its own dark side in terms of social behaviour and hypocrisy.
It’s a matter of one’s personal choice. I am fine about being in a live-in relationship with (girlfriend) Ankita.
'I was a protected and pampered child'
Tell us about your growing up days.
I did my initial schooling from Patna and then moved to Delhi for higher studies. I was a protected and pampered child. I have four elder sisters and whenever I needed something, I would to ask them for their opinion.
I would go to school, come back home, study, and be with my family. I was very shy and introverted because of which I could never make friends.
You dropped out of engineering college to become an actor. Was there pressure to take up a more conventional career?
There wasn’t any pressure, but since all my sisters had a strong academic background, I was expected to do something like that. I got admission to one of the top engineering colleges.
At the same time I took a keen interest in the performing arts. That was liberating for me because it helped me to become confident and express myself. It became addictive. I decided then to become an actor. I wasn’t concerned about money -- I just wanted to do this all my life.
How did your family react to this decision of yours?
They were very supportive but at the same time, they were a little shocked and confused. They wanted me to complete my formal education.
I was sure that I wanted to pursue my career in performing arts and didn’t want to waste another year and half on my studies. I somehow convinced them and today they are proud of my decision.
'If films don't work out, I might take up something else'
You were at the top of your game when you quit television. What made you take such a bold step?
This was the second time I was taking a big leap. In television, I was doing the same thing every day. It was becoming monotonous.
Although it was a very comfortable position to be in as I was highly paid and was famous, there was nothing challenging.
My agenda as an actor is to learn and grow every day. I am not here for money or fame. If that was the case, I wouldn’t have quit TV.
I don’t aspire to be a star. I don’t understand stardom. I never came to this industry to be the number one star. I wanted to be a number one actor.
You mentioned in an interview that if films don’t work out, you might move on to something else.
Yes. I am looking to work on good projects and it can happen anywhere irrespective of the medium.
If there is something interesting in television, I will surely do it, and so is the case with theatre. I may start my own theatre company. If films don’t work out, I might take up something else.
It is the mind-set of our industry that once you graduate from theatre to television to films, you cannot go back. The biggest of Hollywood actors are doing all mediums at the same time.
'Ankita is a stabilising factor in my life'
Photographs: Pradeep Bandekar Sonil Dedhia
You have been very vocal about your relationship with your girlfriend Ankita Lokhande. Is marriage on the cards?
I think marriage can happen any time. It can be this year or next year. She is a stabilising factor in my life. It is because of her that my happiness gets multiplied.
Whenever there is a setback, she holds me. We are in a very happy space today. She is very much aware of the films I am doing. She does give me suggestions.
Were you star-struck when you first came to Mumbai?
During my growing up days, I watched a lot of Yash Raj films, especially Shah Rukh Khan films. I was a big fan of his films.
I was never star-struck but I remember once I was sitting with my friends at a coffee shop near Shah Rukh’s house in Bandra. He had a party and I could see a lot of big cars entering his bungalow. I told myself that one day I would like to go inside and party with him.
Fortunately, he had an Eid party this year and I was invited. I was really happy about that (smiles).
'Aamir Khan is the finest actor in the industry'
You are working in Peekay is a big project. What was your initial reaction when you bagged the film?
It is like a dream come true to work with director Rajkumar Hirani. I went for the audition of the film and I realised that he was more excited to cast me in his film. I cannot talk much about the film but I have had an experience of my life working on it.
How was your experience of working with Aamir Khan?
He is the finest actor in the industry. In spite of this every time he takes up a film he starts from scratch. He is as passionate as he was when he made his debut in Qayamat Se Qayamant Tak.