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    Memoir: Mukesh Chhabra on Sushant Singh Rajput

    I still can’t believe that I am dealing with this moment every day now, I still can’t believe that some beautiful times of my life have become memories now, can’t believe that the hand that often encouraged me with a pat on the back is gone, the voice that got millions rolling is no more! From waking up in the middle of the night to punching the wall – I have done it all. But this nightmare has come to stay.

    Whenever someone asks me about him, I just want to run away. I choke while talking about him; I choke as I am forced to revisit his absence again and again. Sushant Singh Rajput, the Sushant Singh Rajput, bhai...mera bhai (my brother), how on earth do I define you, and us?

    A boy. Rather than being called a man of 34, I should call him a boy; an innocent, sweet, honest, charming boy. An intelligent, mature mind who loved to travel. A foodie – mad lover of parathas, ice creams, chocolates and such like. And then he would work out with single minded dedication. He’d say that there is only one life we get and we must make the most of it. He didn’t like to suppress his love for little things in life and that was very special about him. He would impromptu break into dancing to the tracks of Salman and Shah Rukh. The boy next door, who wanted to enjoy life. A boy close to my heart, mera bhai...the STAR Sushant Singh Rajput! I feel very awkward to use past tense for him.

    It’s a long time since I first met him. It was not that memorable one, rather a very casual meeting. I was the Casting Director of the film Kai Po Che, Gattu (Abhishek Kapoor) wanted three new boys. Then Shobha Sant introduced me to Sushant. It was a cordial, non-committal first meeting, I found him to be a nice guy... Then I was not casting for anything where he could fit. Honestly speaking, I had also forgotten about him in the humdrum of meetings and going through the portfolios regularly. But one fine day, as I can delineate the whole picture in my mind even today, I was in Chai- Coffee, a place in Versova. There he was, Mr. Sushant Singh Rajput with a couple of his friends, all from the television industry. I called him out, ‘ayee, aye aree...’. He came with his usual smiling face and we had a little chat. The very next meeting was on the audition set of Kai Po Che. I remember very well how charming he looked. Only 15- 20 minutes – we had some interactions and we felt so connected! That’s how our bonding started. Then I re-auditioned him and a new journey of actor-director, a new journey of friendship and a new journey of bhai-chara (brotherhood) began.

    Sushant was passionate about his work, he loved to work – be it a full flung role in a film or be it about a guest appearance. He was so dedicated and passionate about his dreams, his goals; he had his own set of goals. Actually he knew what he wanted from life and that built up his confidence. It also made him stand distinctly ahead of other youngsters. Sushant always remained true to his promises and that was so important. He had such positivity that he could transform a negative circumstance in just a fragment of a second. He was always motivated and believed in hard work, he loved to experiment, always tried to find something new; he made people admire him, love him. Such a wonderful personality! I think if I begin to talk about his qualities then it will turn into an endless epic, because he is like that, a man of many wonders.

    Let me share some stories about him. One day I asked him about his favourite director. He said Rajkumar Hirani Sir and talked about how he came to know him, his first glimpse of Raju Sir while he was crossing the road in Bandra and so on and so forth. He was so excited that he spoke a lot without a break. He named a lot of filmmakers he wanted to work with, all with sorted reasons as to why he selected them. Such was his passion for work! It was his dream to work in Raju Sir’s film. Sometime later Raju Sir was searching for a new face for the character of Sarfaraz in PK. Actually for the character of Sarfaraz, Sir wanted an actor who is fresh and energetic, charming and positive at the same time. Any other actor from the industry could play the role very well, but the perfect blend could be found only in Sushant and I was certain about it. So, I told Sir that there is a boy from Kai Po Che, and he is really really an outstanding one. Raju Sir told me to call him. When I gave that news to Sushant he was so astonished, he could not even believe me. He thought that perhaps it’s a prank; he was shocked and happy at the same time. I still can recall that happy face, the happy Sushant. So, on the audition day, he rendered his audition very well. Sir told him to perform some simple dance steps and he did it very well as usual. Raju Sir only said, done hai (it’s done). I looked at bhai’s face, he was overwhelmed with joy. He took 1 rupee for that film! Can you believe it? Just as a token of gratitude. He wasn’t a person who can be defined by normal behavioural standards. His happiness showed so generously that it spilled on to others!

