Like Shatrughan Sinha, Sushant Singh Rajput was the wannabe Bollywood actor from Patna who made his way into the closely-knit film industry. Says Shatruji, “I can empathize with his struggle. This film industry is not kind to outsiders especially from Bihar. I remember when I came to Mumbai to be an actor, producers and directors looked at me as though I was from another planet. ‘Yeh kyon aaya hai?’ asked their eyes. When I came here, the heroes were all fair-skinned and cute. I looked just the opposite.”
Shatruji surprised himself from becoming successful. “It was a long struggle, bahot dhakke khaeen pade. But I never thought of giving up. Suicide was not even an option. Why should it be? Life is too precious. I’ve heard Sushant was going through hard times financially. But that doesn’t mean you take your life. 34 is no age to die.”
He wonders what kind of signal Sushant’s suicide sends out to youngsters. “Sushant was young, handsome, talented and successful. When he ended his life his fans must have wondered why. When you are in the limelight you have a responsibility towards the public.”
About the nepotism debate, Shatruji says, “No individual or group can take away what’s meant for you. Kumar Gaurav, son of superstar Rajendra Kumar was launched with fanfare. But his career got nowhere. When my friend Amitabh Bachchan came into the film industry he faced a series of rejections. My daughter Sonakshi was lucky to be launched by Salman Khan who is a family friend. But Sushant who had no Bollywood connections got launched in Hindi cinema with a film like Kai Po Che. That’s the only film I’ve seen of Sushant. And he was a scene-stealer in it. I had eyes only for him in spite of the talented Rajkummar Rao in the cast. I could see he had a bright future. I don’t know what went wrong.”
Shatruji recalls meeting Sushant only once. “He was my daughter Sonakshi’s colleague. They met more often. I met him once and he was very charming, well-read, polite, curious and focused. I felt he had a very bright future ahead.”
Then there was the Patna connection. “His family was least affected by his stardom, just like my family. I am surprised my family has not met Sushant’s father in Patna as yet. But when I’m in Patna next, I will most certainly meet his father.”
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