Dear Sushant,

From the day you played the ever smiling, kind and hard-working Manav Deshmukh on the show “Pavitra Rishta,” like the millions of people in India, my mother and I took you into our hearts, as we believed that you were one of our own. For people like us, you were the starry eyed boy from Patna, who had this inanely endearing persona who was extremely talented yet never arrogant in his demeanour, who acted and danced like sheer magic yet who was fascinated about topics ranging from quantum physics to cognitive science, astronomy to behavioural economics.

You were the star of our eyes, the one who had dared to follow his dream into the colourful and complex world of Indian cinema despite being the 7th rank holder in AIEEE and a National level Physics Olympiad winner. You were not the average good-looking Bollywood hero who didn’t know a world beyond his ego bubble. Unlike them, you had a universe of ideas in your brilliant mind. You were the stargazer, tracing the rings of Saturn through your sophisticated telescope from the balcony of your sea-facing Bandra home. Unlike your peers who were busy furnishing their homes on earth, you created a permanent place for yourself on the moon from the International Lunar Lands Registry. You extended your love for astronomy by even sponsoring a field trip to NASA for two teenagers. You even arranged for a surprise star gazing session for your fellow actors during the shoot of Sonchiriya by transporting your huge telescope all the way to Chambal from your Bandra home. Your love for astronomy, philosophy and quantum physics translates in your social media handles where your bio reads, “Photon in a double-slit” and your Twitter cover picture is a picture of Vincent van Gogh’s Starry Night.

The stars that you chased with your telescope came to life in the twinkle of your eyes each time you winked, smiled, spoke or even dozed off in your movies and interviews. Yet, behind your childlike smile, charming dance moves and spectacular acting was an unpretentious intellectual who even started a social book club ‘@intoxillectual‘ where you inspired bibliophiles across the world to share their thoughts and reading lists.

You read everything from philosophy by Jean-Paul Sartre and Nietzsche to the poetry of Ralph Waldo Emerson, Nida Fazli and many others, diving deep into astrophysics and predicting trends in emerging technologies. You had countless books; a projector and an amazing movie collection in the huge library at your Bandra home that had recycled furniture dabbled with random colors, almost like a reflection of your beautiful mind.

The fame, money and glamour of the film industry had not taken away the thrill of curiosity from you. Your curiosity was evident from the list of 50 dreams that you had shared on social media. It was the most fascinating to-do list I had ever come across with activities that ranged from playing a cricket match left-handed to charting trajectories of the Moon, Mars, Jupiter and Saturn for a week to painting aurora borealis to meditating in Kailash. This list had the elements of philanthropy, trees plantation, travel, music, astronomy, mathematics, sports, philosophy and other fascinating themes handwritten by you in colourful sketch pens on pieces of paper.

Your life is a testimony of the adventures of your dreams coming true. You fulfilled your dreams of ambidextrous archery, video game coding, visiting your prestigious alma mater, owning a purple Maserati car and above all, of winning the hearts of millions around the world.

You never stopped working hard. For someone who hadn’t ever picked up a cricket bat many times in real life, you would practise Dhoni’s now-iconic “helicopter shot” from dawn to dusk for months trying to perfect Mahendra Singh Dhoni’s playing style. You never missed out the subtleties of Byomkesh Bakshi’s walking style in the narrow by lanes of Kolkata nor did you miss out on living the character you portrayed on screen. You touched the veteran actor Manoj Bajpayee’s feet as a mark of respect and love during the shooting of the movie “Sonichiriya” and donated millions in the countless philanthropic initiatives.

As noted filmmaker Shekhar Kapur remarked that you were a “An old wise soul in a young restless body,” you used your social media handles as a medium to inspire your fans to learn about black holes, dark matter, ancient sciences, philosophy, poetry, fractals, good habits and an array of amazing topics unlike many of your fellow actors who use social media only to flaunt their well toned bodies.

Nothing robbed you of your authenticity. You didn’t become anyone else to please the world. You remained authentic to your brave dreams, your acting, dancing, stargazing, fitness, reading, and writing and above all in making us believe in our dreams. And that’s exactly what made you so special. In this make believe world, you were real.

You could walk into a movie set with a Astronomy book in your hand, you were busy contemplating the deeper meanings of life while the world around you was immersed in a cacophony of noises, you never were desperate to fit-in because, no matter what, you always stood out.

You will always remain our hero, whom we loved dearly both in reel and real lives. Incidentally, your next movie “Dil Bechara” is a Hindi remake of the famous book, “A Fault in our stars.” You were always unafraid to show us your faults, your imperfections, right from the first time we saw you on TV till the end of your journey on this earth, being your curious, authentic, lovable, kind and beautiful self.

We love you, Sushant, till eternity and beyond. You taught us to always be hungry for knowledge and to always keep looking for deeper meanings in our mundane everyday existence and that is your precious legacy.

Each time, I look onto the sky, I know, I will always find you, twinkling your way in our hearts. You will always be the brightest star we have ever known and that’s how we will remember you, forever.

A Stargazer