Stellar Evolution

Published On: 2013-10-25

Author: Martin Prihoda

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Stellar Evolution



Source: GQ Magazine, India 

Written by: Ashok Gupta Photographed 

By: Martin Prihoda 

Styled by: Arjun Bhasin 



He’s rich, famous, good-looking and poised to take Bollywood’s number-one slot. Hrithik Roshan may already be a star, but he’s just getting started Hrithik Roshan sits in his den, facing a large mirrored wall behind the sofa. He shifts back his black baseball cap and lays his bare feet on his desk. On the top shelf of the bookcase behind him sits his IIFA 2009 award for Most Powerful Entertainer of the Decade. He grins, looking like the cat who got not just the cream but the entire dairy farm. At 35, Roshan is now one of the industry’s most bankable actors, recently racking up another stack of awards for his critical and commercial hit Jodhaa Akbar. Aamir Khan and Shah Rukh Khan may still be the industry’s alpha-male leading men, but at 44 and 43 respectively, the countdown clocks on their careers are ticking. If anyone can supplant them in the number-one slot, it is Roshan. I met Roshan just once before this meeting, in 2003, at a Screen Awards after party at the Vie Deck & Lounge in Juhu, Mumbai. He had just won the Best Actor award for his role as the mentally challenged Rohit in Koi... Mil Gaya – one of nine Best Actor awards he won that year for the film that booster-rocketed him back to star status after a string of flops. He seemed short, in a black suit and white shirt that looked too big for him. 


All I remember from that night, apart from Bipasha Basu’s legs, is Roshan taking my hand, looking me in the eye and saying, “Hi”, and then, after a perfect I-know-you-know-this-already-but-I’m-going-to-say-it-anyway beat, “I’m Hrithik Roshan.” He must have been saying the same thing the same way all night, to a bar full of journalists high on free cocktails, but it felt like he had said it only once, to me. Today, Roshan seems even more magnetically self-possessed than he was then. It’s not just the Jesus-esque long curly hair; he’s got a guru-like aura, like he has figured out something the rest of us have yet to be let in on. We meet in his family’s sumptuous, sprawling ninth-floor flat in Juhu, a labyrinth of white marble staircases and beige and brown furnishings, in a small den dominated by a mirrored wall and a widescreen TV. When he takes your hand, fixes that bright gaze on you and splits his bulletproof grin, he gives the impression that there’s no one else in the world he could find more interesting and important. Perhaps it’s the natural radiance of someone born to a life of money and fame. Like so many other prominent Bollywood figures, Roshan inherited the movie-star mantle from his father, actor-director Rakesh Roshan, but in the stories Hrithik tells of his youth, he was an ugly duckling who turned himself into a swan; a gawky, awkward kid, laughed at for the double-thumb he was born with on his right hand, and hobbled by a chronic stammer and crippling shyness until he was around 21 years old. “I was a recluse. I was very shy. I didn’t talk much,” he says. “I couldn’t say a word and I wanted to be an actor. And every time I said that, I felt like such a fool because I used to go, ‘I-I-I… w-w-w-want… t-t-t-to… b-b-be… a-an… a-a-actor!’” Roshan says he looks on his life as if it were a movie. And the way he went from zero to hero sounds like it came straight out of Koi... Mil Gaya, with Roshan as his own Jadoo. Roshan lays out a montage sequence of his young self, inspired, locking himself away in his room for 36 hours, reading aloud into a tape recorder. “I say: ‘I will not come out of this room until I can say these lines fluently.’” 


At the end of the montage, the wide-eyed young Roshan listens to the tape playing his lines back, clearly: “‘Dude, this is easy! All I have to do is practice!’” After his startlingly confident debut in Kaho Naa... Pyaar Hai in 2000, Roshan suddenly found himself, as he puts it, living the life of a star: “Walking through airports, and just having the feeling that I’m so damn special. And signing autographs, having that look in your eye, and that little frown,” he laughs. “And you have that weight in your face because it’s a heavy life, you know – I’m a star. But I used to keep questioning, why am I so uncomfortable? Why is there this nervous energy? Why don’t I feel good about this? “When you become a star, you have a tendency, out of insecurity, to always wear a mask, because you don’t want to expose yourself, or you want to show people what they want to see. Being a star is about having that mask on. But I started to grow very uncomfortable with that because I was so involved in trying to live in the truth, and seeing lies and deceit everywhere. “You get so confused between the person that you are and the persona that is projected on to that big, huge screen. I’ve been on stage where I have 40,000 people shouting my name. I see them up close and they have tears in their eyes. And you could so easily take all that and fill your ego with it and feel like a god, but you finally realize that it is a bottomless pit.” Over the course of the six years since Koi... Mil Gaya, Roshan has become increasingly selective about his roles, paring down the number of projects he takes on and producing strong commercial performers like Krrish, Dhoom:2 and last year’s Jodhaa Akbar. Kites, due for release in December or January, will be a new departure, a cross-cultural romancer with Spanish, Hindi and English dialogue, set in Las Vegas. 


In July, he began shooting his next project, a film called Guzarish, directed by Sanjay Leela Bhansali, in which he plays a bedridden paraplegic. “I have to look sick, debauched and very thin,” he says, “so I’ve stopped working out.” He has now evolved to a new level of confidence, he says, and he’s ready to do more projects that the industry would consider “risky”. “I see everybody doing the same thing over and over again because it works… I’ve reached a stage where I have enough courage… to do films I believe in, whether they’re considered commercial or non-commercial. It really doesn’t matter so much.” Roshan also feels more comfortable with that mask on. “I do it with a sense of awareness now, which sort of depletes the power of the mask. I know what I need to do, because that’s the order of the day and I need to be projected as a star, but I do it in a way that’s a bit more real now.” Still, he painstakingly crafts himself to fit the industry’s demands. “I am my own product,” says Roshan. “And I have to take care of myself. I have to display myself in the best possible way. My light, my expressions, my clothes, everything has to go right. That’s going to get me my name, my fame, my bread-and-butter, my money for me and my family.” 



Production credits: 

Hair: Kanta Motwani-Kromakay 

Make-up: Vijay Palande 

Assistant stylist: Tania Fadte 

Set design: Pinakin 

Production: Gizelle Cordo, Alecka Micklewright; Hybrid Productions