Hall of Fame 1: New Star Shining

Published On: 2012-05-28

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New Star Shining


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As a child, he was different. Not only did he have two thumbs on his right hand that was unusual, he has a serious stammering problem that could have made anybody else most uneasy and uncomfortable with ones state of being. But not Hrithik, who batted against such a seemingly unsurmountable difficulty to ensure that he was not treated as a lesser guy among fellow human beings well before he planned foray into Bollywood.

As a struggler, and despite coming from a respectable family with notable names such as his father Rakesh Roshan and his grandfather J Om Prakash, Hrithik has to encounter several harsh truths like any other common man endeavoring to make a mark in the film industry. It is said that when a young Hrithik wanted to meet Shahrukh Khan who was the reigning superstar before Kaho Naa…Pyaar Hai had been released, the young and aspiring actor has to wait outside Shahrukh’s trailer van for close to 5 hours just to meet him. Such an experience taught him what is the most vital thing about Bollywood: that is, nothing comes easily to a starter in this industry, no matter how gifted he might be.

But, January 14, 2000. This is the date not many contemporary film-watchers will forget very easily. Why so? Because two-newcomers, one Hrithik and the other Amisha Patel, made their debuts in lead roles with KNPH on that day. What happened once the movie was released is a part of oral folklore. The film went to break several box office records, and Hrithik became the heartthrob of the entire nation. Nobody was prepared for it, least of all the actor himself, yet the mass hysteria generated by the film could have been overlooked by none. KNPH was a phenomenal success in every sense of the term, and the center of it all was the young man who seemed blessed with the potential to challenge the Khan trinity that has been ruling Bollywood for years: that is, the immensely popular trio of Shahrukh, Amir and Salman Khan.

What made Hrithik such a huge rage overnight? How is it that the Khans appeared vulnerable all of a sudden particularly Shah Rukh Khan whose monarchy at the box office was dismissed as a fact of the past by some presumptuous sermonizers? That Hrithik was a Greek God on earth was one of the major reasons of course. Wonderfully built, with green eyes and other facial features countless women could happily die for: it wasn’t tough to figure out why many got attracted to the guys screen presence only to become completely besotted with him.

Not that his looks was the only reason. It could not have been. On screen, Hrithik came across as an actor whose ability to step into the shoes of his character (he played a double role in KNPH) was apparent. Most certainly, here was a guy who was not trying to capitalize on his features as he showed a clear desire doe bring a long distance runner capable of competing with the best amongst his seniors who appeared to be secure in their cushy thrones no longer. As a dancer, he was the best available in Bollywood by some distance and, although nowhere near as gifted as the South Indian actor Prabhudeva, it was obvious that nobody could compete with his nimble footsteps in Mumbai once people had seen him movie with the tunes of his path-breaking, history-making film.

Why Hrithik’s several talents manifested themselves in his first major film is possible since he had learnt the art of acting the hard way. The grandson of producer J Om Prakash and the song of actor turned director Rakesh Roshan, he had gone to the extent of learning the technique of filmmaking before embarking on a career as an actor. As he was to recollect in an interview to Zee premiere later: “During the making of koyla (a Shahrukh Khan starrer), I has assisted my dad. I had worked with every member of the unit. On the locations of his previous films also, I used to live with the unit members. Although I was an assistant director, I was never treated differently. Work for me, like the rest of the technicians would start two hours before the stars and the director (my dad) arrived on location. I was trained in every possible field behind the camera. I even made the promos of koyla.”

Such pertinacity and the desire for attention to details as far as the craft of filmmaking was concerned had to deliver results sometime of the other. That this happened with his very first film, as a hero is a different story. KNPH catapulted him in to a zone where the lights were on, and focused on him only. The media started writing about him as the next superstar of the industry, as the man who was all set to take over from King Khan (SRK) and become the King Roshan of Bollywood. 

The press came up with its verdict too quickly. To be honest, the way it viewed Hrithik after his first mega hit did not do justice to either him or Shahrukh, against whom the young actor seemed to launch an offensive in order to dethrone him. Known to be both reticent and modest, Hrithik said time and again that pitting him against Shahrukh- or the other two khans- was not the right thing to do because he was, after all, just a newcomer while they were war veterans who had been around the industry for close to a decade.

Fate has a funny way of doing things than o armchair analyst can predict. After appearing absolutely invincible following the initial success, Hrithik’s career graph registered a sharp curve downward when his films did not do well at the box office. Despite getting superb initials, talented director Vidhu Vinod Chopra’s Mission Kashmir ended up being an average performer in the long run. Journalist turned filmmaker Khalid Mohammed’s Fiza did pretty ordinarily as well, in spite of the fact that this too got fine initials. Even a director like Subash Ghai made what was possibly the worst film of his entire career: a multi-starrer titled Yaadein that crashed at the box office and the distributors running for cover within India atleast. 

