Bollywood Boy

Published On: 2012-01-02

Author: unknown

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Justine in Fantasyland

By: A Mid Day Correspondent 
March 5, 2002

Justine Hardy and Hrithik Roshan

So off I went to Fantasyland, a very pink book under my arm, a pink shirt to match "very Chanel" in my dreams.

And Fantasyland was as fantastic as mosquitoes at twilight and Kaho Naa Pyaar Hai-on-loop under flashing neon lights can be. A night shoot for Vikram Bhatt's latest "Aap Mujhe Pyaar Dil Kissi-Wissi Pappi Hai "

I am still criminally bad at getting my head around titles more than two syllables long 'Raaz' - now why couldn't he have been nice and simple like that again? So, it's a dance number and the lads are hotting up when a canoe of a Mercedes rolls up, and that boy uncurls out of the back, a study in exhaustion and denim, and into his caravan he pops. And I pop right in after him.

"Wow," he says, and Wow again and again as I put the very pink book in his hands. Enthusiasm has to be the greatest compliment. A bit of baad-cheet - and then he asks for a few minutes to change from denim into denim. So I jiggle outside while the mosquitoes and dance-boys do their bit.

Out he comes and into the light where we sit in flashlight and smile into exploding darkness.

"I'll read it soon and get back to you with what I think," says the ek pal ka jeena boy with pale tired eyes. "And when will you have time to read it in your warp speed life?" I ask.

"On planes, I'll read it on planes." And he waves as the choreographer calls.

He disappears into the crowd of people all trying to get a piece of him. As I did.

Thank you filmi star boy.


Excerpts from Justine Hardy. Bollywood Boy, John Murray Ltd. Great Britain. 2003
Typed by Sana Mirza

Welcome to Bollywood...

So there’s this fat man, a huge black afro wig and a dildo, and they’re bouncing up and down on this big bed ... together...

This is studio city, a fantasy fodder factory, the Bombay based film capital of the Indian subcontinent. Here every year the Hindi film industry pumps out twice as many pictures as Hollywood to satisfy the romantic cravings of its billion strong audience, from the mobile wielding middle classes who sit in the air-conditioned comfort of big city cinemas, to the villagers transfixed by dancing images flickering on a dusty courtyard wall.

Enter Hrithik Roshan, new idol of the silver screen, seducing both the industry and the women of India in a flurry of triceps and biceps, tight T-shirts and slick dance moves.

Bollywood Boy follows Hrithik’s meteoric rise through the celluloid firmament. It could be straight from one of the film industry’s own big budget blockbusters, with its heroes, heroines, villains, exotic locations, a cast of thousands, myriad costume changes and highly charged bop-de-bop dance routines. And like any good cinerama drama, there is the big chase scene as Justine tries to track down the man behind the hype, the hysteria and the silver disco suits.

But there is a dark side to all this, the moment when the lights go out and the hero stumbles the moment in Bollywood when people die because they have not played by the underworld code. For beneath the glittering surface of India’s tinsel town luck shady racketeers who use the film industry to make serious black money in Bombay the underworld is king. Welcome to Bollywood.


“‘Bullshit, man it’s Hrithik!’ she said as she finally managed to form real words.

I hoped up on the bar to get a better view.

A young man was swinging up the steps away from the back of a very long, very low, very black car. He stopped outside the bar and turned back for a moment, waiting. He was wearing a light blue leather T-shirt sprayed on to a landscape of muscle, curved and polished like the bonnets of the cars in the street below. His long legs were wrapped in black jeans. Everything clung. He stood on the step, animal shy, animal sprung, his gym-tones body poised for flight.

‘Is that…?’ I put my hand on Perfect Face’s arm to try and get her attention.

She cut me off with a wild-eyed _expression. ‘It’s Hrithik!’

‘Is he really that hot?’

‘You’re kidding me,’ she gasped. ‘Hrithik’s it!’ and the silence of the church fell on the hottest bar in Colaba as Hrithik Roshan, Bollywood’s newest and brightest, a one film wonder, the first real box-office challenge to the heart-throb hero stranglehold of the Khan boys, waited outside, not quite sure how to make his entrance.