    Sushant used to call me bhai, and that very word touched my heart, he treated me like his younger brother. We have so many memories together. We used to travel a lot, to Chandigarh, sometimes to Delhi, we visited Goa together. Food made for a special connection between us. He loved the parathas made by my mother. People who were close to him know it very well that if he loved somebody, he would love everything about that person. He wasn’t the one to complain. His single-minded focus was to move ahead, happy with the good things in people around him and leaving out the rest. I recall mentioning to him that if I would do a film, then Sushant would be my first hero. Days passed, Sushant gradually became the Sushant Singh Rajput, a huge STAR. Quite some winters had passed by then. I had decided to make a film and asked him about it, without any hesitation he said ‘yes’. That was him, always true to his promises.

    Day by day he was fulfilling his dreams, and came nearer and nearer to his goals. He had worked with the country’s best directors, be it Rajkumar Hirani or Neeraj Pandey or Diwakar Banerjee or Abhishek Kapoor. He had experimented with different kinds of roles. Sushant had a very good understanding of scripts, simply because he followed his heart while selecting a script. He had achieved so many things but his attitude, his sweetness, his loveable nature always remained the same. The childlike excitement never left his face.

    While making Dil Bechara, we decided ki chalo doston ki tarah film banate hai (let’s make a film like friends). Someday if we were not in the mood of a particular scene, we used to change the scenes. We had a lot of fun. We used to discuss the story and the dialogues, he showed me many different aspects of film-making with so many experimental ideas in his mind. Collaborating with him was not limited to an actor-director role – it was a complete creative experience.

    Sushant Singh Rajput was a thorough professional, punctual and dedicated. The toil he had gone through for Kedarnath or his preparations for any other film was inspiring. He actually knew when and where to be serious and when to let go – such is a rare balance.

    Sushant Singh Rajput used to say that film was a small part of his life, he would love to work for the education system of the country. He wanted to concentrate on the kids’ education system. He told me often, bhai (brother) I am earning money from films to spend that in the education system. He didn’t want to work frantically in films; he wanted to develop young minds with a futuristic overview.

    I don’t know how to end this memoir, I don’t know where to end. I think this discussion possibly has no ends, not till I breathe. I would request people, whoever is reading this, please come forward so that we can create a hundred more Sushant Singh Rajputs. That’s how we can remember him, retain him, nurture his ideals, simply because this industry needs him. Someone like Sushant Singh Rajput cannot die, he is immortal and it is up to us to feel and celebrate that presence.

    I wish I could hold the boy again by his arms and hug him, I wish that he called me bhai once again, with that beautiful voice, that boyish charm, that smile.

     

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    Indian film director and renowned casting director, Mukesh Chhabra, has been a long-time collaborator and friend to Sushant Singh Rajput. The late actor had received his first break in Bollywood through Chhabra. His last film, Dil Bechara was directed by Mukesh. 

    Transcripted & compiled from Tell Me Your Story’s interview with Shri Mukesh Chhabra.

    Transcript by: Priyal Sharma, Pursuing B. A. (English Honors), JECRC University, Jaipur, Rajasthan.

    Compiled by: Deblina Hazra.

    Deblina Hazra is a student, and has completed her masters in English and Culture Studies.  She is an artist, her interests revolves around the field of comics and poster painting. She is also a writer and an orator, and her pursuits are in the field of creativity. She is inspired by Dr. A.P.J Abdul Kalam’s Wings of Fire, Sheldon’s The Other Side of Me, Tagore’s Jibansmriti, Joyce’s Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man, Fielding’s Tom Jones, Beckett’s Waiting for Godot and many others. Much of her reading time is spent on researching Comics and its theories, mythological stories and Pattachitra art. She engages herself in discovering the scholarly genius in the writings of McCloud, Lynda Barry and Art Spiegelman.

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