Then came Kabhi Khushi Kabhi Ghum, director Karan Johar’s family extravaganza that was studded with stars like Amitabh Bachchan, Jaya Bachchan, Shahrukh Khan, Kajol, Kareena Kapoor and Hrithik himself. This film was a blockbuster, and can be looked upon as a release that resurrected Hrithik’s fortunes somewhat. Why K3G did not help Hrithik to the extent it could have is because it was that film in which Shahrukh’s character of an adopted son made the maximum impact and, also because other performers, particularly the inimitable Amitabh Bachchan and Kajol made serious contributions. In this Karan Johar offering, Hrithik was actually a minor player both in terms of screen time and impact, although he did play his role with characteristic seriousness and dedication, which was applauded by many.

But, solo hits weren’t coming and, when Hrithik delivered a string of flops in 2002, a huge section of the media declared that he was finished. That conclusion was as hasty as the one that he had asserted- and not long ago- that SRK had to move over and make place for a new comer named Hrithik Roshan. Yet statistics, in this case the fact of giving duds on the trot, seemed to acquire an aura of authenticity when even the Rajshri team, steered by hit manufacturing machine Sooraj Barjatya, failed to produce a hit with Main Prem Ki Deewani Hoon, a Hrithik starrer.

So, when Hrithik Roshan heading towards the direction of actor Kumar Gaurav who had found his way into the hearts of millions across the country with his film Love Story a couple of decades ago before he vanished into oblivion with several flops? Was his story illustrative of the proverbial flash in the pan that happened once, and refused to repeat itself till people forgot when they had seen the ray of light on the sparkling vessel earlier? Forget being a serious rival of Srk and others at the top; was he on the way towards making a quite exit from the industry itself? Hrithik’s father Rakesh Roshan was a more than competent actor during his days as a hero, but not a particularly successful one at the box office. Was the son’s career heading in a similar direction as well?

In an industry thriving on speculations, a new set of theories had jettisoned the old ones, and Hrithik did appear most vulnerable although he displayed a fair amount of willpower and conviction when he spoke to the media. Few had the audacity to question his talent, which was far too visible to be criticized, but what some people doubted was whether or not he was lucky to enough to begin an innings at the box office that would scare his competitors the way KNPH once had.

Then, the magic happened. Papa Rakesh Roshan worked diligently as usual to come up with Koi Mil Gaya, a film inspired by the noted filmmaker Steven Spielberg’s ET. KMG was a super hit, and it managed to bring out the best in Hrithik as a quality performer. Playing the character of mentally challenged boy who befriends an alien and ends up getting supernatural powers, Hrithik was absolutely marvelous in the film.

KMG’s success in the year 2003 could have been attributed to a set of factors. To begin with, the story line appealed to the youngsters who were enamored with special effects, the character of the loveable extra-terrestrial as also that of Hrithik who essayed his role to perfection. The elders found the film most charming because the male’s protagonist’s weaknesses and his consequential helplessness made them sympathetic towards him. The chemistry between Hrithik and Preity Zinta who played his friend was excellent, as a veteran actress Rekha’s fantastic portrayal of a worried mother to the young man who moved around with kids, behaved and thought like one of them because he hadn’t grown up the way the average person does.

Despite choosing what was a potentially risky subject, Rakesh Roshan had left no stone unturned while making the film. The production values were fantastic, the music given by veteran composer and Hrithik’s paternal uncle Rajesh Roshan was soothing to the ears, and the dad as the director had handled the plot with sensitive subtlety that was most essential.

With this one super success, Hrithik was back in the reckoning. People who were writing his professional obituaries on a regular basis had to sit back and acknowledge that not only was he fabulous in the film but also that the best of him hadn’t been seen yet. Once a superstar, always a superstar; in an industry marked by dramatic changes in fortunes, this phrase suddenly seemed to make so much sense because the subject happened to be Hrithik who had conquered all odds, silenced his critics, and returned to the top with a bang whose resonance can be felt almost a year after the film was released.

Never a guy with any sort of airs, Hrithik off screen is a mild person, a through gentleman to boot. So much so that when he was shooting for the film Na Tum Jano Na Hum a young girl aged four walked up to him, pressed his bulging biceps, turned around and told her mother: “Hey mum, these muscles are real.” Far from displaying any sort of annoyance the actor just buried his head and kept on smiling gently.

That he doesn’t carry the baggage of immodesty highlights one most significant quality about the man. He has the poise that is essential to ensure that one doesn’t get carried away when one succeeds, and also that one is not bogged down unnecessarily when setbacks take place. Worried when things are not going ones way, that’s natural. Introspection, well, that too is so important.

But what a sense of balance guarantees for a guy like Hrithik is that even if he has a couple of flops in the time to come, he will do what he does best; which is work really hard. Meanwhile, just when the critics might bring out their quills and rubbish him for no rhyme or reason, he, with characteristic efficiency and composure, will surely come up with another Koi Mil Gaya.

A fighter. A survivor. An actor. A dancer. A superstar. A decent human being. That is him.