‘Ohmigod, ohmigod, ohmigod, it’s Salman,’ Perfect Face screeched…

Another body emerged from behind Hrithik…Salman Khan…

He bounded up the steps to where Hrithik was waiting, and as he bounded his shirt flew open for all to see. Hrithik looked at the ground in front of him. Salman kept full eye contact with everyone in the bar…

Salman put his hand on Hrithik’s shoulder. He has to reach up a little. Hrithik is tall.

Then the green-eyed boy lifted his head, turned and looked straight at me.

Welcome Bollywood, city of dreams and dance routines. I am looking into film-star eyes. I am in the movies.”


“The Non-Resident-Indian accounts manager introduced herself and joined our discussion…

‘Hrithik Roshan is a very beautiful man. I have seen the film ten times because I like to watch him. He looks to me like Jesus Christ….’

I was surprised by her comparison.

‘I am converted. Everyday of my schooling I was looking at Jesus Christ. He was the first star for all of us convent girls.’…

At the table beside me, wriggling on a red plastic chair in tight Capri pants, Anu was ordering a cold coffee with extra whipped cream at the same time running over Hrithik’s finer points with her friend Rani…

‘I like his biceps, I like the way his lower body moved. I like his hands, his long fingers. I’m sure they feel good.’ Anu looked dreamily into her cold coffee, winding her fingers though her thick ponytail. ‘Maybe he looks a little effeminate I don’t think that is a bad thing. Overall, he’s hot.’ Anu straw went deep into the cram on her coffee.

Rani did not need to pause for thought.

‘He’s shy and inhibited-a great change from the shorty Khans. God, you know, I really could eat him. But, there’s also something vulnerable about him that makes you feel all over-protective. I could take him home for some filmi fundas,’ she said as she sucked long and hard on her straw…

‘Imagine, yaar, imagine being all on your own with him for an evening. Too good. What do you think his favourite kind of pizza is? Rani went on.

‘How do you know he likes pizza?’ Anu seemed a bit non-plussed.

‘There is a list of his favourite things on his website. He really likes Ferrero Rocher chocolates, black is his favourite colour, Jan 14 is his favourite date because that’s when Kaho naa…Pyaar Hai opened…’

‘Sure, I know, I just forgot about the pizza and stuff.’ Anu stabbed her straw up and down in her cold coffee.

I took notes of the Ferrero Rocher chocolates.

“Hrithik faced the press with a smile as wide as Chowpatty Beach and humility by the bucketful.

‘One fine day you get up and stop traffic. It’s hard to digest,’ he told a hard-nosed but weak-kneed news journalist from India Today. ‘My ears go red when I hear girls saying I’m sexy. Look at what I was like before all this, my legs were too thin, my torso too short. I have big ears which keep popping out, hair which never settles, a thin neck and a long nose.’

The female journalist from India Today begged to differ, but he batted away her protests.

‘I thought I might get pass mark,’ he said. ‘But now it is out of control. Where did my life go?’”


“Just before the opening of Kaho naa...Pyaar hai Papa Roshan decided to have a party to celebrate the launch of Hrithik, his golden boy, on the big screen. He picked a club, Fire and Ice, a new filmi favourite…a stranger came in to the club and made his way to where Rakesh was sitting. The stranger leant over and said he has a message form Bhai…Rakesh said nothing and continued with the party…

At the end of the party Rakesh drove home with his son. He told Hrithik not to go out without a driver, as a security measure. Hrithik laughed.

Three weeks later Rakesh Roshan was shot.

A few days after the shooting, Hrihtik was on se doing a big dance scene for his new film. One moment he was thrusting and grinding for the camera, the next his world collapsed as he caught sight of himself in a mirror.

‘I realized that this was crazy. My father was lying in hospital and I was dancing around like some kind of idiot.’

Hrithik announced that he would be leaving the industry.

Hundreds of journalists went gasping into editorial meetings.

No one did this kind of thing. No one left Bollywood just as they hit stardom.”


“I started to ring at about midday Bombay time. I was trying to get in touch with the ever-elusive Mr. Ashok, Hrithik assistant. By some quirk I got straight through.

‘Yaar,’ a voice snapped down the line.

‘Is that Mr. Ashok?’ I asked.

‘Who is wanting to know?’ he snapped again.

I reintroduced myself and told him that I was hoping to find out how Hrithik felt about Shah Rukh pricing up the big prize.

‘I have no comment to make.’

‘Could you just pass a message on to Hrithik to say that I called. Perhaps I could call back at a time that suits him?’

