Bollywood actor Sushant Singh Rajput, who played Dhoni on screen, dies at 34

Sushant Singh Rajput, who was once called "the next SRK", breathed his last in Mumbai this afternoon. The actor had starred in 10 feature films.

Sometime in 2013 after Sushant Singh Rajput signed a three-film deal with Yash Raj Films, select quarters of the film fraternity started calling him "the next SRK".

He had made a sparkling debut in Kai Po Che earlier in the year, and went on to grab the attention of top filmmakers like Raju Hirani, Shekhar Kapur, and Dibakar Banerjee. A critic wrote of his performance: “The actor has an indescribable presence, and it’s clear from his confidence and distinct likability that a star is born.”

Comparisons with SRK, albeit premature, were almost inevitable. Like Shah Rukh Khan, Sushant had spent years in Delhi before heading to Mumbai, was without a godfather in the industry, and successfully transitioned from television to the big screen.

Sadly, the 34-year-old actor's career came to an abrupt end this afternoon. Sushant was found dead in his Mumbai residence. The cops are investigating the matter.

Photo: Sushant Singh Rajput | Instagram

Sushant, along with Ayushmann Khurrana, Rajkummar Rao, and later Vicky Kaushal, had heralded a new wave of unconventional heroes in Bollywood.

They took risks, challenged stereotypes, reimagined themselves, worked with first-time directors, and created an all-new language in Hindi cinema that wooed millennials.

Some years ago, Sushant (then 27) had told this writer,

“I’m painfully shy. I can’t talk. I just can’t express myself. And that is one of the reasons I became an actor. To be all these people that I play and go through all the emotions that they go through."


He starred in 10 feature films, including Kai Po Che, Shuddh Desi Romance, Detective Byomkesh Bakshi, PK, MS Dhoni: The Untold Story, Kedarnath, Sonchiriya, Chhichhore, and others. His last release was Netflix film Drive (2019).

Sushant's crowning glory came in 2016, when he played Indian cricket captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni in the latter's biopic. The film was not only a huge box office success, but also earned Sushant his first Filmfare nomination, and tonnes of fans.

Sushant Singh Rajput with MS Dhoni at the promotions of the latter's biopic

The year before, Sushant reprised the role of Byomkesh Bakshi in Dibakar Banerjee's edgy period film Detective Byomkesh Bakshi set in 1940s Calcutta.

During the film's shoot, director Dibakar had told this writer,

"I think it’s a tough filter when you transit from the small screen to the big screen. Sushant’s personal account of moving from the box to the plex is little known. He actually quit TV at the height of his fame on Pavitra Rishta [a Zee TV show where he played the lead], took a sabbatical, reconsidered his options, and plunged into the unknown. It was a huge risk. We only see the move in hindsight after he was picked up by YRF. At that time, it wasn’t so easy.”

Even when he was ruling prime-time TV in the early 2010s, the actor always dreamt of Bollywood. He idolised Shah Rukh Khan, and even joined legendary Barry John’s theatre classes in Delhi (where he spent his engineering days) to emulate the superstar.

Mourning his demise in a tweet, SRK wrote, "He loved me so much... I will miss him so much. His energy, enthusiasm and his full happy smile.. This is extremely sad."

His last release Chhichhore, a comedic tale of hostel life in Indian colleges, was a blockbuster that grossed Rs 215 crore at the box office — the actor's biggest hit.

To sum up Sushant's appeal in veteran filmmaker Shekhar Kapur's words, he was “one of the most inspiring young actors to emerge out of India”. The movies will miss him!

Edited by Saheli Sen Gupta


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