Wednesday, 29 June, 2022
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Sushant Singh Rajput was many things but flashy ‘star’. His brand lives on through SSRians

The constant buzz in the industry keeps the actor's digital afterlife afloat, shouldered by his army of fans called the SSRians.

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The dialogue “Janam kab lena hai aur marna kab hai, hum decide nahi kar sakte, par kaise jeena hai woh hum decide kar sakte hain” — we can’t decide when we are born or die, we can only determine how we live — may have been spoken by Manny from Dil Bechara, but the actor behind the character, Sushant Singh Rajput, seems to have lived by it. Be it television or the silver screen, he camouflaged easily into characters from everyday life and chose the unconventional path of being an actor over a star.

Rajput was found dead in his Mumbai residence on 14 June 2020. Since then, the late actor, who was unlike many of his contemporaries, has been in the news for various reasons. In Bollywood, where only a few dreams come true, an even smaller fraction live on after death. Sushant Singh Rajput might have had more years of fame ahead of him, but the constant buzz in the industry keeps his digital afterlife afloat, shouldered by his army of fans called the ‘SSRians’. Shweta Singh Kirti, the late actor’s sister, tweeted to their delight when she said, “Now I have many brothers.”

SSR, the brand

Unlike most Bollywood stars, Sushant Singh Rajput ascended to Bollywood on the back of an illustrious television career. With the exception of superstar Shah Rukh Khan, not many names come to mind when you think about a successful transition from television to the big screen.

In a career spanning over 14 years — including his posthumous release Dil Bechara (2020) — Rajput evolved from an actor-dancer to ‘SSR’, a brand in himself. However, this was no miracle or overnight success saga.

Often known to don many hats, he had cracked an engineering entrance exam and enrolled in Delhi Technology University. But his love for Bollywood and Shah Rukh Khan spurred his desire to head to the city of dreams. It began with him dancing behind Aishwarya Rai Bachchan during the 2006 Commonwealth Games closing ceremony in Melbourne as part of choreographer Shiamak Davar’s dancing troupe.

His dancing career was crowned on the celebrity dance reality show Jhalak Dikhhla Jaa, closing the season as a runner-up in 2011. Apart from garnering accolades for his dancing skills, Rajput also acted in many television shows, including his breakthrough performance in Ekta Kapoor’s Pavitra Rishta. Such was the impact of his performance that even years later, his fans remembered him by the character’s name, Manav.

For many aspiring actors, a leap into the big pool of the Hindi film industry is a dream. However, there are not many who can boast of a swift upgrade.

Right from Rajput’s directorial feature debut Kai Po Che (2013) and M.S. Dhoni: The Untold Story (2016) — a biopic of former Indian skipper M.S. Dhoni — to his off-beat role in Sonchiriya (2019), he was always heading towards creating a legacy of his own, minus the glamorous and masala entertainers. Many also remember him variously as Kirti Sanon’s sweetheart in Raabta (2017), Byomkesh Bakshi in Detective Byomkesh Bakshy! (2015), and Sarfaraz Yousuf in PK (2014).


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SSR, the man behind the screen

Let’s say you don’t know who Sushant Singh Rajput was, and you chanced upon his social media profiles. Barring one or two videos, it is difficult to gauge if the account ever belonged to a Bollywood star.

In today’s day and age, social media is the biggest portal that bridges the gap between ‘stars’ and their fans. Unlike specifically curated and picture-perfect posts on most celebrities’ Instagram accounts, Rajput’s — with over 13 million followers — is full of his personal experiences, hopes, and dreams, much like any of us. As you skim through, you notice his interest in astronomy, poetry, music, sports, and his craft.

Even on Twitter, with over 2.4 million followers, he chose to not indulge in the grandiosity of his profession but showcase the little joys of his life. In 2019, he tweeted a few pictures of hand-written papers that had a list of 50 dreams.

 

These ambitions were as diverse as they come: learning to fly a plane, training for the IronMan triathlon, mastering Morse code, raising a horse, learning 10 dance forms, being an ambidextrous archer, teaching dance to kids, and much more. And it wasn’t a publicity flash, he did manage to fulfill some of them.

 

His bio reads ‘Photon in a double-slit’ on both his Twitter and Instagram profiles, alluding to the double-slit experiment performed by British polymath Thomas Young, wherein a photon displays the characteristics of both waves and particles. It fits well with the kind of dynamic personality that Rajput, a keen physics enthusiast, was.

Sushant Singh Rajput managed to create a niche for himself that takes others years to accomplish. The irreplaceable void left behind would hurt his fans, but the legacy of his craft and his digital footprint will surely live on for years to come.

(Edited by Humra Laeeq)

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