Hrithik dares to bend the rules

Published On: 2012-05-20

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Hrithik dares to bend the rules


MUMBAI: In Bollywood, heroes are as heroes do. Most leading icons would rather not bend the heroic roles. One of them has finally dared to take a plunge.

In the eagerly awaited Koi Mil Gaya, Hrithik Roshan not only plays against all the rules of screen heroism, he also dares to take unthinkable risks with his career at a time when he can ill afford them.

In the role of a physically grown up man with the mind of a pubescent, Hrithik evokes faint memories of the naïve and artless Raj Kapoor in Shri 420.

Kamal Haasan is a rare actor who has played a variety of roles, from a dwarf in Apoorva Sahodarargal to a physically/mentally challenged man in Pathinaru Vayathinile to a psychotic killer in Sigappu Rojakal.

But when Amol Palekar and Rajesh Khanna did the Hindi remakes of Pathinaru Vayathinile (‘Solva Saawan’) and Sigappu Rojakal (‘Red Rose’), they bombed.

It's very hard, if not impossible, for mainstream celluloid icons in Bollywood to stretch themselves as actors without hurting their images. Whenever they've tried to go beyond the prescription they've done so with immense trepidation.

Years ago Bollywood's uncrowned thespian Dilip Kumar dared to play roles with shades of the negative in Mehboob Khan's Andaz and Amar.

The only other leading man who ventured into dangerous territory during the pre-Bachchan era was Sunil Dutt.

Dutt played a physically challenged man in Khandaan as well as a villain in Darinda, long before it became fashionable for leading men to play anti-heroes after Shah Rukh Khan did his diabolic trilogy Darr, Baazigar and Anjaam.

But the anti-hero films that occurred after Khan weren't truly path breaking. What Akshay Kumar did in Ajnabee or Ajay Devgan in Deewangee was to make evil attractive, even sexy.

The only leading man in modern times who has dared to play a truly evil character is Aamir Khan in Deepa Mehta's 1947: Earth. In this adaptation of Bapsi Sidhwa's novel on the partition of India, Ice Candy Man, Khan was cast as a Muslim rogue who turns cold-bloodedly communal and finally gets a Hindu girl kidnapped and raped by a Muslim mob.

The red-hot evil character jumped out of the screen, prompting a conservative-image star like Govinda to say, "I'd love to work with Deepa Mehta. But not in a role like Aamir Khan's in '1947…please!"

Most leading men are mortally afraid of breaking the image barrier. Bengali director Rituparno Ghosh recalls how horrified Akshay Kumar was when he offered him the role of an AIDS victim. "It was a character and certainly no reflection on his own sexuality!" remarks Ghosh.

Having played the dancing, singing, fighting, emoting all-purpose dude in all his films from Kaho Na...Pyar Hai to Main Prem Ki Diwani Hoon, Hrithik is all set to reinvent not just his own image but also the personality that has been patented by screen heroes from the time Indian cinema came into its own.

The child in a man's body concept is not new to Hollywood. It was done with sensitivity by comic genius Robin Williams in Francis Ford Coppola's Jack.

But Hrithik is treading far more dangerous grounds here. In Bollywood, leading men can't afford to trifle with their iconic images beyond peripheral changes. Would the audience be willing to see the star assume a child-man's persona without relegating his performance to 'character' acting?

Hrithik himself is exceedingly nervous. "It's a performance that would either be fully accepted or fully rejected."

If Hrithik's walk on the innocent side succeeds, it would decidedly take screen heroism in Bollywood many steps ahead from where it's currently stagnating.