Back in mid-September, film buffs had the pleasure of enjoying the coming of age laugh-riot that was Sushant Singh Rajput-starrer Chichore. It revolved around a middle-aged father, Anirudh, whose son attempts suicide after failing to crack the entrance examination for the prestigious IIT institution. Anirudh reunites his old group of college friends to jumpstart his son’s recovery. Reminiscent of Sanjay Dutt’s unorthodox, more compassionate means of treating a patient in a vegetative state in Munna Bhai MBBS, they narrate to him the ebbs and flows of life they experienced during their college days.
After his son recovers and sheds the spirit-crushing and sometimes suicide-inducing “IIT or bust” mentality, the film ends with a feel-good song “Fikar Not.” Anirudh’s character starts the peppy, upbeat song with the words “Chinta karke kya payega, marne se pehle, mar jayega.”
Almost a year after lip-syncing and shaking a leg to such uplifting lyrics, who knew that those lyrics would foreshadow his own suicide?
The music and lyrics are enough to hold their head up high after any sort of adversity. However, with the news of Rajput’s recent suicide related to his mental health issues, “Fikar Not” will just not be the same anymore.
This was an actor from Patna who made it big and his interviews would ooze this very positive attitude.
Rajput’s journey into stardom is what many inspiring underdog stories are made of. In a cut-throat industry, where dynasties do not exactly take kindly to outsiders, the path to that elusive break for Bollywood aspirants from non-filmi khaandaans, is already troublesome. And to top it off, those without any industry godfather do not have much leeway to deliver more than a few consecutive flops before the film world writes them off.
The Patna-born actor also was an IIT aspirant but he instead went to Delhi College of Engineering (now DTU). Like many hopefuls, he took the plunge and joined the ranks of strugglers in Mumbai who were brave enough to follow their dreams.
The country got a taste of his talents through the medium of television in the daily soap Pavitra Rishta. Much before digital content on OTT platforms finally let those whose surnames were not Khan, Kapoor or Bhagnani show their talent, the movie Kai Po Che! introduced audiences to this earnest and energetic performer who slightly outshined his equally talented co-stars (also outsiders).
Star-kid Shahid Kapoor rejection of Shudh Desi Romance was Sushant’s Rajput’s gain as that movie further catapulted him into the big leagues.
With SDR’s success, film buffs and critics alike were quick and apt to draw comparisons with another non-filmi khaandaan who got his start in television, King Khan. After all, Shah Rukh Khan acknowledged that early on, he only played the roles that others — namely established thespians and movie dynasty scions — passed on.
Although it financially underperformed at the box office, his next Yash Raj Films-produced Detective Byomkesh Bakshy did let Bollywood know that he can carry a film on his own shoulders.
Here was an actor who did not always cater to the commercial masala entertainers. That too, regardless of whether it was a big banner or a producer. Whether it was the Academy Award nominated Director Shekhar Kapur or Yash Raj Films scion and Producer-Director Aditya Chopra, he was as genuine as they came.
When walking out of the former’s film Paani, he unabashedly went on record when saying about his whether his decision to do so was easy or hard:
No, that was a very easy decision. I see few changes in myself that have happened in last four years. I am completely fearless about the consequences. I just don’t care. You will have a great time working with me because there are things I am sure of, I am professional and if you ask me to do nine things, I will do 10. You will be happy, but if it’s anything else that doesn’t contribute to what we are trying to do, then I will not take that sh*t, no matter how big or small you are. As simple as that. I think everybody who works with me, knows this and appreciates this.”
Despite a fallout with the latter, his cinematic immortalization of cricketing legend MS Dhoni in his biopic signaled that he was here to stay in an industry where power players like Chopra call the shots. Kedarnath and Sonichiriya only further showed his range.
This made people further root for this dark horse. Much to the delight of cine-goers, the trailer of his recent film Chichore under-promised and over-delivered.
Another coming of age film, Dil Bechara, was set to release on May 8, but the coronavirus pandemic threw a wrench into the whole team’s plans. His struggles with depression are a powerful reminder that even celebrities who seem like they have it all — fame, looks, and money — are not immune to mental health issues.
Further details as to why such a young, talented, who still had so much more to offer in his lifetime took this drastic step are yet to emerge. Incidentally, the actor’s ex-manager Disha Salian also took her life after jumping off a high-rise building. Little did anyone know that events in Chichore would also transpire in and around his own life.
Be it Guru Dutt or now Sushant Singh Rajput, both are proof that the film industry, like the real world, is a really lonely place.
Either ways, a promising light has gone out.