Hrithik Roshan: Phenomenon

Published On: 2012-11-24

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By: Faud Omar


Hrithik Roshan is all set to dominate the box office with his new film Krrish which releases on Friday (June 23). Having broken the mould so many times over and having an eclectic set of films which have shown him as a conventional leading man, friend, boy-next-door, terrorist, dude, autism-struck youth and even an army officer, Hrithik is undoubtedly one of Indian cinema’s greatest assets. His new film is the sequel to Koi Mil Gaya which allowed him to deliver a unique performance as a mentally challenged youth who is visited by an alien and granted special powers. If dreams are inspiration for films then Rakesh Roshan’s Koi Mil Gaya was the ultimate sci-fi experience, where audiences got to meet an alien, be taken into his life, connect with their inner child and experience the exhilaration of overcoming everyday obstacles that plagued a young man’s path. Now, with Krrish, filmmaker Rakesh Roshan is set to continue the story through telling how the son of Hrithik’s previous incarnation discovers his powers and becomes a superhero.


All of a sudden, Hrithik Roshan is back in the news. The man who every Asian recognises, has at one time or the other mimicked and has been a part of his craze at some point since Jan 2000 is still one of the most media savvy people around. The press hound him and write as much about him as they can, and even sell magazines by just plastering his face on the cover, and in a short span of time he arrived on the scene, caused hysteria and became a target of the expected ‘Does he live up to the hype’ articles.


When Kaho Na Pyaar Hai released no one could ignore the hunky demi-god whose posters were everywhere in a tight tee shirt and dark glasses, flexing his bicep-bulging arm around another newcomer, Amisha Patel. There was much industry scepticism, could a newcomer really make it in an age of established heroes, and if not what would happen when the current crop of actors decided to take it easy for a while? A lot of hopes were pinned on the pair since their launch vehicle was from a respected hit-filmmaker and they looked fresh. Rakesh Roshan even stated at the time, “I hope the audience accepts them because the industry needs new blood,” which he said not only as a father, but as a filmmaker. The pre-release campaign began with lilting tunes highlighted in the promos, set to a backdrop of scenes showcasing what was to be a visual treat: Rakesh Roshan had gone out of his way to make sure he had a polished product that was aesthetically pleasing and the care in lighting, camera angles and even colour co-ordination is there for all to see.


The film drew hoards and what was dubbed as ‘overnight success’ meant the film and its stars were a craze not only in their hometown, but across the world. As Hrithik himself told me, all it took was the moment the audience accepted him to change his life, and that was one moment he would never forget:


“I entered the theatre with everybody and some people recognised me and said ‘hey you’re the actor in the film!’ and I was like ‘yeah’ and they were like ‘all the best’ and I just said ‘thank you’. I entered with them and sat with them. And when the film got over there was a stampede, I was mobbed. They had to call the police force, there was a crowd of thousands outside the theatre and the next show got cancelled and delayed. They could not get me out of the theatre and they had to call guards and pull me out because there were people everywhere.”


Every time he tells this story his eyes glaze with that soft light that shines in the film and he recounts it as though he was a third person at the scene, in disbelief at what was happening.


“And I couldn’t get out of the place, they had to call people there and put me in a different car and just whisk me away. I was with my friends and I kept asking them ‘What’s this? What’s happening? Is this normal? Does this happen with everybody? What’s this?’ and we were all stunned and they didn’t know what to tell me, they just said ‘Yeah this is good, just enjoy yourself!’ and I didn’t know what to make of it. It was like instant fame. Three hours. That’s all it took to change my life. Just three hours.”

He still can’t believe it and still thanks God for that moment which is one few are blessed with.

Hrithik and Amisha became stars and immediately the suitcases of neatly-packed training they had endured and given everything to over the past few years were ceremoniously ignored by anyone who wrote about them. “OVERNIGHT SENSATION!” screamed newspapers as though this man had just walked into a film, been shot well and was handed a label that said star. Hrithik was not amused.





Getting used to the media invasion that follows stars is never easy. If you’re shy, you can’t be anymore. You’ll sometimes have to meet a stranger and let them ask you questions you’re totally unprepared for and if you fumble or can’t deliver a near-perfect quote in the first instance it will be held against you. Try it. Another extremely popular Indian film journalist and myself often play the game where we interview each other and endure being on the receiving end of a good grilling and it’s never easy coming up with quotable answers. There’s a saying that the sweet isn’t as sweet without tasting the sour and Hrithik was made to go through what would probably be the most difficult period of his life. His film was a phenomenal hit which was great, overnight he became the biggest thing his country had seen but that also meant he no longer had a private life nor could he go out anywhere without being mobbed: his freedom was exchanged for fame. Things took an ugly turn when his father was shot and that too because his hard work paid off and his film was a success, by people who have still to this day not been caught. Hrithik kept a bedside vigil and even contemplated giving up acting altogether because the price and stakes are too high when family is involved, but he found the strength to get through and not let the bad guys win. His personal tragedy stole the limelight from him, not allowing him to fully process the success of his film and what this meant, and soon he found himself cringing when every magazine cover would put him on the cover for no rhyme or reason and TV shows where he appeared asked the viewer ‘Can you handle it?’ if they showed you Hrithik Roshan every ad break. What followed KNPH was not only a media circus but an explosion and only casualty-toll was personal.