‘Not possible, he has a very tight schedule and is filming all day. We are in Udaipur. He is working all the time,’ Mr Ashok assured me.

I left my number just in case, not really expecting him to write it done.

The day went on…the phone rang. There was an empty echo on the other end, a delay.

‘Hello, hello,’ called a voice though the wind tunnel.

‘Hello,’ I shouted back.

‘Hello, hello,’ called the voice again.

‘Hello, can you hear me?’ I asked.

‘Hello, hello,’ called the voice again, the voice from Kaho Naa…Pyaar Hai.

‘Hello, please, can you hear me now?’ I cried out. My hands were sweating. I was shouting very loudly.

The line died.

I pressed the recall button maybe twenty times.

‘Hello, hello, hello…’

I dialled 1471 to try to get the number.

‘You were called at 2:43 p.m. We do not have the callers number to return the call.’

I slumped down beside the phone. So close, it had been so close. But he has tried to call me. Hrithik Roshan had tried to call me.”


“All the matriarchs in the beauty salons read the interview and sighed: ‘Such a lovely boy.’ And all the young girls who were in love with Hrithik drew moustaches and spots on pictures of Sussanne in the filmi magazines and picked holes in her dress sense with their fellow Hrithik-loving girlfriends.

I had been in Delhi the week that Hrithik decide to reiterate to his fans that Sussanne was the girl of his dreams, his forever woman…

“All very nice now, you know,’ she said wagging her finger at Hrithik’s cover shot on Stardust, his lightly haired chest gleaming from the top of a shiny T-Shirt, its’ sleeves rolled up to give maximum exposure to his biceps and triceps. ‘Nothing so nice for a lovely girl like her to have such a pretty young man all sweetheart on her.’ Mrs. Kanwar…spun the magazine around to give me a full view. ‘Lovely naar?’

‘Yes, he is very pretty.’

‘But what if he roams around a little?’ She tapped one of her nails on the picture again.

‘What do you mean?’

‘He is a man, yaar.’

‘Yes, I know. So what?’

‘So men are doing men’s thingies.’ Mrs. Kanwar tapped even more adamantly on Hrithik’s picture.


The salon went silent, waiting for Mrs. Kanwar to reply.

‘Kissing-wissing rubbish and all, don’t make me say these things. It is most embarrassing for me’ She flapped her hands in front of her face. ‘Too much, too much. To tell you very frankly, what I am saying is it’s nice and fine for him to play Mr.Clean and all, but what if he does men’s thingies with others and gets caught? Not so sweet Hrithik baby then, yaar?’…

“Do you think his girlfriend Sussanne is pretty?’ I asked a friend of mine’s fifteen-year old daughter. Mira had sworn lifelong devotion to Hrithik the day Kaho Naa…Pyaar Hai came out, along with half the girls in her class at school.

‘Pretty stupid.’ She scowled at me. How could I be so insensitive? How could I understand what it was like to be fifteen and in love with Hrithik Roshan almost to the point of hysteria every time his biceps put in an appearance?

‘Have you heard the story about how Hrithik and Sussanne met?’ I asked Mira.


‘Don’t you think it’s romantic?’

‘It is?’

‘Well, quite romantic, and don’t think it was a bit weird that it was repeated in the traffic-light scene in Kaho Naa…Pyaar Hai?’

‘I suppose,’ Mira was not going to give ground.

‘Apparently when Hrithik first read the scene in his father’s script he wanted him to take it out because he thought it was too personal.’

‘How do you know?’ suddenly Mira was interested.

‘Oh someone told me when I was last in Bombay.’

‘You know someone who knows Duggu’ she shot back?’, using Hrithik’s nickname.

‘I do.’

‘Have you met him?’ she was shouting now.

‘Not yet.’

‘So you mean you are going to?’ Now she was clinging to my arm, her fingers digging in deep.

‘It may take a while but I plan to.’

‘When when are you going to meet him?’ Now Mira was dragging me upstairs to her bedroom…’when you see him can you get him to sign a T-shirt for me?’…

‘I’ll try’, I muttered gracelessly.

Susanne Khan may not exactly have been the most popular girl in India, and Hrithik may have tested the devotion of Mira and her fellow millions, but they were still waiting for the release of his next film in a state of constant breathlessness…Fiza”


“This is the most terrible thing. She is not eating and has not done so since days. What day are we now?’ Her voice was trembling.

