Child in me

Published On: 2012-10-23

Author: unknown

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'The child in me is alive'



Times News Network



It’s an irony for which Hrithik Roshan is unable to find answers. The phenomenal risk he took with Koi Mil Gaya has paid off. The applause hasn’t yet died down. But instead of revelling in his hard-earned success, he’s almost incommunicado in remote Ladakh, shooting for Farhan Akhtar’s Lakshya. “This is the most overwhelming phase in my life and strangely, I am cut off from the world,” says Hrithik, speaking to Hyderabad Times from Ladakh.


“Soon after the release, I visited theatres and was touched by the response. If I hadn’t succeeded this time, I would have lost all motivation for my future projects. And, stalwarts like Shabana Azmi, Aamir Khan, Om Puri and Sridevi appreciated my performance. I wanted to visit Hyderabad and a few other cities, but I had to leave for this schedule. I have no mobile phone and just two cable channels here; I miss being in the thick of action,” he says, with an unmistakable hint of regret in his voice. “I couldn’t enjoy the success of Kaho Naa Pyar Hai too, because, a week after the release, my world turned upside down after my father was shot,” he says with a sigh. “Now, I am sure my father is happy with this success. I haven’t even been able to spend enough time with him. He’s already begun work on our next film.”


What very few know is that Hrithik’s character in his recent film has traces of his own childhood. “Somewhere all of us have walked this path where we’ve been teased. I had a good share of heartbreaks in my school days. I didn’t fit in with the other kids. Rohit is an extension of me. There were a few scenes in the film where I stuttered. I didn’t want to go back and change it because I did stutter a bit in my school days,” says Hrithik. And, when Hrithik looked deep within himself to find Rohit, he too realised that “the child in me is still alive and kicking. I haven’t grown up at all. Maybe that’s why I just adore kids. I can’t turn away a kid when he or she comes up to talk to me.”


It will take a few more days for Hrithik to leave Ladakh and actually revel in the adulation. It’s been a full circle for him from being hailed as the next superstar to a one-film wonder and finally, a classy actor. Hrithik harnesses no strong feelings towards his critics. “On the other hand, I love critics and I am thankful to everyone who said I am a one-film wonder. They’ve praised me when I did good work and pointed out where I went wrong. That’s a part of the game,” he says, signing off.



A Child At Heart


In the process was able to reclaim the child in him. Sitting in his living room that exudes an old world charm, the star talks of his other worldly experiences... and his recent brush with death


I’m told that a couple of days before every shoot of Koi...Mil Gaya, you’d lock yourself into a hotel room, cut yourself off from the world and dredge up scenes from your childhood that would give you a take on how this child-man would act and react. It’s a pretty novel and almost Hollywoodish approach to film-making.

I don’t know about Hollywood. All I can say is that the approach was not planned but dictated by needs. When we started Koi...Mil Gaya I was working simultaneously on four films and had just three days to prepare for this character who would be a challenge to any actor. I was sitting at home, completely lost. I had no idea from where to start... how to flesh out Rohit. Finally, I just packed myself off to some place quiet where I could seclude myself from everyone. It was to allow myself to concentrate on the character without distractions. I wanted to be alone...explore areas within myself. See if the child in me was still alive.



Did you find him, the child?

I did. There’s a lot of me, my childhood that I’ve given to this character. It was incredibly difficult working on Koi..Mil Gaya because I was doing so many films at the time in which I was playing characters diametrically opposite to Rohit. I’d walk out of the set of Mujhse Dosti Karoge in which I was playing this stud, and straight into Koi..Mil Gaya and the heart of Rohit.



How did you manage?

By cutting myself off completely. However busy I was, I’d make time in my schedule to take off for a day or two before a shoot of Koi...Mil Gaya so I could get in touch with my past. For the first time I didn’t feel like I was acting. I don’t think I’ll get the opportunity again to be as free in front of the camera. It was a revelation! I realised that this was what true acting was all about. To get lost in a character so completely that you can hardly separate yourself from him. Rohit is the closest I’ve ever come to a person in my entire life.



