Danuska Da Gama I NT BUZZ
A noted Indian film critic once wrote about Kai Po Che: “But it’s Sushant Singh Rajput, making his film debut as Ishaan, who it’s hard to take your eyes off. The actor has an indescribable presence and it’s clear from his confidence and distinct likability that a star is born.” And beyond doubt, Sushant Singh Rajput is the man of the moment. With five films in the pipeline, his hands are full, but for the actor – it’s nothing but a chance to do what he loves and does best – acting.
Excerpts from an interview
- You’ve risen as an actor and have been known for versatility. Many believe being versatile is a way of signing more films; or is it to carve out a niche and not play stereotypical roles in films?
It’s very subjective from the audience’s point of view. I just don’t think about deliberately trying to do different things, because everything I am trying to do is different from what I have done before, from my point of view. One should work if the idea is to be engaged, reach a certain point, and then it doesn’t matter; just be good at it and reach there – moneywise, fame-wise. But you need to set your priorities straight. I like to be engaged; and I like being engaged only when I don’t know how to do it. And so as a result I end up doing films that seemingly are different from each other.
- And is that why you’re one of the most sought after actors with so many films in the pipeline?
Probably, I don’t know. Or I like signing films.
- You have entered the film industry just as Shah Rukh Khan did and you’ve been gaining popularity similarly. Are you aiming to be the next Badshah of Bollywood?
(Smiles) I should know what will happen when I get there. It’s just an idea. There is no ultimate; it’s what I am doing right now. I know I don’t have much, but I have enough money not to think about money. I am a very shy introverted guy. I just like doing films, and I will keep acting. If I don’t get films, I don’t mind changing mediums.
- So you don’t mind going back to television then?
There’s another thing that we from outside believe that is organic progression from theatre, to TV to films where the only thing we are taught to do is not know who is in front. It could be an audience, film or TV camera. The fundamental thing to do is to create the good work. If as an actor I can claim that, I don’t know which is better; I will perform in the same way. So it’s not going back to TV. If I don’t get the films I really want to do, I won’t do it just for the heck of it. I just like to act. And if there are no film or TV shows, I’ll do plays or make my own short films and watch it alone, I don’t care. At this point I can’t think of anything else that is more exciting than this. I have other things like reading, using the telescope to stargaze and I do coding and programming which is exciting but not more than acting.
- Of late there’s so much talk about nepotism, Bollywood being a divided industry and more. For someone like you who walked into the industry as an outsider, without the baggage of being a star kid, or having a godfather, can you tell us about your experience?
I think we confuse ourselves by thinking that an entire industry is up to something. I don’t think the entire industry is up to anything. It’s just an emerging thing to think that just because a few things are happening that it was the intention of the entire industry. Now, if I am a producer who wants to make money and also wants to make a good film and if he thinks you’re an actor good enough to pull off a good role, he shouldn’t care where the actor is from, irrespective of being an outsider or insider. If people accept this, I will conveniently forget where the person came from. And if you belong to a family of producers and there is a film which I really want to do, I will beg you to give me that film, not because it is commercially viable but because I really want to have that experience. So it doesn’t matter at all when it comes to work actually.
Of course all work with each other, but if somebody is naïve enough he or she can very well get into the industry. Nepotism is there in all industries, and not just in Bollywood. But, if it’s there it actually ups the game. So if you’re good, you get into the industry and get accepted, then all the insiders irrespective of their talent have to up their game, so that their films also do well. So nepotism is welcome, but the only thing is that all the industries that didn’t do well because of nepotism is to do with one fact: they completely shut off outsiders and you don’t have a differentiation and then the structure of the industry is sub-standard, because you cannot see which is good as all are the same. So it’s not happening in Bollywood and as long as it’s not happening, it’s good.
- With content cutting across boundaries, and filmmaking getting revolutionised through technology, do you see digital media overtaking mainstream cinema in the years to come?
Immediately they both can coexist. If it’s five years from now, they both would find it very hard to survive because we are on the cusp of a drastic change as technology is changing. It excites but it disrupts everything. Like the mobile technology disrupted the landlines. Like sound with visuals is closer to reality. Like we use VFX to make 2D fascinating, but reality is 3D. The future is here and it will be evenly distributed in the next three to four years. No matter what you think of Virtual Reality, once you watch it you will find it very hard to spend money to watch something in 2D.
- When it comes to your films, how important is commercial success of cinema as compared to critically appreciated films that connect with an audience or art ones that are part of film festivals?
It’s not really important for me to worry about the films I am in at this point in time. Will it matter to me in the long run? Of course yes! Commercial success of a film is important as films are funded and if I am to act in those films it needs to be commercially viable and have success as there’s investment and money has to be recovered. It is simple mathematics, it is important and it will have its repercussions and I cannot simply isolate myself from that. When it comes to an audience they have their own right, biases and assumptions. Film watching is very subjective – the same content will mean different things to different people and this is based on their intelligence, biases, experiences, expectations and various factors. It could have immediate relevance or eventual aspirations or follow the herd mentality where you convince yourself to like a film because others do. I have seen people watch Dunkirk and don’t know that Nolan was trying to punctuate subjectivity of time, but people liked it. I can’t plan my choices based on what audiences will think, or whether a film will be successful. I just want to do what I really want to do and just hope that someone will watch it.
- Content of films seems to be a burning issue. Being part of the industry does it pain you to see freedom of expression and liberty at stake in the country?
We always confuse the term freedom of expression. It is not that I just say whatever I want and make you believe it – that’s dictatorship. We cannot think that two things at the same time about the same thing could be right in two different contexts. I can only fight you if we have the similar contexts. Same action would mean two different things if the context is different. I cannot tell you to say or believe in what I am saying. The idea about India and the idea about entertainment in India need to be discussed well to decide what the entertainment industry is about. Things are entertaining when you don’t expect it to be and I convince you of something. It could be real or surreal – like Mowgli talking to a tiger – but you’ll watch it and it will entertain you. It doesn’t in anyway say that it will become what it should become. But, entertainment is very subjective. There is a need to define how history is depicted through entertainment. The relative value needs to be ascertained as both are important. This cannot be discussed in units. It is a waste of time, waste of effort and if it is, entertainment will end in a tragedy.