Dolly gave a rare contribution. ‘It’s Wednesday, I believe.’

‘Yes, you are right. So Sunday my poti, my granddaughter, is having just a little terrible pizza rubbish. …Now three days since she is not touching so much as adha puri, my special deep-fried chapatti, until she is allowed to and sit with her friends in line at the cinema to get tickets for this film that is opening.’ She rammed her hands into her bosom in grief.

Dolly wobbled in sympathy.

‘Tickets for Fiza?’ I asked.

‘Of course, what else is there that is making my poti starve and throw her books around like so much of this confetti?’

I too wobbled in sympathy.

‘What is it these filmi people want from our children? What example is this they set that makes them starve and throw their future away with their studies?’…

Fiza opened and Mrs Kanwar’s poti, my fifteen-year-old new best friend Mira and several million other budding fans were devastated.


“The fevered fans had reason to be devastated. Hrithik was not the star of Fiza. Worse, he was only on screen for about a third of the two-hour fifty-minute running time. This meant that the girls who loved him, the girls who has gone on homework and hunger strike to get tickets, were wriggling in their seats with indignation for almost two hours of Hrithik-less screen time…

The other dance number wisely added at the eleventh hour by the director had the female audience back on the edges of their seats. Hrithik performed a taandav, normally the speciality of the God Shiva when he is working up to a spree of mass destruction. But Shiva had never preformed like this. In Fiza, Hrithik set a new standard… The audience were ecstatic, but the critics failed to see what very elaborately choreographed physical jerks had to do with preparation for shooting two corrupt ministers with a long-range rifle...The audience did not agree. They were happy to dance with Hrithik every vicarious step of the way. The critics were just being picky. They hadn’t said that Sushmita’s dance routine was irrelevant to the plot. So why did they mind Hrithik being pumped up…one female columnist was brave enough to venture her opinion on print:

Just fine for all you men to drool over Sushmita Sen, but five the girls a bit of a look in with Hrithik doing the male version of the wet sari routine, and you get all hot under the collar and think it is unnecessary to the plot - and since when have our dance routines ever had anything to do with the plot? Come on you guys, stop being such insecure wimps.


I had not seen Mrs. Kanwar since her granddaughter had been on hunger strike over a Hrithik ticket.

‘Did your granddaughter get to see Fiza?’ I asked…

‘Yaar, and not just my poti. We all went.’

‘What did you think?’

‘Such a body naar.’ Mrs Kanwar scrunched her knees together like a little girl…

‘You really like all those muscles?’

‘Oh, lovely, lovely.’

‘What about the rest of the film?’

‘Mrs. Kanwar though for along moment.

‘Not so bad, perhaps a bit boring for a time.’

‘Which bit did you think was boring?’

‘Oh, maybe some of it in the middle,’ she replied evasively.

‘When Hrithik was not in it?’

She ignored my question and turned to Dolly…

‘I thought Karisma Kapoor was good.’ I said to Mrs. Kanwar.

‘Yaar, yaar, for sure. But Hrithik, what super acting, really talented. I think he has all the critic confounded with his emoting.’

‘He wasn’t really in it that much…’ I was stopped by Manoj…

‘What about Hrithik’s taandav. The big war-dance number?’ I asked Manoj.

He thought for a moment too long and Mrs. Kanwar jumped in.

‘Fantastic, such gymnastics, yaar. What about that thing when he ran up the wall?’ she clutched her keens again…

‘He would be huge in Paris if he came. I am told he does dance shows. It would be enorme, abosolument enorme. You know, they really like this boy/girl look he has.’

‘Boy/girl look-shook, what is this?’ Mrs. Kanwar rattles the control of her hair-dryer at Thierry.

‘See, look here. He has all these so huge muscles but he has a very pretty face, no?’ He held the cover for Mrs. Kanwar to see.

‘My poti would not feel so much for someone who is all girl-shirt.’ She makes a sound like a spoon being extracted from jelly.

‘What do you think of his hair?’ I asked.

Thierry flicked through the magazine. Mrs. Kanwar say under the dryer, fingers still twitching at the insult to Hrithik’s masculinity but evidently curious to hear Thierry’s professional opinion.