What did you learn about yourself from playing this child-man?

(Smiling) I learnt that at heart I’m still quite a bit of a child. I never really grew up at all. It’s almost as if I knew I was destined to do Koi...Mil Gaya which is why I held on to the child in me for so long.



It must be wonderful to be able to feel the magic of childhood so easily...so simply?

Well yeah, I really enjoyed reliving my childhood. There are times now when I wish I could be this child forever, that there were no pressures on me to grow up all over again...



The childlike innocence, the wide-eyed wonder and careless abandon you projected into Rohit comes across effectively. But so does the machismo and fired-up aggression that characterise your characters in other films. Who is real—the child or the man?

I’m as much a child as is possible. Everything else that is projected is false...fake. It’s the social conditioning we’re subjected to that forces us to assume these grown-up characteristics. (Sighs) Being a child is almost not allowed...(After a thoughtful pause) But sometimes I don’t like it. I wish I were more mature...a man of the world. I think, now that Koi...Mil Gaya is over I should grow up, finally.




(Smiling) Well, I’m married now. I can’t depend on being taken care of all my life. I have to take control!



When you’re in front of the camera do you ever feel like Alice in Wonderland?

Never! For me acting is very real. It’s not a fairy tale or a fantasy adventure. To be able to enact any character convincingly you have to look at life very closely. It’s important for any actor to have a high level of empathy, to feel human pain and suffering. You can’t express something you don’t understand or haven’t been through. There has to be some degree of identification. If the character manages to strike a chord with the audience and if the film works, then, may be, you are elevated to a wonderworld where all’s well and magical. But the roots of the experience are very down-to-earth. Acting, I’d say, is a very grounding and humbling experience. It’s the results that are elevating!



One can understand you bonding with the child-man Rohit or even the Raj of Kaho Naa...Pyar Hai. But how do you live the life of a soldier on the front in Lakshya or a terrorist in Fiza when such realities are far removed from your everyday world?

There’s always some memory...some experience that you can tap into. There’s 5-10 per cent identification even when the person is far removed from your world. This you exaggerate to come up with a differently shaded character. Inputs from observation add another 20 per cent to the character development process. The rest come from the creativity of the director and actor.



Was it easy identifying with the Prem of Main Prem Ki Diwani whose exaggerated bonhomie was so distinct from your own subtle charm?

There was a reason why I played Prem so loud. In sub-text, the character was conceived as an orphan who in his childhood has gone through a lot of pain and loneliness. So while growing up he’s built this facade to guard himself from the world and more sufferings. He doesn’t want to be sad anymore, so he is happy with a vengeance. He has decided that he’ll be happy, no matter what. He even carries around a I-am-happy bag. But despite his untiring effort, the ever-happy exterior he projects is false. He’s a man who’s suffering from within but tries to smile despite his pain. According to the brief I was given, Prem was a fake. And how else does an actor play a fake person than over the top?



It sounds logical when you explain it. So why didn’t you take the audience into confidence before the film’s release? May be then they’d have found it easier to understand and empathise with Prem.

I think 40 per cent of the audience understood Prem. And I share the responsibility for the 60 per cent who didn’t. In retrospect I think we should have explained more clearly why my Prem behaves the way he does. He’s a buffer for Abhishek’s Prem. But Main Prem Ki Diwani Hoon was a film told from the point of view of the girl which is why we decided to say nothing and leave it to the intelligence of the audience to figure out the complexities in the character.



Couldn’t you have been a little more subtle at times?

To be honest, there were times when I’d suggest to Soorajji (Sooraj Barjatya) that may be I should do a particular scene with a little more subtlety. But he’d immediately point out that he’d already done it that way with Salman earlier and should I also underplay my scenes, it would go against the character. “I need you to be almost animatedly happy all the time,” he’d remind me constantly. I admit I had my apprehensions. A lot of my co-artistes would also go up to Mr Barjatya and complain, “Why is Hrithik so loud?” And he would always point out to me that they were confusing a performer with a character. “Don’t go by what they’re saying. Once people see the film they will understand,” he’d reassure me.



