Sushant Singh Rajput: The making of an icon
For Sushant fans, the charming star will always be forever young, immortalised through the short body of work he left behind.
A year ago today, we were left shocked and speechless at the untimely demise of one of our favourite actors and a bright young talent from Bollywood, Sushant Singh Rajput. The 34-year-old actor who was a luminous presence in films like Kai Po Che, Sonchiriya and Kedarnath, no doubt left a huge impression not just on his fans but also those who had only observed Bollywood from a distance, who perhaps didn’t know much (or care much) about the industry or the films it churned out on a regular basis.
Why did Sushant’s brief yet impactful life resonate so strongly with people who hailed from different backgrounds and cultures? Why was his loss felt deeply not only by long-term fans and admirers but also those who hardly knew anything about him or his films till he passed away? Post Sushant’s death, social media was inundated with special tributes from people who hadn’t seen many/any of his movies and yet were united in mourning his death with hardcore fans.
Was the fact that he passed away at just 34 a huge factor in imprinting his loss so strongly on our minds, and hearts? The world tends to make idols of celebrities who die young. Look at James Dean, who starred in just three films before he died at the age of 24 in a car crash in 1955. The handsome American actor is a staple in popular culture. Even six decades after his death, Dean remains an uber-cool Hollywood youth icon. For Sushant fans, the charming Raabta star will always be forever young, immortalised through the short body of work he left behind.
Perhaps the fact that Sushant was the underdog who worked his way up in Bollywood despite having no ‘connections’ or industry ‘godfathers’ is what struck a chord with so many people. From being an aspiring actor who dropped out of college to pursue a career in the entertainment industry, Sushant debuted on the small screen with Kis Desh Mein Hai Meraa Dil in 2008 and went on to great heights from there, starring in critically acclaimed and popular Bollywood films like Detective Byomkesh Bakshy! (2015) and the sports biopic M.S. Dhoni - The Untold Story. Like another famous industry ‘outsider’, Shan Rukh Khan, who made a successful transition from popular television actor to featuring in some of Bollywood’s biggest blockbusters and becoming a worldwide name, who knows what Sushant might have accomplished had his life not been cut short?
As an entertainment journalist, I wish I had had the chance to meet this erudite former engineering student and science buff who impressed most interviewers with his eloquence and knowledge on a variety of subjects. I loved the fact that like me, Sushant was a bibliophile. But on another note, as someone who didn’t know him outside his public persona, I — like many of the millions who mourned his death — found his loss personal for some reason, and heartbreaking. May you rest in peace and shine on forever, Sushant Singh Rajput.