‘Very blocky, very big.’ Thierry pointed to a couple of pictures showing Hrithik with his hair indeed looking quite blocky and big, a sort of Bobby-Ewing-blowing-in-the-South fork-terrace-wind look. ‘I would take it much shorter and layer in some highlights.’ Thierry held the cover shot away from him at arm’s length and half closed his eyes. ‘Yes, it is too solid on his head, you know, how do you say?’

‘Like a helmet?’ I suggested

‘Absolument, like a helmet, you are right.’

I was relieved. Hrithik’s hair-do had been troubling me.

‘What is this rubbish? He has such lovely hair.’ Mrs. Kanwar crossed her arm and jutted her lip.”

“A few days before I left Delhi it was announced that Hrithik and Sussanne were going to get married in Bangalore at her father’s brand-new, all-singing, all-dancing, super-deluxe resort, Golden Palms. While I packed my bags for the lake city Sussanne was being spiralled with mehndi, the snaking henna patterning worn by a bride-to-be. We were reliably informed that she giggled right through the ceremony. As I took the first taxi ride to my journey, Sussanne’s parents, Sanjay and Zarine Khan, were apparently telling a filmi magazine all about Golden Palms.

Oh darlings, now we all know where to go when we are washed out and whipped. Sanjay and Zarine Khan have built just the perfect piece of paradise for Hrithik to marry his Sussanne! And no wonder he chose it, pussycats, because Golden Palms is just the very last word in Utopian comfort…

As I drove past the Shiva temples of Udaipur, their dark, erect lingams glowing with the patina created by millions of devoted hands, Sussanne was speeding around in a golf buggy, checking the preparations for her big night. Hrithik’s tiny granny was in the back, pinned in place by a gaggle of Sussanne’s shrieking handmaidens…

At Golden Palms, Hrithik rode across a garland ridge on a white horse to meet his bride. She shimmered in red and gold. He wore a turban of drifted now, a layered angarakha, a flowing shirt, waistcoat and topcoat the colour of pale doves’ wings, picked out in soft gold...He had been learning his lines. As the women of India held their breath, just in case he changed his mind, Hrithik turned to his mehendi-spiralled bride and looked deep into her eyes.

‘I, Hrithik Roshan, take you, Sussanne, to be my lawfully wedded wife, to have and to hold, for richer or poorer, in sickness and in health, until death do us part.’

A stunned audience of family and friends looked on. Sussanne was equally surprised. She had not expected to hear Christian alter vows. Fiddling with the garland of roses around her neck she replied, ‘Whatever you have said, I agree with and more.’

The audience sighed and her father, Sanjay Khan, stopped holding his breath. ‘She’s a clever kid, my girl,’ he told his son and wife, wiping his eyes as the bride and groom laughed and smiled at each other.

Most of the audience were in tears. The bride joined them, and her mother had to tickle her. ‘Stop crying, baby, or your make-up will be ruined.’

But there was no stemming the tears. They flowed full and free into the 135-metre lake-pool as the new Mr and Mrs Hrithik Roshan signed on the dotted line of the register. It was not a conventional wedding.

‘I have always loved the seriousness of church weddings. I would really like to have something small and dignified like that,’ Hrithik had said in an interview when his wedding plans had first come out. Small perhaps by Indian standards, just a few hundred.

‘If we had the wedding in Bombay we would have to call more than 10,000 people.’ Rakesh Roshan had told one journalist who had insisted that the wedding must surely be held in filmi city.

‘How many guests will you have to the wedding?’ another journalist had asked the bride’s mother.

‘Not as many as we would have liked to have. Ideally we would have liked to ask around 4,000 people, but we have had to restrict the guest list for security reasons.’

A combined guest list of 14,000 people were on the high side, even by Indian standards, and it was not what the bridegroom had in mind. Luckily for him, his instant stratospheric celebrity and the resulting security headaches had given Hrithik his wish- a drastically pruned guest list and the chance to marry Sussanne without the ritual fire-walking paraphernalia of a traditional Hindu wedding…. Several thousand kilometres away, Hrithik and Sussanne were taking to the floor beside their pool to the sound of hip-hop bhangra boy of the moment. Their light dinner was tastefully served at the table among delicate flower arrangements, very specially created by Ms. Neeta Parekh, the floral diva to the stars, and flown in from Bombay for the big event.