I believe even today Sooraj Barjatya insists that if he had to make Main Prem Ki Diwani Hoon all over again he’d still have you play Prem in exactly the same way?

Yeah, Soorajji still calls me at night to tell me not to go by what people are saying, I played Prem exactly the way he wanted. And let me tell you, I’d do Main Prem Ki Diwani Hoon 10 more times and get mauled by critics every time, to satisfy a genius like Soorajji. It gave me so much joy to see his smiling face after a shot. Getting a pat on the back from him still means more to me than getting rave reviews.



After the super success of Kaho Naa...Pyar Hai expectations from Koi...Mil Gaya that reunites the three Roshans—Rakesh, Rajesh and Hrithik—are sky-high. You must be feeling the pressure?

I give as much as I can—as much as I’m allowed to give—to every film. Koi...Mil Gaya was no different. I’ve always believed that it’s a film that makes an actor and not vice versa. Kaho Naa..Pyar Hai made Hrithik Roshan an overnight star. If Koi...Mil Gaya is as great a film, it’ll get me as much appreciation. This tendency we have of blaming an actor for every flop and crediting him with every hit is ridiculous. It’s the director who makes a film. The actor is just one of the colours in a painting.



That’s true but unfortunately, because the actor is the face of the film, he gets both the brickbats and the bouquets.

Yeah, it’s unfortunate. At a recent press conference it was pointed out to Mr Barjatya that all three of his lead actors—Kareena, Abhishek and me—had been doing very well when he signed us, but today, after 3-4 flops each, we are no longer commercially viable. For the first time perhaps I saw Mr Barjatya really angry and upset. He told the journalist, “Never blame the actor for the failure of a film. Making a film is the job of the director. The actors trusts him with his confidence and talent and if the director fails him, he’s to be blamed, not the actor.” I respect him so much more for saying this. Sooraj Barjatya is one of the best human beings around. He’s almost godly!



Sooraj Barjatya has a special fascination for Prem while you’re Raj or Rohit in most of your films. Any particular reason you go for these names?

Personally, I’m in love with the name Raj. But after Kaho Naa...Pyar Hai children all over the world started referring to me as Rohit. Dad and I were aware of this which is why when we were working on Koi...Mil Gaya it was natural to go with the name Rohit.



Rohit of Koi...Mil Gaya defies every norm of the conventional hero. Is our audience mature enough to accept a child-man as heroic?

I’ve always believed that if a film is truly inspired and made convincingly, it’ll get through to the audience and be appreciated. You can’t predict trends. Any film, of any genre, will work if you can connect with the people.



I’m told that you conceived the space ship and even the alien was your baby.

When I was growing up I was a sci-fi freak. So when dad told me he had this idea of making a fantasy adventure with an alien, I jumped into the fray immediately. I must have made at least 10 trips to Bangalore to work on the colour, shape and movement of the spaceship. I’d sit on the computer with the people designing it on every single shot. It was the same with the alien. Dad brought his experience, maturity and genius to the film while I gave it the vision of my generation. I didn’t look at any film or borrow from any past performance. The space ship in Koi...Mil Gaya is nothing like anything you’ve seen before but I know it’s one of the best. My confidence comes from a sensibility developed from growing up on films like Stars Wars and Return Of The Jedi. It’s a sensibility that endows you with the instinct to know what is right and what isn’t. When we were working on the space ship, there were times when people older than me would tell me it was fine. But I just knew it wouldn’t be acceptable to people from my generation, not in that format. There was something within pointing me in the right direction.



Jadoo is like a child’s fantasy come to life. Was he yours too?

