Hrithik and Rakesh Roshan - From reel to real

Published On: 2012-11-04

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Hrithik Roshan and Rakesh Roshan - From reel to real


Source: Good Housekeeping, June 2006
Scanned by: Sarah and Maya
Date: June 4, 2006

On the eve of Father’s day, producer-director Rakesh Roshan and actor son Hrithik talk of what keeps them living and working together

We meet at a suburban Mumbai studio. Rakesh Roshan, one of the countries best known producer-directors is busy putting the finishing touches to his latest mega venture Krrish, a fantastic tale of a modern day superhero. A five minute wait and he joins me at the makeshift dining space. Right away, I am struck by his matter of fact demeanor; his voice is so low key that I have to strain to hear him through the cacophony of the bustling afternoon traffic outside. Fair and light-eyed, bald pate shining, there’s an engaging air of quite authority about the director. 

We get talking about Hrithik, his actor-son, and the hero of Krrish. It’s amusing to see like how all good Indian fathers, this celebrity father of a celebrity son, too, feels the need to boast about his son’s academic prowess back in school! ‘Hrithik was very good in studies. We never kept a tutor. He used to concentrate and would always get above 90 percent.’ Later in the evening when I met the very boyish Hrithik- fitness fetish and solid muscles, not withstanding- at his Juhu apartment home, he declares laughing; ‘Everyone around me was so poor at studies that compared to them I seemed to be intelligent!, actually I use to average between 65-75 percent.’

Father & Sons

Son of a music director, Rakesh Roshan was, by his own admission, a “notorious child” and was sent away to boarding school, ‘I had a very formal relationship with my father. He was a strict disciplinarian. The turning point for me came when he expired; I was only 17 then, but I came back from college in Pune and went to work assisting in film direction. I had to look after my family. It made me a man overnight. 

‘My relationship with my children is different. The age gap is not too much- I got married when I was 22, and in a few years my daughter Sunaina was born, followed by Hrithik two years later- so we’re like friends, we chat and spend easy-time together.’ His son doesn’t quite agree, though. ‘What we’re about is respect, there is too much respect here so I wouldn’t want to call dad a friend. He is someone I look up to; a friend is someone at your own level.’ 

Clearly, father- son are individuals in their own right, with their own perspectives on life. Yet the bonds are deep enough for them to stay together in a joint family on three floors of an apartment building, and choose to work together as well.’

Daughter in law- Sussanne, who seems to have seamlessly fit into the family fold says, ‘I would not like my brother to move out of my parent’s home; so why should I create a distance between my husband and his family? Mamma is a second mom to me. I talk to her openly and she discloses more to me than her own son!’

Reminiscing indulgently about Hrithik, his father recalls an incident when he was overwhelmed by his son’s maturity. It was a few years back when, during a bizarre turn of events, Rakesh Roshan fell victim to the Mumbai underworld’s tactics to gain power and money, and was shot at. He then had a narrow escape. 

‘It was my first venture out of the house after several months of recuperating. We were at an awards ceremony, I knew Hrithik was to go up on stage to receive an award but I didn’t know he would say anything in particular. He surprised me and spoke very openly on stage that we were not going to give in to the underworld forces come what may; we were going to face them whatever it took…I was very proud of him that day. When the function got over, he saw to it that the crowds were kept at bay. I felt so protected. I was the son, he was the father that day.’ 

In fact, while he handled anything written about him with fair degree of control, Hrithik finds it difficult to take negativity about his father, even if it be a stray comment in the daily. Says his father: ‘The other day there was a report that someone claiming the story of Krrish to be his. Duggu reacted immediately and declared he was going to give a statement. How dare the fellow make such a thing? I had to persuade him to calm down; people just say these things to be associated with a big film. Finally, he didn’t give the statement. I am lucky my son listens to me 9 times out of 10.’

The one memory that sum’s up Hrithik’s feelings for his father goes back to when he was a child of five. 