‘In the absence of photographers and outsiders, everybody was so relaxed that they had a great time,’ Rakesh Roshan told a journalist a few days after the wedding. ‘Everybody was dancing. In fact this must have been one of the weddings where the bride and bridegroom danced the most.’

The following day at Golden Palms Mr and Mrs Hrithik Roshan spent time with their families and friends, and Sussanne’s father gave her some private advice, a moment that he later apparently shared with the readership of Cine Blitz.

“I just said the same thing to her that I had said when were talking the night before the wedding. ‘Be like you mother has been with me. If Hrithik is angry don’t get angry too. Always support him if he is wrong, though, have the courage to tell him so.’ My wife did that. After three days I would realize she was right! Some wives have a tendency to agree with their husbands like sycophants and unwittingly destroy their marriages. Families break up and the kids suffer. I could see Sussanne taking this in, like a camera taking pictures.”

“The Roshan family had just flown back to Bombay from Bangalore, the scent of wedding flowers still fresh in their memories, the mehendi patterns still spiralling all the girls’ hands and feet.

Rakesh Roshan was woken early the following morning, the first morning of his son’s life as a married man He saw the papers, as he was getting ready to leave for a shoot in Tamil Nadu. He woke the young bridegroom and asked him if he has said anything against Nepal in his interviews. The bleary-eyed young star insisted that he has said nothing of the kind…Hrithik did what his father had advised. He made a televised statement pointing out that he has not even mentioned Nepal during the interview and that he had only affection for the country.

As he talked about the events that had followed so soon after his marriage his usual easy smile faded. ‘It had been such a happy time and then suddenly it was terrible. It was so like when Kaho Naa…Pyaar Hai opened. One day everything was the best, the next my father was in the hospital with a bullet wound next to his heart.’ Hrithik looked fragile, his eyes wide and lonely as he turned away from the camera.

The director of the interview was brave enough to stay with the silence that followed. Hrithik continued to stare into space off camera.

‘I will forever be conscious that there were four or five families in Nepal who will always associate me with the death of their children,’ he paused again, looking down at his lap. ‘That bothers me, it really bothers me.’

There was a cut to another subject. Then the smile was back in lace and the interview went on. But the backlash against Hrithik’s first meteoric year was only gathering momentum.”


“Mrs Kanwar huffed at me as she was popped into a chair and the assistant began to inset the usual huge pink hair-rollers.

‘Obviously Mrs Roshan is not a good mother, then. Look how thin Hrithik is.’ I pointed to the cover of Mrs. Kanwar’s copy of cineblitz.

Hrithik was gazing out from the cover in a silver leather jacket, its collar up, its short sleeves rolled back to reveal his biceps. The whole look was completed with tinted yellow sunglasses and gold leather trousers that seemed to hang off his narrow hips. He looked beautifully chiselled to me, but to the ladies of the school of gajari halwa, he was a shining example in leather of motherly neglect.

‘Too much of kissing-wissing.’ Mrs Kanwar pursed her lips and hissed.


We all stared at the oracle. For the first time in out long salon relationship Mrs Kanwar looked embarrassed.

‘You know this thing, you know.’ She waved her magazine at me. ‘This, this..’ She puffed and stabbed her fingers at Hrithik’s leather trousers. ‘You remember I was saying, how many months ago now?

Dolly and I were lost.

‘Saying what?’ I asked.

‘You know, how it was very nice and all for him having a pretty girlfriend but what would happen if he started doing men’s thingies and then getting caught. And see, see how right I was.’

‘Oh, you mean Kareena Kapoor.’

‘Yaar, and who all else we are not knowing as yet.’

‘So you think he is having an affair?’ I asked,

Mrs Kanwar shuddered and so did her curlers.

‘It is saying this is so in all the papers and magazines, so what else are we to think? Of course this is so. See, this is why he is so thin. What more proof are you requiring on this?’

‘Don’t you think perhaps he is just naturally thin and now even thinner because he has been working so hard?’

Mrs Kanwar looked at me.

‘Maybe this is it. Maybe your right.’ She looked at the cover shot again. ‘Gajari halwa, he needs some of my gajari halwa. Is this not so Dolly?’ She waved the picture of Hrithik at Dolly.

Dolly gave a wobbled yes.

‘See, Dolly thinks this is the case as well. Such a sweet, lovely boy.’

