Lost and Found

Published On: 2012-04-13

Author: unknown

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Hrithik Roshan’s un-starry manner and genuine warmth charmed the designer pants off everyone. “I just died!” says creative director Falguni Sheth, who was speechless when he walked in.

The shoot took place in Rakesh Roshan’s ‘palpable’ home, hung with innumerable paintings and strung with family portraits and snapshots. Wonderfully accessible to Verve, the interview was set up via SMS, in between promos for Koi..Mil Gaya and an imminent flight to Ladakh for a location shoot.


An instant superstar with his stupendous debut in Kaho Naa..Pyaar Hai, Hrithik Roshan wooed an elusive commercial success in films, till Koi..Mil Gaya reinforced his charismatic presence at the box-office. In conversation with Jayshree Menon, Bollywood’s reigning hero unveils the private anguish and hard work that has gone into the making of an actor and a gentleman.

The cute little boy with clear hazel eyes would cry himself to sleep, every night. He came from a known film family. He was his father’s pride, the apple of his mother’s eyes, his teacher’s pet – everybody loved their ‘Duggu’. Yet, the child cried himself to sleep every night…

“I had this extra thumb…I stammered,” rewinds Hrithik Roshan, the heart-throb of the nation. “And in school – you know what kids are like – well, it was hell most of the time. My being quiet and sensitive came about as a consequence. I never felt normal, I always felt abnormal. I always felt like I did not fit in.”

So around age 11, with characteristic Capricornian determination, he decided that he’d had enough. He would conquer what fate had dished out to him. “Certain people can do somersaults, I can’t, I told myself. Certain people can talk straight, I can’t. If I can learn to do a somersault, I can learn to talk straight. So, I just started from scratch.”

It was a dogged struggle tinged with optimism but also mired in cruelty. “People would point at me and laugh because I wanted to be an actor. I couldn’t talk straight and wanted to be an actor! But, I’m a dreamer. I believe in dreams. I believe in miracles. I believe in magic.”

So he soldiered on, with just one goal in mind – he would become an actor. That he did and was an instant star with his stupendous debut in Kaho Naa…Pyaar Hai (KNPH). Little did the adoring fans know what anguish, what effort had gone into the making of Hrithik Roshan, the actor.

“I’ve built my foundations with the stones thrown at me,” he says wryly. “I remembered all nights I’ve spent crying myself to sleep because I was made fun of. I just collected all those stones thrown at me. That’s what egged me on.”

The finest steel has to go through the hottest fire. This is one abiding credo in his life. “It helped me make sense of what I was going through and by the time I was a teenager, I had started to live by this law. The hotter the fire got, I knew the finer I would come out of it.”

And the fire certainly hotted up as never before for this young hero, even before he could savor the heady rush of stardom his debut film had brought him. He remembers, “After KNPH was released and declared a hit, being the pessimist I am, I did not celebrate immediately. I waited till the following week to have a blast. But before I could get there, I got the news that Dad had been shot. And my success became something so terrible that I didn’t want to go on, because this was too big a price. But then I thought if I stopped, they (whoever shot his father) would win and I couldn’t stand that.”

But the fire hadn’t died down. Soon after his father’s near fatal encounter, Hrithik found himself in the midst of a raging controversy. His effigies were burnt, theatres showing his films were stoned, lives were lost and hundreds injured. “I’ve never figured that one out,” he says perplexed. “It happened three days after my marriage on December 21, 2000. And, when I landed in Australia on my honeymoon, I was this guy who hated the Nepalese! All because of some interview where I supposedly said that I didn’t like them…It made no sense to me at all. My most trusted man, who has been with me since I was six, who has run behind me with a glass of milk – you could call him my Man Friday – is Prem Singh, who hails from Nepal. Why on earth would I hate the Nepalese?”

Another insinuation, this time concerning both father and son, continues to circulate. That Hrithik’s father, Rakesh Roshan, in spite of his obvious good looks and considerable talent, had never tasted phenomenal success either as an actor or director, till Hrithik’s KNPH created box office history and put Roshan Sr, the producer/director of the film, firmly in the limelight. It was insinuated that the son had vindicated the father by giving him the biggest hit of his career.

“I look at it a little differently,” he says, immediately. “Dad vindicated me by his hard work. The success of Kaho Naa…and now Koi..Mil Gaya has nothing to do withme. Yes, there is the relationship of the actor in me and the director in him, more than father and son. Don’t forget that I worked with him as an assistant for six years. We discovered each other really when we started working together.” He elaborates, “We are a perfect balance. He is more practical and focussed. I am a dreamer – as a child I was fascinated by poetry. I could waste time watching a flower bloom; he wouldn’t, because he’s a man of the world which is what I want to be.”

On a reflective note, he continues, “I have evolved as a slightly different human being from him. Maybe that’s why our films have a mix of magical moments and perfect commercial packaging. It’s a nice blend of two sensibilities. Where I am now, I don’t have his experience or his mind or his talent and he doesn’t have my age or the sensibilities of my generation.”

The steel in Hrithik was further put to test, when after his dream debut, most of his successive films, even those with renowned directors like Sooraj Barjatya, Vidhu Vinod Chopra and Subhash Ghai, didn’t quite make it to the marquee. He was written off as the one-hit wonder, until Koi…Mil Gaya reaffirmed his status as an actor of substance and then, detractor accused him of giving his best only to his father!

