'Fearless' Sushant Singh Rajput takes rumours about his professional and personal life head-on
Sanyukta Iyer (MUMBAI MIRROR; August 14, 2017)

Over the last year, your personal life has come under a fair amount of scrutiny with you being labelled 'arrogant', 'ambitious' and a 'player'. Are any of them apt?
Don't we all live subjective lives? People are constantly finding ways to explain how I've continued to survive in the industry. That's their problem, not mine. I'm not trying to prove a point, I'm not in the race to be No. 1 because I have no plans of living a rat's life. I'm not obsessed with the future and at the same time I'm neither hiding something nor trying to earn a particular reputation.

So, what really keeps you going?
I'm a middle-class boy from a large family. My parents were focussed on giving me a good education. I learnt early on that money is important to live the life you want. They wanted me to pursue higher studies in the best university abroad. I wanted it too but my father couldn't sponsor my education. (After a reflective pause) I was extremely shy in school too but craved acknowledgement. Unfortunately, I was never recognized for anything. So, after money, I was seeking validation. They're both extremely seductive. I told myself that when I finally find them, I'll be the happiest.

You're now the happiest you've ever been?
(Smiles) I made millions and became famous as an actor only to realise that this isn't making me happy. Today I'm addicted to the “okay take!“. That's my biggest high. As long as I can act, I'm the happiest. My mother always says, your life is a story that you tell yourself. And everyone has a different story to tell. I act in all of these stories. In some my role is chopped out, some make me the hero. Am I making sense?

Absolutely! So you enjoy playing the player?
(Laughs) My first girlfriend dumped me because I was too boring. I've tried to be more interesting ever since.

Have the link-up rumours ever changed your equation with female co-stars, in particular Kriti Sanon?
Sometimes, there is a series of stories about me which are untrue and I feel misunderstood. That's not a great feeling! As an actor I can condition myself to ignore the rumours, but I hold on to the vulnerability and the emotions these rumours evoke because it makes me a better actor. The stories often affect me but they never change my friendship with any co-star.

According to one such story, Kriti and your friendship was a promotional tool for your film, Raabta.
People asked me if we were dating and I kept saying “no“. Then, they said we made up this story to promote our film. Are people going to watch my film because of my relationship status? I wouldn't want that either because no matter how untrue it sounds, I am not comfortable with all the attention. An actor could jump, do back-flips and dance with his shirt off, but people still won't come to watch if the trailer doesn't resonate with them. I did all of that for my last film, it still didn't work!

What do you think went wrong with Raabta?
We view life as a cause-and-effect-theory. If a film doesn't work we try to find reasons and add to our disillusionment. I've read every book on what's necessary to write a great script and make a hit film. They clearly haven't helped. So now, I've conditioned myself in a way that no matter what happens on Friday, I'll be okay on Monday. I can't screw up six months of work on my next by thinking of my last film.

Would you consider returning to TV if you ran out of film offers?
The feeling of being a great performer is addictive. The day I stop feeling it, I'll stop acting. Quitting engineering in the third year of college was a far tougher choice to make than quitting Pavitra Rishta at its peak. In that sense, I'm fearless. If you take everything away from me, including the opportunity to act, I'll simply make my own film. There's nothing left to prove anymore, I'm a lottery winner! In five years, everything about films is going to change. Digital TV and Virtual Reality (VR) is the future. Those unwilling to evolve will perish.

So, acording to you, films as a medium, is growing insignificant.
When I started out 12 years ago, I was living with six guys in a one-BHK in Versova. I was excited about doing plays for Rs 250 per show. If I don't get films because I've delivered flops, I'll go back to TV or theatre and be just as excited as I am today with five films (Tarun Mansukhani's Drive, Sanjay Puran Singh Chauhan's Chandamama Door Ke, Abhishek Kapoor's Kedarnath, Robbie Grewal's Romeo Akbar Walter, Abhishek Chaubey's untitled dacoit drama) and lots of money. After the Dhoni biopic, which was a big hit, there was a gap of around three months as my next film got pushed. Instead of thinking about how to capitalise on my recent hit by signing a dozen films, I started work on a play based on Andy Jones' book, The Two of Us. A quick film would have earned me millions but I was excited about this play. I'm finalising it with a co-actor shortly.

Doing a film like Chandamama Door Ke, a futuristic sci-fi-drama, can be a trap because Bollywood's greatest problem is that it tries too hard to dumb it down.
Yes, whenever we try to do something intelligent and subjective, we dumb it down because cognitively, anything that is familiar feels right. But when you dumb down a concept like space travel, the essence is lost. My director, Sanjay Puran Singh Chauhan, has spent five years at NASA and worked closely with John Palmer who designed the Matt Damon-starrer The Martian. Since we don't have a budget of $110 million and don't want to disappoint those who've enjoyed Interstellar and Gravity, we're working on a unique narrative to explain the space-related concepts to the audience. When Steven Spielberg was facing a problem with the shark robot even though he'd invested a lot of money in the machine during the filming of Jaws, he said “screw it!“ and went ahead without any shark. So there can be many creative tools to show space and the moon in the most real way possible.

For Kedarnath, you're re-uniting with Abhishek Kapoor who gave you your big Bollywood break with Kai Po Che!
Yes, I'm really excited. I was supposed to do Fitoor too but the dates didn't work out.

Aren't you glad, since Fitoor tanked?
Of course not! There are too many parameters that need to work in combination with countless other factors for box-office success. Firstly, I'm not saying Fitoor was a bad film. Secondly, if I'd have done Fitoor, would it have been a better film? I don't know. Would it have been a different film? Of course!

You'll be romancing Sara Ali Khan in Kedarnath. Buzz is, her actress-Mum Amrita Singh is always present at script readings and will have a final say in all matters related to the film...
Untrue! The script hasn't changed a bit from the one I was given and said yes to the first time. I'm honest and 100 per cent professional. So, there's absolutely no interference from any parent or friend. Everyone involved is trying to do their best.