The late Sushant Singh Rajput‘s filmography is full of earnestness. Every character he played, every grimace had a certain dignity to them. When he was being interviewed by us for FC Unfiltered, he interrupted the audience question-and-answer to ask Anupama Chopra “I want you to tell me the fundamentals you think are important that you use to read a film.” Here was an actor who wasn’t just invested in his own craft, but also curious to find out how it works from the other side. His performances shone with sincerity and to honour his brief but memorable body of work, our writers picked five favourite Sushant Singh Rajput moments on screen.
The bus scene from Shuddh Desi Romance
Raghu (Sushant) and Gayatri (Parineeti Chopra) are in a stuffy Volvo bus on the way to a wedding where they are hired baaratis. It doesn’t take long for Raghu to start making moves on Gayatri and he’s terrible at it. He starts by talking about having second thoughts about his own engagement and then suddenly suggests that he and Gayatri would make great partners some day. When she says ‘Chance toh nahi maar rahe?’ he argues that a man with a lame name like Raghuram Sitaram can never have ill intentions. ‘Mujhpe nahi toh naam pe toh bharosa karo?’ he pleads. The innocence and slight diffidence with which Sushant delivers the line made me laugh out loud. – Mohini Chaudhari
The introduction scene from Detective Byomkesh Bakshy
The introduction of the hero is as non-heroic as it gets. The first mention of Byomkesh comes only about five minutes into the movie, with a character saying, “Muh kholta hai toh man karta hai muh tod du.” We see him out of frame, his face obscured by the hanging bulb, close-ups of his hands at the carrom table. None of what we need to know about the character comes from how he looks, it’s in his simultaneously incisive yet disinterested answers. There’s no bluster there, just quiet confidence. When he analytically rattles off four situations a character’s missing father could’ve landed himself in, the earlier line transforms into a sort of self-fulfilling prophecy – he gets punched. – Gayle Sequeira
The opening stretch of MS Dhoni: The Untold Story.
Not a big scene per se, but it’s a critical moment for the audience’s suspension of disbelief of buying Sushant Singh Rajput as Mahendra Singh Dhoni for the next 3 hours. And something is right about it, about the body language, about the way he moves within the dressing room, has that quick exchange with Gary Kirsten. At first we don’t see his face, just a view from the back of him watching the match on the television set. The hero’s entry shot. Dhoni is thinking, getting ideas, of reshuffling the batting line-up and taking a daring call: he will go out to bat when the next wicket falls instead of Yuvraj, who’s already got his pads on. And then he sets into motion, calm yet fidgety, raring to go, responding to the call of duty. Rajput walks down the hallowed steps of the dressing room onto the field as chants of ‘Dhoni, Dhoni’ fill the atmosphere, and we believe in him. Game on. – Sankhayan Ghosh
Qaafirana from Kedarnath
‘Qaafirana’ from Kedarnath (2018) is love in motion. It starts off with Mansoor Khan’s (the late Sushant Singh Rajput) indifference towards Mandakini (Sara Ali Khan), one that stems from fear of loving an upper-caste Hindu woman, and morphs into beauty- she perfuming herself for him, and him decorating his horse for her- and shared warmth, literally, the splitting the warm chai in the cold evenings of Uttarakhand. In the last moments of the song, when the love is culminating, he looks away as he sips the chai from the glass she sipped seconds ago. He is shy, he is happy, but he must not show either. He looks away, blushes, looks down, composes himself, and becomes steely. It’s all so effortless and charming, like love, and Sushant Singh Rajput himself. – Prathyush Parasuraman
Making a child smile in Sonchiriya
There were more dramatic scenes in Sushant Singh Rajput’s film career, but a quiet moment during the existential chaos of Abhishek Chaubey’s Sonchiriya has stayed with me. The “good” dacoits, led by Lakhna (Sushant), are on the run with a woman (Bhumi Pednekar) and a sick little girl. Late at night, Lakhna notices that the girl can’t sleep. He drops his gruff baghi avatar for a minute, and to amuse her, shows her a terrible magic trick with his hands. We see Sushant from her point-of-view: The camera tits a bit, his head tilts with it. The context: Lakhna is still haunted by his children-killing accident. During this trick, he manages to be both playful and haunted: we can sense that her presence is hurting him, but this act is his salvation. – Rahul Desai