Hrithik is Back!

Published On: 2012-09-19

Author: unknown

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Hrithik Roshan is back!

Source: HindustanTimes
Date: January 21, 2006

Pause. Fast forward. After a two-year eclipse, Hrithik Roshan will once again appear on 70mm screens this summer in what is being promoted as his most ambitious, biggest ever movie, Krrish.

Why this long break? And what has Bollywood's golden boy been up to in the last 24 months?

The answer to the first question is fairly predictable: he just didn't find any script he liked enough. "People think I'm taking myself too seriously. But this is the only reason." As for what he's been doing, well, he's been busy planning and working on Krrish.

It is early afternoon and the sun is streaming into Hrithik's marble-floored Juhu home, a flat at several levels, which he and wife Sussanne share with his parents. Bouquets of flowers line the staircases, spilling out into landings and corners of rooms (it was his birthday a day ago).

At the moment, he is fully focused on the photo shoot he's doing for our cover story. Designer Rocky S has arrived with a bag full of clothes. The photographer, Mahendera Soni, along with a small army of assistants, is setting up his lights. Hrithik's makeup man James and hairdresser Ritz are already there. Over the course of the afternoon, we shift locations, from his living room to the terrace, even as Hrithik changes clothes, with both James and Ritz constantly on alert to touch up the makeup or coax a straying lock of hair into place.

Hrithik's concentration is complete. I marvel at the painstaking care he takes to make sure that every shot comes out just so. He views the results of the shoot constantly, offering comments and suggestions to Mahendera. "You lost focus here, I think. Not enough texture in this shot..." To his makeup man and hairdresser: "Too much red on the face. Just give me the spray for a second…" He is equally exacting with himself. "Hmm… my expression is very flat here. Not happening." At one point Rocky S pulls his jeans down a little, and Hrithik laughs and says, "Hey, this looks tacky… come on, this shoot is for a newspaper.."

Expectedly, we don't manage to talk much that day. We do the actual interview the next day, when we start with what he is currently most excited about: Krrish. Hrithik says work on the film began way back in the winter of 2003. It took five months to work out just the idea itself, and almost as many months to fine tune his look for the film. "Koi Mil Gaya had really drained and exhausted dad (Rakesh Roshan) and me. Subconsciously, dad wanted to make a nice, small film," he says. "But as they say, no pain no gain. I helped dad realise that we actually needed to go bigger than Koi Mil Gaya."

One day Rakesh Roshan came into his son's room and presented him with the germ of an idea - a film about a superhero in a cape and mask (no, he doesn't wear his underwear outside his clothes) - which Hrithik loved instantly. The problem was getting a fix on what Hrithik calls the "foundation" of the character. But the answer was staring at them in the face: the genesis of Krrish (short for Krishna) lay in Koi Mil Gaya.

As father and son toiled over the script, they kept hitting road blocks and plateaus. Rakesh Roshan almost shelved the project thrice. But the idea of Krrish refused to go away.

The film required an exceptional action director and the Roshans found him in Tony Ching, who, Hrithik, says, is currently the No. 2 action director in the world.

Hrithik was promptly packed off to Hong Kong and Shanghai for four weeks of intensive physical training in Wushu, a Chinese martial art. For the next 28 days, his regimen was unwavering. He would wake up at nine, have two breakfasts, soak himself in warm water to loosen up and work the stiffness out of his body and then train till six in the evening, with breaks only for water. If this sounds like punishment, it wasn't. "I actually wanted more," says Hrithik. "I've always been into fitness and I felt I was learning, growing. I'm a real sucker for growth. I enjoyed myself, learning sword fighting, stick fighting, how to be on cables and make it look natural."

Hrithik is reluctant to reveal more about the film, but it's clear that Krrish is his career's most important film to date. "I hope it does well, not just because dad and I have worked on it, but because it is the first film of its kind to come out from India," he says. "The West has been doing it for many years. If we don't pull it off, it's going to look really bad. So for the sake of Indian cinema, I hope it clicks."

The two biggest hits in Hrithik's career so far have been with his father - Kaho Na Pyaar Hai and Koi Mil Gaya. In between was a long fallow period when his movies sank at the turnstiles and the film press virtually wrote him off. But Hrithik is strangely philosophical about those years of failure. "You're never as good as people say you are and you're never as bad as they say you are," he says. "When people wrote that my time was over, that I was looking ugly, it would have been so easy to believe it. But I remained the same person. One shouldn't lose focus. If you lose your enthusiasm for your work, then it's truly all over. I guess the finest steel has to go through the hottest fire. My life cycle took me up with Kaho Naa Pyaar Hai, brought me down, then took me up again with Koi Mil Gaya."

Even in those down-and-out days, Hrithik retained his sense of self-worth. At that time a film magazine ran a cover story with his picture and the headline 'Finished.' Recalls Hrithik, "When I saw that cover, I got very excited. I actually felt happy. Then I tried to analyse - why am I feeling happy about something like this? It occurred to me that I was feeling happy because the magazine was still using my face to sell that issue."

Hrithik admits that when his debut film Kaho Naa Pyaar Hai hit the jackpot and he became an overnight star, the ensuing adulation and hysteria did get to him. "I tried hard to keep my head, but I guess some of it must have seeped in. I think so much was made of me then because I filled a kind of vacuum. For ten years, there had been Salman, Shah Rukh and Aamir. There was a vacuum for a young, new star and I think I just filled that. But it was blown out of all proportion."