Hype surrounded whatever the megastar would do and he was called everything from the next Amitabh Bachchan to being reported as giving Shah Rukh sleepless nights, but he took everything in his stride. He told me on the sets of Kabhi Khushi Kabhie Gham:


“I knew it was just not the truth. Luckily for me I had the intelligence to know that what was going on was irresponsible and dishonest, because they (the press) were putting me up to levels of experienced persons in the business when I had just started with my first film, and even in that I wasn’t that good.”


His next release was Khalid Mohammed’s Fiza which meant the actor would be shot by none other than the technically brilliant Santosh Sivan and share screen time with greats such as Karisma Kapoor and Jaya Bachchan. Despite a widespread and very clear division of the audience the film proved what Hrithik’s detractors feared: he was not a one hit wonder and could not only act, but act very well. His sensitive yet volatile performance as Aman, the son who can no longer distinguish between right and wrong and seeks his own brand of justice won him accolades over, despite many taking out personal vendettas against Khalid’s film due to his years of film criticism. The film saw Hrithik delivering a mature performance that no one expected, and to an extent this worked against him with the younger audience. The children who went to see Fiza didn’t understand or want to see their favourite actor angry or crying, they only wanted to see him laugh, dance and be the ‘hero’. The film achieved mediocre success but echoed its points through and through, reaffirming its stars mastery of their art in the process. Mission Kashmir was released among a lot of hype that brought it into a clash with Aditya Chopra’s Mohabbatein and many sections of the press saw this as the chance to live out their Shah Rukh vs Hrithik fantasies as the two films released on the same day. Mission Kashmir is powerful, got a good response and is Vinod Chopra’s most financially rewarding film to date, yet any talk of the film would be in the same breath as a comparison with the success of Mohabbatein and so once more Hrithik’s growth as an actor was suppressed as the box office returns of the two films dominated the dailies. Many say Hrithik should have stuck to hero roles for a while, but to pass up the opportunity to work with filmmakers with a vision and that too in a role that is challenging is a sacrifice of a chance that doesn’t come round twice.


In 2001 Hrithik had just two releases, one was the forgettable Subhash Ghai film Yaadein which for whatever reasons had bad editing, a wafer thin screenplay and banked more on its stars than its content, and Kabhi Khushi Kabhie Gham. Yaadein’s failure at the box office was not a setback for Hrithik although many took it as the end of his career, because as an artiste he performed as he was asked to and even stole certain scenes. K3G is the next phenomenon in Hrithik’s life and whereas many have tried to criticise his decision to be in such a huge canvas and take on such a role, the film and his contribution to it worked. He held screen time with stalwarts of Indian cinema and contributed to some of the most moving scenes seen on celluloid and is proud of the result.


Hrithik’s next few films were the forgettable Aap Mujhe Achchey Lagne Lage, Na Tum Jaano Na Hum which again did not set the box office on fire and Kunal Kohli’s Mujhse Dosti Karoge which suffered at the hands of many factors, none being the actors. Every actor during his career goes through a lean phase, but for Hrithik these films are just the teething pangs that he missed out on when he began his career, and there is no lean phase to speak of. When he goes out, he’s still the most photographed and adored star, and overseas in the UK all his films have done enough business to enter the UK box office top 20 in their opening weekends, including Aap Mujhe Achchey Lagne Lage, meaning he still holds that pull and loyal fan base some magazines would have you believe he’s lost. Anyone who witnessed his first world tour will testify to his electrifying live performances as arguably being the best by any actor of our generation. He set the stage on fire time and again, venue after venue and night after night in what became a gruelling schedule, all without a whimper of a complaint. After being re-introduced to him backstage he gave me a huge hug and told me he was a fan of mine and he had been reading my work. That single moment I was speechless and I felt humbled like never before. Here was the world’s biggest superstar at this point in time, about to go on stage and create hysteria for the umpteenth time and backstage he was confessing to be a fan of my work. I can’t even find words to describe what that feels like.


Hrithik’s professionalism, dedication to living up to his fans expectations and genuineness are all not only signs of his humility, but exactly who he has been even before he entered the film industry. I first met him in 2001 and two years later every time I meet him he is as warm, as affectionate and looking better by the day.


His work in Sooraj Barjatya’s film Main Premi ki Deewani Hoon got him praise despite the other failings of the film and Koi Mil Gaya did great business, re-energised movie merchandising and allowed Hrithik to give the performance of a lifetime which earned him not only public and critical acclaim but also many awards.



Hrithik Roshan is not only a sensation of Indian cinema that has just completed one phase of his career but he is also someone many have yet to get under the skin of. There’s so much more to the man than what’s written about him. His love for his father shone through when he spoke of him in awe and catch him in between shots singing songs or posing for photos with fans and that’s what’s not written about. His dedication to his wife and the way he dotes on her like it’s the first time they’ve seen each other after a long time, even if it’s only been a few hours.


With the release of Krrish, it seems Hrithik is set to take centre stage once again as the film carries phenomenal pre-release reports and Hrithik himself is looking amazing. India’s first superhero film with internationally led action sequences is the first of its kind. Prepare for hysteria once again, Hrithik is back on the big screen and it’s an exciting time for filmgoers everywhere.


Krrish releases worldwide on June 23 2006.


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