When Sushant Singh Rajput visited his ancestral place in Bihar in May last year, his villagers would keep asking him to play Mahendra Singh Dhoni’s famous helicopter shot, which he had perfected onscreen in the former Indian cricket team captain’s biopic.
Portraying Dhoni in director Neeraj Pandey’s widely-acclaimed M. S. Dhoni: The Untold Story (2016), Sushant learnt to replicate many of the cricketer’s trademark shots, including helicopter shots, during its shooting. It was one role which remained etched in the memories of the residents of his ancestral Maldiha village in Purnia district, like millions of his and Dhoni’s admirers. It was not surprising that he was requested to demonstrate the helicopter shot when he joined a few local youths to play cricket on a village field during his visit last year.
Sushant, one of the brightest young Bollywood stars who died by suicide at his Bandra residence in Mumbai on June 14, had come to the land of his forefathers 13 months ago. He had also gone to the native Bouranya village of his mother in Khagaria district to fulfil a long-pending wish of his maternal grandmother. According to villagers, Sushant’s maternal grandmother had prayed upon his birth that he would get his mundan (tonsure) ceremony performed at a famous temple there. Since his mother had passed away in 2002, he had come to both the villages for the first time. During his visit, his villagers say, he met people without any inhibitions, roamed about the agricultural fields and climbed atop trees in a mango orchard to relive his childhood. He also mingled with some youngsters who were playing cricket – with no starry attitude or tantrums at all. While he was batting, he was requested to demonstrate the helicopter shot, which he happily tried. Before returning, he promised to his villagers that he would come back to his roots soon, but it turned out to be his last visit.
A pall of gloom has descended on both the villages ever since the news about his death under unfortunate circumstances came. The villagers are finding it difficult that a jovial and ever-smiling son-of-the-soil who had done their village and the state proud with his acting skills without any godfather had gone away in the prime of his youth. It also pains them to realise that his promises would never be fulfilled now.
During his brief stay, Sushant had told the villagers that he wanted to start a school for girls at Maldiha. He had also expressed his desire to visit Aurahi Hingna, the ancestral place of Phanishwar Nath Renu, the legendary Hindi writer of Maila Anchal fame, near Forbesganj in Araria district soon. His villagers regret the fact that his body could not be brought home from Mumbai for his last rites because of the coronavirus pandemic.
The Rajiv Nagar locality in Patna, where his father K.K Singh lives, also wears a gloomy look over Sushant’s demise. The actor was initially a student of St. Karen’s School in the Bihar capital, where he had made a mark as a bright student with special interest in science subjects. After class X, he had moved to Delhi where he secured admission to Delhi College of Engineering. Even though he had secured the seventh rank in the entrance examination, he left the four-year B.Tech course midway to pursue his dreams in the entertainment industry in Mumbai. From reality shows and daily soaps, he graduated to Hindi cinema with Kai Po Che! In 2013 and went on to establish himself as a young star with the commercial and critical success of the Dhoni biopic.
His old friends still recall his abiding interest in cricket. He used to play the game every evening at a vacant plot near his house. He also nurtured a dream to play cricket with his left hand. At that time, nobody knew that his cricketing experience would one day come in handy for him while portraying a legendary cricketer like Dhoni on screen. And that he would do it with such perfection that he would be asked repeatedly to play the helicopter shots off it every time he lifted the willow in his real life.
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