As the very committed Sushant Singh Rajput’s new starrer Sonechiriya opens to overwhelming reviews and underwhelming box-office performance, the actor simply smiles at the irony of it. “I’d like Sonechirya to be appreciated for all the hard work that our director Abhishek Choubey has put in…In fact, all of us actors and technicians slogged in the Chambal heat. It feels nice when the reviews appreciate one’s efforts. I’ve never sought fame or fortune. Never been enamoured of the 100-crore club,” says Sushant without the arrogant vanity of the so-called avant-garde actors who revel in their failure to connect with audiences.
Not that Sushant is a stranger to success. His large-screen debut Kai Po Che was a hit and the Dhoni bio-pic was a blockbuster. Reasons the self-confessed ‘famished’ actor, “I’d say the success of those films was a happy accident. It’s not as if I set out to make these films a success. Humein isse blockbuster banana hai…nothing of that sort! I work entirely for my job satisfaction. Otherwise, I could have made money in any other profession. I am here to make a difference, firstly to myself. When I look back on my body of work, I want to feel a sense of pride. Whether it is Kai Po Che, Byomkesh Bakshi, Dhoni, Kedarnath or Sonechiriya, I am happy and proud to be associated with these films.”
Sushant admits he likes to surrender completely to his characters. “I wouldn’t be able to sleep peacefully if I didn’t give all of myself to every character I accept. Agar main apne kirdaar ko theek se pehchan na paaon usski antar-aatma ko choo na loon toh yeh toh beimaani hogi(if I do n’t get to know my character well and touch its essence it would be a betrayal). Either I don’t accept a film. Or if I do, I surrender to it completely.”
Shooting for his outlaw’s role in Sonechiriya, Sushant spent days and weeks preparing himself, staying unwashed, unfed, unattended. “My character wants to surrender to the law. I surrendered to the law of self-discipline that I ’ve made for my job. What I found in common between my characters in Kedarnath and Sonechiriya was that core of humanity. Mujhe woh pakadna tha (I had to catch that). Baaki, success or failure is not something I understand.”
Is the perennial determination to do out-of-box characters constantly a big cross to carry? Sushant avers, “Not at all! It isn’t as if I have set out to do out-of-box characters from the beginning of my film career. These are the roles that have appealed to me. I am open to doing the messy type of films, provided the script appeals to me. I would love to do a full-on masala film. And I am not the only contemporary actor doing out-of-box films. Rajkummar Rao, Vicky Kaushal, Ayushmann Khurrana are also doing films that are removed from conventional entertainment and doing very well for themselves.”
Does the lack of box-office success not bother Sushant at all? “Like I said, I feel there is an appreciation for all the hard work being put in my films. Maybe in my case, it doesn’t show in box-office figures. But as long as I have the freedom and power to do the kind of films I want to I am in a comfortable place.”
Currently, Sushant is shooting for Nitesh Tiwari’s Chichore, and not for a second does Sushant feel he is shooting with the director of the mega-hit Dangal. “I am having so much fun shooting for Chichore. The atmosphere is relaxed and positive. We’re having a blast. As far as I am concerned, I am working in a film that has already given me what I want.”