‘Dad decided to teach me how to cycle. So there he was holding the cycle from behind and supporting me while I tried to balance without the extra wheels. We went round and round the compound, with Dad holding on. Finally, we were on what was to be the last round. I still hadn’t been able to get the balance. I was really disappointed; I felt I had let him down when I turned around and saw he was at the other end. I was so happy! He had let me go!’

Recalls the father fondly: ‘He was a very determined child, not stubborn. If he couldn’t solve a puzzle he would keep trying and cry out in frustration if he couldn’t. I or his mother had to help him.’ On his job today, Hrithik is known to be a through professional, willing to give as many retakes as required to get a perfect shot; he doesn’t hesitate to do his own stunts (instead of doing a double) if he feels the audience would be able to make out the difference on screen. 

Theirs is not a conventional relationship where father lectures and son listens. Hrithik’s already seen several lows in his life so far. He was seriously ill over a long period of time; even when he began acting, after the big hit Kaho Naa…Pyaar Hai under his father, he went through a series of flop films till Koi…Mil Gaya, his father’s film, and one of the biggest hits of present times. His father was supportive but never gushy. 

‘My dad has never been a man of many words but I know exactly what he is thinking. I don’t even need to look at him, I can sense his feelings. He’s not the kind to feed self-pity. He is more like a Monday morning wake up call. If I am unhappy about my performance at a show and am frustrated and brooding over it, he will turn around and say something brusque like, “So what do you want to do now?” It’s like holding up a mirror to me…I snap out of the mood. Without saying much, he shows me the futility of brooding over the past; to look ahead and go on.’

Growing up to acting

‘My father struggled for long years, there were tears, frustrations, but my parents kept all this away from us. Also, my sister and I never had to face any rumors about him, despite being in the limelight. I’ve seen friends in the industry who are from broken homes…it’s terribly detrimental. If dad’s taken care to shield us, mom’s been the anchor.’ Today, Hrithik’s sister and her daughter live with them and brother and sister continue to be close. Says Hrithik: ‘If Didi says she doesn’t like something, I go with her instinct. She’s never gone wrong. She’s reserving her final nod for Krrish…’

For the son, growing up to be an actor happened naturally. ‘There was a time I thought everyone’s father’s acted in movies because mine did but we were consciously kept away from the glamour and all that went with it.’ While his parents had a circle of friends from the industry- Rishi Kapoor, Jitendra, Prem Chopra- they would meet at home, away from the filmy buzz. Says Rakesh: ‘We are a part of the industry but when the day’s work is over, we’re out of it.’ Today, Hrithik still maintains close ties with his childhood friends Uday Chopra, Abhishek Bachchan and a few others. He’s grown up with them and also been to school with most of them. He prefers to be with them in his spare time. Private parties are strictly out of bounds for ‘outsiders’.

Hrithik recalls visiting his father sets for the first time when he was only 15 years old, and being shocked by what he saw, ‘I spotted dad with a broom in his hand sweeping the floor!’ Why was he doing this? Was there no one to do this? At home he was the boss! And here he was dripping with sweat, cleaning the floors. Then, suddenly I saw him rush forward I saw him rush forward and grab litter off the floor and throw it away as he it was coming in the frame of the shot that was being canned.

I just got tired of standing there under the hot lights, watching all the commotion, the frayed nerves and the shouting; I realized that this is what I would have to do if I wanted to continue enjoying all the luxuries my father had given me. This thought left me aghast for a few moments! But it turned out to be the start of an important chapter in my life. I learnt my first lesson: Your status is not defined by what work you do but how well you do it. Today, I can have a conversation with anybody, be it a watchman, the autorikshawalla, as easily as I can with the President of India…’

A new arrival

Baby Hrehaan came when the father and grand-father were in the midst of a hectic shooting schedule for Krrish. Says Hrithik: ‘These days, I’m handling two babies: Hrehaan and Krrish. Sussanne was intelligent enough to get him into a routine quickly, so we are able to organize our lives along that pattern.’

