The director admits that he did cut off from his friends in the last couple of years. “But he reconnected with everyone in the end. We didn’t see any red flag in that. He told Mahesh that he was proud of what we did in the past and wanted to work together as actors again. While I was speaking the last time, I had an enquiry for him for a deal as most people think I still worked with him. He told me he would do it and said to connect with some member from his team,” said Kushal, who also dismissed reports that stated that Rhea took all the decisions. He said, “From my experience of having shared a flat with him, I can tell you that nobody could control Sushant. He was smart enough to take his own decisions.”
Kushal had posted about how vulnerable the actor was when #MeToo allegations were levelled against him. The director clarifies, “He didn’t have any godfather and on top of it, he was accused of something heinous for no fault of his. I was with him all the time on the sets of the film and within few hours, there were about 50 articles about him which disturbed him.” Were there people, who were trying to tarnish his image? Kushal said, “I don’t have any proof of who wanted to tarnish his image, but I told Sushant we should expose those who have done it. It is certain that they were successful people, who had a strong hold on media and planted these stories about him. He didn’t sleep for four to five days. We kept trying to contact Sanjana but couldn’t, she then posted a denial a few days later.”
Interestingly, Sushant’s diary makes a mention of a reputation management team. Talking about it, the actor’s former flatmate and director said, “He had worked hard to make that image and couldn’t tolerate a dent to his reputation by blind items and reports about things he had not done. These bigwigs of the film industry knew that he would get affected by these reports and played mind games with him.” When probed further about who those people were, Kushal said, “Succesful people in Bollywood and there is not one person, but there are many people who have done it.” So why did he leave Sushant’s house? The filmmaker said, “I got a four-month project in Goa, so I told Sushant about it and he told me to take it up.” Had Kushal not left Sushant, there could have been a possibility that the actor would’ve still been amongst us. “I also regret some time, but you know Mumbai life is fastpaced and everyone here needs to look after their own interests. Sushant was a successful person, had films and so many other things to do, so I thought I also have to do something for myself. I was definitely inspired by him,” he said.
There have been statements by Rhea that the late actor was halluncinating and it started after he saw a painting of Saturn. Kushal said, “I really don’t know Rhea. But yes, Sushant knew a lot about painters and paintings and astronomy. When I spoke to him, days before his death, he expressed desire to work together again. He said, ‘Bhai miss kar raha hoon. Chal phir se ek saath kaam karte hain’. He would message him once in three months, but never gave us a hint that he was in any kind of problem. He knew we were friends, who would’ve got him out of the situation.”
Since Kaushal’s association with Sushant has been for 13 years, he must know of Sandeep Singh too. “I really don’t know from where he has surfaced, claiming to be his close friend. The only connection I can see is that he was the CEO of Sanjay Leela Bhansali‘s company. I have seen him only once when Sushant was shooting a print ad. I have never heard his name from Sushant and he was never part of any of our get-togethers. I don’t know why he is making these claims,” said Kushal.
With speculation being rife about a foul play in Sushant’s death, Kushal said, “I really don’t know. My last interaction he sounded ekdum normal, aage kaam karne ki baat kar raha tha. Ramesh Taurani had also spoken to him for a film on June 13. I have also spoken to Rameshji about it and he was to sign his film. The next day you hear about his death, so one cannot digest the fact that he will commit suicide. Someone who was looking forward to working and meeting with someone, cannot do what has been said about his death so far.”
The director recently participated and signed a petition seeking installation of the actor’s statue at Madame Tussauds. “I am happy as he deserves it. He was a big inspiration for outsiders who looked up to him,” said Kushal, adding, “He was the only TV actor to rise to become a superstar in films after Shah Rukh Khan and I know there are others who tried but have been able to acquire his level of success, so he definitely deserves a place there.”