Mrs Kanwar loved Hrithik as a filmi mag reader, as a Bollywood fan, as a Punjabi matriarch who worried about his weight, but she also loved gossip. The question was how long could Hrithik command her unconditional love?

“Mrs Kanwar huffed at me as she was popped into a chair and the assistant began to inset the usual huge pink hair-rollers.

Mrs Kanwar loved Hrithik as a filmi mag reader, as a Bollywood fan, as a Punjabi matriarch who worried about his weight, but she also loved gossip. The question was how long could Hrithik command her unconditional love?


“I was on the sets of Yaadein, directed by Subhash Ghai, the showman and master of the masala movie at its frothy, shimmering and shimmying best.

I walked past the lolling groups and out on to the dusty lawn in front of the house. A stray dog was looking down into an empty swimming pool. Hrithik Roshan was sitting on the other side of the pool with two girls. They were all wearing sunglasses. The rest of the crew and cast were keeping away from them…

‘I have an appointment to interview Hrithik Roshan. It was arranged with Mr. Ashok.’ I was speaking too quickly. ‘He knows I’m coming.’

‘Sure, sure, no problem, just hang on.’ He has a faint American accent and he smiled at me. ‘I’ll go and check.’ He walked around the pool and leant over Hrithik’s shoulder.

Hrithik turned to look at me. I half raised my hand. He got up and hurried away towards the house, past the empty pool and the stray dog, a thin boy in a tight see-through T-shirt and the same tuff-on-terrain shoes that he had worn in Kaho Naa…Pyaar Hai.

The two girls who had been sitting with him also got up and walked back to the house without apparently noticing that I was there. I recognized one of them as Kareena Kapoor, the young actress who had supposedly been holed up in a hotel room in London with Hrithik during the early shooting of Yaadein. She looked beautiful but irritated…

Hrithik was sitting on one of the sofas with the same two girls he had been with when I arrived. They were all back in dark glasses. The girls were laughing, occasionally looking at me and whispering. Hrithik was concentrating on a tray that had been put in front of him. He was mixing one of his power shakes, stirring the pale green gunge with the end of a pen. He drank it in one go and shook his head. As he put the glass down he called one of the assistants and walked out into the garden.

The assistant came over to where I was still lurking under the arc-lights.

‘Hrithik has some time for you now.’ He said

I followed him out into the garden. Two chairs had been put beside the swimming pool, facing each other. Hrithik was at the end of the garden looking out over the beach. He walked back towards the chairs when he saw me coming out of the house and we sat down facing each other.

‘I’m Justine Hardy. I hope your assistant told you that I would be coming to see you?’

Hrithik took of his dark glasses.

‘Oh yes, of course, he did.’ He leant across to me with his hand held out. I shook Hrithik Roshan’s hand. He looked straight at me. I was staring into the face of a beautiful boy behind a mask of film make-up. I was staring into those eyes. Everyone describes them as green. They are not. They are soft hazel melting to dark brown, flecked with light, wide open and vulnerable. He smiles warily and we sat facing each other, he in tight see-through T-shirt, and me in a not quite-so-tight pink one. Hrithik looked down for a moment and then back up into my eyes. He was waiting for me to say something. He seemed confused but he smiled a tired, polite smile.

‘I’m sorry, have I come at a bad time?’

‘No. no, I’m sorry. I have to say I didn’t realize it was today. Would you like tea?’ He moved his chair towards me and winced as he did so.

‘Are you okay?’

‘Oh yaa.’ He smiled. ‘Actually I am just one big mass of injuries, bad knees, sore back. All this dancing, you see.’

‘I was with a dance teacher who said that you dance like Gene Kelly.’ Pinky Ali’s bit was in straight off.

‘That’s so nice but really just not true at all.’ He stretched out over the back of the chair. The position exaggerated the weight of his built-up shoulders and narrowness of his hips.

‘And the ladies at my beauty salon think that you are getting too thin.’

He started laughing.

‘You have a beauty salon? I thought you were a journalist.’

‘No, no, I just talk a lot to some ladies at my local beauty salon, and they all love you,’ I paused. ‘Very much.’

His laugh moved from polite to real.

‘Fantastic, perhaps they can give me some advice. I have so much of work and all this dancing, I cannot keep the weight on.’

‘Mrs. Kanwar makes very good gajari halwa.’

