The death of the Bollywood actor Sushant Singh Rajput, who came to prominence in romantic hero roles in film and television, has resulted in an outpouring of remembrances in India from leaders and actors alike. On Twitter, Prime Minister Narendra Modi called Rajput “a bright young actor gone too soon.” Ekta Kapoor, a television producer who was credited with launching Rajput’s television career, posted an emotional video tribute. And Rajput’s idol, the actor Shah Rukh Khan, wrote, “I will miss him so much.”
Rajput’s death, which Mumbai police are investigating as a suicide, has also resurfaced the debate over the country’s stigma against mental health, as well as the industry’s rampant nepotism and treatment of “outsiders” — Rajput made his way up in the industry without being related to any other filmmakers, actors and producers, a common reality for many. The actress Deepika Padukone, who has been open about her experiences with depression, has tweeted daily reminders this week that depression is an illness, and urged the media to be sensitive in covering Rajput’s death.
In his relatively short career, Rajput rose from background dancer to leading man. Here are some of his best performances.
During a brief stint on the daily soap opera “Kis Desh Mein Hai Meraa Dil,” Rajput caught the eye of the show’s producer Kapoor, who asked him to audition for “Pavitra Rishta.” After seeing his screen test, Rajput later recalled, Kapoor told him, “I will make you a star.” In 2009, Rajput landed the lead role in the daily Hindi-language soap opera adapted from a Tamil-language show, “Thirumathi Selvam.” He played Manav Deshmukh, a car mechanic who falls in love with Archana Karanjkar (Ankita Lokhande). The show details their relationship in the face of familial and societal pressure.
“Pavitra Rishta” is available to stream on Zee5 in India.
“Kai Po Che!”
Rajput marked his Bollywood debut with this 2013 film. Based on the novel “The 3 Mistakes of My Life” by Chetan Bhagat, the story centers on three friends who open a sporting goods store and cricket academy. Rajput stars as Ishaan, an avid cricket fan turned coach who spots and vigorously trains a budding cricket prodigy. Set in Ahmedabad, India, the story takes place against the backdrop of the 2001 Gujarat earthquake and the sectarian riots set off by a train fire in the state in 2002, with the sociopolitical turmoil upending the trio’s friendship. Rajput received a Filmfare Award nomination, a coveted honor in the Hindi-language film industry of India. Taran Adarsh, a film critic, said in his review of the film that Rajput was “blessed with wonderful screen presence.”
“Kai Po Che!” is available to stream on Netflix.
“Shuddh Desi Romance”
In this 2013 romantic dramedy, Rajput stars as a man who runs from an arranged marriage on the day of his wedding. He eventually falls in love with Gayatri (Parineeti Chopra). Then, on their wedding day, she runs away, repeating the cycle. The film was seen as a progressive take on India’s values around dating and marriage, and Rajput was praised for bringing “freshness” to the role.
“Shuddh Desi Romance” is available to stream on Amazon Prime Video.
“M.S. Dhoni: The Untold Story”
Rajput starred in this 2016 film as Mahendra Singh Dhoni, the former captain of the Indian national cricket team. The story follow’s Dhoni’s rise from his childhood in Ranchi, India, and his early jobs, including as a ticket collector, capturing how he fell in love with the sport along the way. Dhoni is credited with leading India to its 2011 World Cup victory — a pursuit that is central to the film. “M.S. Dhoni” became one of the highest-grossing Bollywood films of its year, and Rajput’s performance netted him several award nominations.
“M.S. Dhoni: The Untold Story” is available to stream on Hotstar.