Golden Boy Hrithik

Published On: 2012-05-11

Author: Fuad Omar

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By Fuad Omar.

Hrithik Roshan is only two years old. 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. So what makes Hrithik tick and is he really Bollywood’s golden boy?

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 in 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 whisked 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 the 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 have not been caught. Hrithik kept a bedside vigil and even contemplated giving up actingaltogether 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. 

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 the '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 and a chance that doesn’t come round twice. 

In 2001 Hrithik had just two releases, one was theforgettable 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 then 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. Without taking from Karan Johar’s magnum opus, but focussing on the actor I’m writing about, Hrithik’s 'You Are My Soniya' is to this day one of the most downloaded dance songs since its release. The choreography gave the audience another chance to see the magic he can work when in Farah Khan’s capable hands and his performance was underrated as he moved the audience to tears when he entered his brother’s house in London for the first time and also gave his all to his character without taking too much from the film - so the balance was shifted. What he was asked to do he did with great success and achieving another milestone in his career. 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 new films are just around the corner.Aap Mujhe Achchey Lagne Lagereleased recently and saw him paired opposite Amisha once more and Na Tum Jaano Na Humis gaining quite a following and promises to give Esha the break she deserves. Hrithik is currently in London shooting for Kunal Kohli’s Mujhse Dosti Karoge and is gearing up for his first world tour which fans complain is long overdue and sees him hit the UK in June (again, details correct at time of press). His work in Sooraj Barjatya’s film Main Premi ki Deewani Hoon is apparently mindblowing and he has no inkling of tiring soon. A book ‘inspired’ by him entitled Bollywood Boy releases this year and he is already being touted as a legend. So is Hrithik on his way out? No way. When I first met him I told him I may one day write a book on him but I felt it was too early at this stage because his growth would be steady and one that would see many more milestones. I’ve constantly smiled at allegations of him being a legend already because I know his journey has only just completed its first phase and there’s so much more in store for him. So what makes Hrithik tick? - His drive, his dedication, his family and his wife. 

Meeting Suzanne is definitely one of the memorable experiences I’ve had. The minute she talks to you her sweetness shines through. When she arrived on the sets of K3G as the scene when Hrithik is telling Jugal he is leaving to meet his two girlfriends, she loved being there. Watch Hrithik and you know he still can’t take his eyes off her. Even while watching the rushes of some scenes or getting his outfit ready his eye is always on Suzanne to make sure she’s ok and it’s honestly one of the sweetest things to see. He is completely in love with her and she with him and it shows. 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. Is Hrithik Roshan Bollywood’s golden boy? I don’t know, but I know one thing: he’s here for a very long time.