Hrithik pulled a face.

‘Just too much ghee, you know, I really hate all that grease. If your Mrs. Kanwar could make mishti doi, that would be a very different thing. I love that stuff.’ He paused for a moment at the thought of the creamy sweetened Bengali curd. ‘God, you know I really love that stuff. And you know this dance thing, I’m really not so good. I am going to get caught soon. I had so much time to prepare for the dancing in Kaho Naa…Pyaar Hai. Now there is just not that sort of time and everyone is going to see soon that I am just not so hot at all, that maybe I am just a really ordinary dancer.’ The tired, polite smile returned. ‘You know I am so tired all the time. I can’t remember not being tired.’

‘It’s a pricey game. I joined the women of India in wanting to protect him.


‘The cost to you, it takes a lot out of you.’ I was watching his hands tapping on his knees.

‘You know, I’m not so sure about this tar stuff.’ He looked away over my shoulder. ‘I just wonder what I would be like if it could all just stop and I could get on with learning to act.’ His fingers were drumming faster.

‘Yoga is good,’ I said.


‘Yoga is very good for dance injuries, tiredness, stress, well, for most things really.’

‘Is this so?’ His body softened into this chair.

‘It is.’

‘You must tell me more.’ His smile opened up and he looked straight into my eyes again. ‘Pink is a good colour for you,’ he said, pointing at my T-shirt.

I was back at Bar Indigo again and a year had disappeared. I was looking into those filmi-star eyes.

‘Because it matches my eyes?’ I peered down at my T-shirt, coming over all English in the face of a compliment from a megastar.

Hrithik laughed again, and those eyes flickered with light.

‘No, the eyes are blue, the same colour as this fantastic car I have. I love this colour.’ He laughed.

‘Is that the best thing about the fame, is that the biggest prize?’

‘Maybe it is, maybe’

‘Someone else asked me to ask you that.’

‘Your beauty salon friends?’

‘No, a man with a dog.’

‘Okay.’ He wrinkled his forehead and went on laughing.

‘What about screen kissing?’ I was running through my list.

He stopped laughing.


‘Will you do a real screen kiss at some point?’

Hrithik froze, the tips of his fingers pressed together in front of his mouth.

‘I was chancing my luck,’ I said apologetically.

‘Hey, no problem, no problem. You know we’re not really doing that kind of thing right now though.’ The light had left his eyes. He shifted in his chair. I had departed from the script.

We scuttled back to safer topics: His favourite date is January 14, the day he met Sussanne at a set of traffic lights and the day that Kaho Naa…Pyaar Hai was released five years later. I already knew that.

He likes Ferrero Rocher chocolates a lot, but then there is no accounting for taste and I knew that too.

He does not feel he has control over his life anymore. He agrees with Mr Taraporewala that he feels giddy up on the pedestal.

He likes the motto ‘The finest steel has to go through the hottest fire.’

He wants to try and take a month off every year, but he did not look convinced it would happen.

We talked about yoga and Gene Kelly, fast blue cars and the risk of a hit in the shadows of the industry’s underworld. Then an assistant came over to tell him he was needed on the set.

He got up and kissed me goodbye. He smelt of hot clean hair and limes.

‘Doesn’t it frighten you that your picture is all over the city, that you can’t go anywhere with out being confronted by huge versions of yourself?’ I asked as we walked to the house.

‘I love it. The only thing that frightens me is that it might stop.’

He laughed and half raised his hand to me.

The laugh was brittle this time. His mask was back in place.

Justine Hardy

Born and educated in England and trained as a journalist in Australia, Justine Hardy has been based in and out of India for twelve years as a journalist, writer and documentary maker. She writes about India, the country that has become her second home with both humour and sympathy. Her first book, ‘The Ochre Border: A Journey through the Tibetan Frontierlands’ was published in 1995, it was about the reopening of the Tibetan frontier-lands. ‘Scoop-wallah: Life on a Delhi Daily’, published in 1999, was short-listed for the Thomas Cook Travel Award. Her third book, ‘Goat: A Story of Kashmir and Notting Hill’ (2000) was an inside look at the pashmina trade. Justine continues to write for newspapers in American, England and India, present on television and buy and sell pashmina for a Delhi charity. She lives in London and Delhi and is currently working on her next book which she says is about a cross cultural love-affair based in Kashmir…