Jadoo is a great fantasy but I don’t think I ever dreamed of having an alien for a friend even though it’s wonderful when you do and he equips you with magical powers. To be honest, I’d had a lot of apprehensions about Jadoo. I was wondering how I was going to act with and react to something that was not real. How do you pretend to laugh with and cry for a thing? But all my fears dissolved the first time I saw Jadoo. There was so much warmth and life in his eyes that I just forgot that he was not a real person.



It couldn’t have been easy shooting with him?

It wasn’t. Coordinating his lips, the movement of his eyes and body with that of the rest of the actors was quite an ordeal. Getting the perfect take with him in the frame would take hours. But dad has a great sense of humour and a knack of calming things down. Before every take we’d all be really tense but once it was okayed, he’d say something funny and we’d all crack up.



One noticed you closeness with the child actor in Kaho Naa..Pyar Hai. And in Koi...Mil Gaya again you seem to share a great bonding with your six young co-stars?

I think there’s still so much of the child in me that it’s easy for me to fit in with children easily. But when we were facing the camera I’d forget the age difference because all the kids are so smart, intelligent and talented. They’ll go places.



Talking of places, you went to Vaishnodevi recently for darshan. And within hours of your return from the shrine, a bomb exploded killing many pilgrims. You had a narrow escape.

The blast happened nine hours from the time we were there. My first reaction to the news was relief that I was back home safely with all my friends. They’d wanted to stay back for a day but I had to work on the space ship so I hurried them back.



Do you go to Vaishnodevi often?

I’ve gone to Vaishnodevi for each of my father’s films starting with Karan Arjun.



What was it like this time?

(Smiling) This time I was leading a pack of around a 100 people. When I was climbing up I’d look ahead and there would be no one. But whenever I looked back, I’d see at least 60-70 people behind me. It was kind of funny to be leading a bunch of pilgrims. I guess, when people saw me walking up, they were inspired to follow. Even those who were tired and ready to give up, carried on. It’s one of the perks of being a film star.



You had a close brush with death three years ago when your father was shot at outside his office. The bomb blast at Vaishnodevi must have brought the reality of death even closer?

I’ve given up thinking about things that make no sense to me. I can’t do anything about these attacks from where I am, doing what I’m doing, so I don’t waste time trying to understand why people do what they do.



But Lakshya, Farhan Akhtar’s film that you’re shooting for now, is about death, war and cross-border terrorism. Cut off from the rest of the world in Ladakh, you must have had plenty of time to reflect on such issues.

I didn’t get into an introspective mood the last time I was shooting for Lakshya. I guess, it was because we hadn’t got down to shooting the war sequences. We’ll start on those from the 18th of this month. May be this time...



You’ve worked with Hollywood technicians in an organised set-up while shooting for Koi...Mil Gaya. Farhan Akhtar is also known to be a director with a copy-book technique and a Hollywood style of functioning. So was working on the two films very similar?

They couldn’t have been more different. Dad comes from the old school of film-making. He single-handedly organises everything and because he’s such a computer brain, manages things so well and heads one of the most reputed production houses in the country. Farhan and Ritesh Sidhwani’s production unit is super technically correct. You can’t get any more efficient by the book. And this naturally results in great organisation but also costs a lot more (Smiles).



Does Farhan give you as much freedom as an actor?

Yeah, Farhan’s style of functioning is such that he gives an actor an immense amount of freedom in front of the camera. He allows you to give shape to a character the way you’d want.



That’s rare?

I believe that while it is the director who conceives a character, it is always the actor who gives life to it. It’s the actor’s instincts that moulds the character within the parameters of the director’s vision.



Finally, Jayantilal Gada of Popular Entertainment Network Ltd. has moved court for what he claims was a breach of contract. With your most ambitious film to date up for release, the case couldn’t have been filed at a worse time.

I don’t know much about this. I know it has something to do with the merchandising rights of Kaho Naa..Pyar Hai. I’m not affected by it at all.



What about your dad?

I don’t think it affects him either. It’s just someone trying to get attention at our expense.