The new father’s favorite interaction with the baby happens when he’s singing to him. ‘I think I’ve a great audience in my son; he listens really attentively and it distracts him from any other “stress” such as getting a change! Sometimes he tries to sing along with me. He makes these little sounds that actually fit into my singing patterns. Maybe he’ll be a rock star.’

This father doesn’t believe in too much parenting. ‘I would much rather lead by example as my parents did without too many rules. But I wouldn’t like to give him too much too soon and deprive him of the ability to find excitement about things special. I would like him to know that he has to work for the good things. If I were to choose what I would like him to have the most in his life, it would be intelligence, a desire to succeed and compassion.’

The household had truly organized itself around the baby. While Hrithik spends his spare time singing to the baby, grandfather Rakesh, the first one to rise in the morning, devotes his morning hour to be with him. ‘The minute he gets up, the night nurse bring him to me. I notice he is an individual already- he is not a photocopy of either of his parents!’

A father an a director

Rakesh Roshan’s recent hit films have all been with his son…’Hrithik is a good actor, I am a producer- director, and my brother Rajesh Roshan is a music director, so why should I look outside?’ Indeed, sitting across the clear spoken, unassuming person, I realize he is indeed a very good actor. It’s impossible to imagine that this self-assured, very proper young man, so much at home in his plush. South Mumbai flat was the free spirited, mentally challenged Rohit in Koi Mil Gaya, a role he enacted to perfection. Krrish is a sequel to Koi Mil Gaya.

Says the father: ‘When I get an idea, I bounce it off Hrithik. He assisted me in direction for five years so he knows my vision. He knows exactly what I mean, I see his reaction. If he says, “No Papa, it doesn’t work, I drop it there and then.” I remember I got the idea of making Koi Mil Gaya late one night. Hrithik was shooting in Delhi; I called him early the next morning. He said: “Papa, this is fantastic; we should go ahead with this.” And we were on.’

‘We have a lot of discussions at home, but never on the sets. He is an actor and I am the director. If I don’t like a shot I tell him so, and I just pick up the mike and say it; or if he’s close by I tell him so as I would tell Rekha, Preity or anyone. Yes, sometimes he disagrees. It happened just recently when we were shooting for Krrish. He was not convinced about some lines; he said to me, “Papa they sound clinched; those days are gone now…’ I told him I know that they sound clinched but that they’ll work at this point, I told him to at least try. He did the shot that was perfectly okay. 

So how is it working with director dad as a professional actor. The actor pauses, and gives the question some thought before answering. ‘All things considered, I can never stop being a son for him and he cannot stop being a father. I was an assistant to him for six years and there was a strict protocol that has to be observed no matter what. I traveled with the crew and stayed with them. So my foundation has been well laid. Now, he is no different with me as he is with Shah Rukh or Salman. In fact, sometimes I have co-stars consoling me with I differ with dad! They tell me, your dad’s right, go with it, as it’s a great shot. This happened with Preity over a sequence in Koi Mil Gaya…’

Hrithik comes across as a careful person; while his clothes- informal, trousers, sneakers, peak cap and sleeveless jacket- create a feeling of careless chic, in his speech he appears more mature and controlled. 

Says his father: ‘I don’t interfere in his work; he doesn’t discuss his other projects with me. That’s the way he will learn. Sometimes he mentions his work in passing but essentially, I am an outsider, and I like to keep it like that.’

In the industry, Hrithik is known to be an involved actor.’ I think it’s important for the entire team to be driven and have their own creative thought; it’s your duty to be involved and not be a puppet, but suggestions should be made without ego. You are not your thoughts, you are greater than that. I am this way with all my directors, but with dad I go an extra step because I know he’s got no ego but with the others I know there is an invisible line I must not cross.’