Sushant Singh Rajput as Ishaan in Kai Po Che!
From a backup dancer on Shiamak Davar’s troupe to a lead role in an Ekta Kapoor soap to acting in one of the biggest films of the season, Sushant Singh Rajput has had a dream run. t2 caught up with the shy 27-year-old on his debut film Kai Po Che! (February 22 release) and beyond.
How did Kai Po Che! happen?
After I dropped out of Pavitra Rishta (his daily soap on Zee TV), I was all set to attend UCLA (in Los Angeles) for a filmmaking course when casting director Mukesh Chhabra spotted me in a coffee shop and asked me to give an audition. I gave it and Abhishek (Kapoor, director of Kai Po Che!) felt I was perfect... apart from one problem: I had to play a 23/24-year-old cricketer and I needed to look fit for that. I worked out for six weeks and lost a lot of weight. And I was on as Ishaan.
Did you read 3 Mistakes of my Life (on which Kai Po Che! is based) before the film was offered to you?
I had read all the books of Chetan Bhagat, except 3 Mistakes of my Life! Before I started shooting, I read the script first and then the book and I found it to be an extremely interesting read. But what Abhishek has done with it is remarkable… he has converted it into a wonderful, water-tight screenplay.
Ishaan is flamboyant and impulsive, honest and passionate. How far did you relate to your character?
All the characters that I have played, whether in theatre, TV or now in my first film, have been a part of me in some way or the other. Of course, there are some aspects to my characters I can’t relate with. But I have always believed that if you do your homework properly and study your characters well, you can find most of their traits in you.
I connect a lot with Ishaan. He is very talented and can’t tolerate hypocrites. At the same time, because of the age that he is at, Ishaan is very impulsive. He hasn’t had an easy life and has seen a lot of hardships, but he tries to cover it up with a certain overconfidence. As a result, he makes mistakes. It’s a complex character.
The shoot in Gujarat was apparently very tough...
The emotion that was uppermost on my mind through the whole shoot was excitement… the script was so good and I couldn’t believe that I was working with a National Award-winning director (Rock On!! won Best Feature Film in Hindi in 2009) in my first film. Almost the entire shoot was on real locations in Gujarat and at the peak of summer, in almost 50°C heat. It was tough, but the passion that Abhishek had and the excitement that we came with was somehow bigger than everything else.
What was your equation with Raj Kumar Yadav (Govind) and Amit Sadh (Omi)?
Raj Kumar is a wonderful actor… I really learnt so much from him. Amit was like my elder brother and he guided me in everything… from camera angles to what I should eat! To be honest, the three of us were not acting in the film… we had a certain chemistry from the day we auditioned together and it continued through the film and beyond. On set, we would constantly improvise and spontaneously play off each other because we felt so comfortable.
You are being hailed as Bollywood’s next big thing. Does that excite or unnerve you?
It’s exciting for sure. But then, I don’t know why people are saying that I am the next big thing. Although it does feel good to hear things like that. I am someone who has taken risks even when in a secure position. I had an all-India rank of seven in my engineering joint entrance, but I took up acting; I was doing well on TV, but I opted out. I have always taken the responsibility for my decisions and never regretted them. I was all set to go to UCLA, but Kai Po Che! happened and I enjoyed the process of doing the film.
Even before your first film is out, you are shooting for a Yash Raj film with Parineeti Chopra; are set to share screen space with Aamir Khan in Rajkumar Hirani’s Peekay; and have also been signed by Imtiaz Ali for his next. What would you attribute your dream run to?
I feel that if one has the courage to dream big and believe in one’s dreams and then the diligence to work towards it, nothing’s impossible. I have always taken huge risks and backed it up with hard work and it’s always been very fruitful for me. I have already started shooting for my Yash Raj film and Peekay should start sometime this year. I am grateful that my hard work is paying off.
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