“It’s the job of every director to bring out the best in the actor,” he retorts sharply. “My father is only doing his job. If you’re seeing my talent in my father’s films it means there’s talent in me. He does not treat me like a star. He treats me like a student because he knows how much time I take to prepare and he gives me that. Others fix up a shot and say ‘After all, it’s Hrithik Roshan, we don’t have to tell him anything; he will get it’. That works against me, because I’m not that talented. A lot of actors can do it, I can’t. I don’t have that spontaneous talent. My talent is about my hard work; how I work at it to get to where I am. For instance, I’m a very bad dancer, it’s just the amount of work I put in that makes it look effortless on screen.”

So, he’s obviously put in a helluva lot to enact the mentally challenged Rohit of Koi..Mil Gaya. “Rohit is me in a very strange way. Of all my characters, I’ve related to him the most. Maybe it’s because I’ve never felt normal for most of my life. Rohit was so close to me that I couldn’t detach myself. I still can’t distance myself from him,” he says in wonder. “He made me connect with myself. He made me more content. He allowed me to relive that regressed emotion withing myself.”

Koi…Mil Gaya had a lot at stake besides Hrithik’s status as an actor. His father poured his life’s savings intp making India’s first sci-fi film. Suppose the film had bombed? He mutters, “God forbid,” before continuing, “I was badly hoping Koi..Mil Gaya would be accepted because I have never been so attached to any of my films. If it had not worked, I would have been shattered and it would have taken a long time to pick up the pieces. But God has reaffirmed my faith in the equation that honest hard work equals success. I believe that you get what you deserve.”

So, when he first noticed Suzanne at a traffic signal, did he feel that she was someone he was destined for, someone he deserved? He lights up. “My car had stopped at a signal and hers was next to mine (a real life scene recreated for KNPH). Of course, I knew who she was and she too knew me, though we’d never met. We glanced fleetingly at each other before the signal changed. Since her car was parallel to mine for quite a while, we kept looking at each other. The next day a mutual friend informed me that Suzanne thought I was cute,” he chuckles. “I replied that I thought she had on too much of make-up! The friend repeated that and Suzanne was so hopping mad, she called me up. That’s how it started!”

Their six-year courtship was smooth sailing, though Hrithik himself admits that he was guilty of not telling her how much he loved her. “In the first year, I didn’t tell her I loved her till five months into the relationship. Then, in the second year I thought what I felt then wasn’t love, this is. The same thing happened in the third year and then in the fourth and the fifth and the sixth. Now, after getting married, I’ve realized those six years were nothing. This is love.”

When they started dating, he was a nobody. Today, he’s the hottest hunk in tinseltown, busy with shootings and shows abroad – all potent ingredients for a couple to drift apart. He is vehement about the solidity of his marriage. “I’ve never felt that. Neither has she. And ever since we got married she has accompanied me on most of my outdoors.” He elaborates, “Love, for me, is just being with each other and not having to say anything or feeling pressured to do something. I just want Suzanne to be with me and I’ll be having the time of my life.”

Though so many of his films bombed, he was never held responsible. Till Main Prem Ki Diwani Hoon released and Hrithik’s Prem was on everybody’s hate list. “I know,” he says quietly. “My brief was that this character has a fake exterior. He’s happy with a vengeance when he’s actually sad. I wanted to look fake and it was a pushed emotion so I wanted it to look over the top. That’s what you saw but did notunderstand. Maybe after reading this, people will go back to see the film and say, ‘Oh so that’s what it was.’

“More than the criticism against me, it hurts when they pan somebody like Sooraj Barjatya. Condemn the thought, is what I say, not the thinker. He is an honest and hard-working man. He is the man who has given you two all-time greats of Hindi cinema (Maine Pyar Kiya, Hum Aapke Hain Koun?). I would do ten more Main Prem Ki Diwani Hoon’s in exactly the same way, just to please that one man, because he is such a good person.”

Arguably one of the best looking actors in the industry, is he guilty of a certain degree of narcissism? “You must be joking,” he exclaims. “I’m not good-looking! And I’m not being modest, I’m just being honest. The toughest thing for me to do is to look good. Give me emotion, give me comedy, give me anything, I’m comfortable. If I’ve nothing to do but look good, then I’m on tenterhooks. I don’t know what to do.”

He has his own take on being a perfectionist. “I’m told I’m one but perfectionism actually means trying to hide all your faults. Covering up my flaws takes most of my time!”

At the moment, he’s heady with the success of Koi..Mil Gaya. “When KNPH happened, I wasn’t happy with all the adulation. I didn’t know how to enjoy it. The dances, the songs…everything was attributed to me. I was burdened with too much and I wanted to shout from the rooftops that I’m not that good. Now I know better. I’ve realized that an audience tends to give the star full credit for the hit or flop of the film. It’s not the truth but it’s what the audience instinctively does. That’s why the success of Koi…Mil Gaya is not a burden.”

He has barely 72 hours with his family before he’s off to Ladakh for a three month continuous schedule for Farhan Akhtar’s Lakshya. And he’s dreading it. “I feel like a schoolboy forced to go to school on Monday when he has not done his homework,” he chuckles, “so Suzanne is coming to drop me there.” Reflecting on his recent role, he sigh, “ Doing Koi..Mil Gaya for the last three years, turned me into a child. Now, I’ll have to grow up all over again – that too in Ladakh!”