For Hrithik, the high of Koi Mil Gaya's success was sweeter and more precious than the Kaho Naa Pyaar Hai hype. Because it came after a period of such darkness, there was a sense of deep relief more than anything else.

If failure brought its own trauma, so did success. Barely eight months after Kaho Naa Pyaar Hai, a statement attributed to him ("I don't like the Nepalese people") unleashed a storm in Nepal. Angry crowds burnt down cinema theatres and four people actually lost their lives in the protests that ripped through Nepal. Eventually, says Hrithik, he had to speak to the King who opened his own radio channel for him to clarify that he'd never said such a thing. According to Hrithik, it was probably the work of the ISI who wanted to destroy relations between the two countries. "My name just got used as a symbol. Even today I'm accosted by Nepalese people from all over the world, asking me why I said what I'm supposed to have said," he says. "But now things are okay. Recently I've got an invitation to go to Nepal, so I guess it's fine now. But these are things you have no control over."

Just like he had no control over the way he was pushed as a "Hindu" superstar by some people, who were delighted that there was finally a big star without the surname "Khan." Hrithik shakes his head resignedly. "It was so silly. It was someone's individual opinion which the media needlessly highlighted," he says. "As far as I'm concerned, an actor is an actor. I mean, I can easily see Salman as Rama, he's got those eyes."

At a more sleazy level, of course, becoming a big star brought about its own share of gossip about him and his co-stars, like his alleged link-up with Kareena Kapoor. Hrithik laughs and says, "I never get affected by all this. It is my philosophy of life - if the truth is on your side, you need not get affected. You know, as a boy, when I used to travel with my dad, people would shout, 'Takla!' My sister used to get very upset. But I would think, what is there to get upset about? He is bald."

For someone who says he was painfully shy as a child, Hrithik's celebrity status seems ironic. He claims he hated talking to people, so much so that he would make his mother or sister ring up his barber when he wanted to go for a haircut. "We all have embarrassing moments as children when we feel run down by bullies or when we think we're not good enough," he says. "I was exactly like that. I thought I could never do anything right. I was full of my own inadequacies. Which is why acting. I was intelligent enough to understand that acting was the only way to break out of my shell."

Even today, performing on stage in front of 50,000 people is a high that Hrithik acknowledges. "Thousands of people screaming your name with tears in their eyes - you have to keep pinching yourself to make sure it's real," he admits. One reason why he does stage shows - apart from the money - is to get that wild reaction from the crowd. "Of course in a show like the Filmfare Awards, where you're performing in front of the industry, it's only about money!" he grins.

What makes Hrithik tick? When Kaho Naa Pyaar Hai released in 2000, his unusually good-looking face with its sharp angles and light eyes, seemed different and fresh. He was tall and had worked on his body. When the camera caressed his swaying form in Ek pal ka jeena... girls in cinema halls across the country went weak in the knees. Hrithik was one of the first male stars who was presented in the kind of sensual way usually reserved for actresses. Today, when Hrithik looks back at that song, he says he's embarrassed. "It doesn't look as great as it did then," he says almost apologetically. "People keep saying I'm a great dancer. Perhaps in the world of actors I am. But in the world of dancers, I'm less than average."

Dancing skills aside, there was also a 'finished' quality to Hrithik in his debut film. There were no raw edges anywhere.

And as director Ashutosh Gowariker who has cast him in Akbar Jodha says, Hrithik radiates a certain integrity and compassion on screen that is very much his own. "He has been unfortunate that his films after Kaho Naa Pyaar Hai didn't do well though his performances have always been good, like in Fiza where he played a misguided youth. That, after Kaho Naa Pyaar Hai, was very brave of him."

Maybe Hrithik made a wrong choice of films, roles and directors, maybe it was just plain bad luck. Whatever the reason - and in hindsight, it's easy to come up with a hundred hypotheses - the three years that followed Kaho Naa Pyaar Hai were downers.

Vindication came with Koi Mil Gaya. Playing a child trapped in a man's body, it was easy for Hrithik to have gone over the top. Instead, he turned in a finely tuned, endearing performance that certainly had something to do with the film's runaway success. Then came Farhan Akhtar's Lakshya, where he played an aimless man who finds his calling in the Indian Army, which Hrithik counts as one of his best performances. And then - nothing. A vanishing act for two years.

"He has made himself exclusive now," agrees Ashutosh. "Today, it's about what character he's going to portray next. That's what people are curious about. That he's a good actor is already a given. He has reached that stage of his career now."

As Hrithik returns to the screen this summer, the Bollywood landscape has changed. There's a hot new star on the horizon - Abhishek Bachchan, who was nowhere in the reckoning two years ago. Does Hrithik feel insecure? "We are childhood friends, we've grown up together, and we're very close," says Hrithik, "There's never been any doubt in my mind that Abhishek is a great actor and that his day would come. I've always told him, 'You're the best among us. You'll get there.' And he has." Hrithik says he welcomes competition, because that's what spurs him to give his best.

He adds, once again in a philosophical vein, "You see, it's never about the finishing line. Life is all about the run. And what's the point of running alone?"

But as Bollywood's golden boy returns to cinema theatres this year, will the audience run with him?

Of course Hrithik hopes they will. But for an actor who's been up there and then down there, the question is in a way, irrelevant. Because no matter what happens, Hrithik will continue to run.