The Kite Runner

Published On: 2013-12-24

Author: Bidisha Ghosal

Media Link:

The Kite Runner



Source: Manorama Online 

By: Bidisha Ghosal 



Hrithik Roshan makes a comeback with Kites. His journey to the box office, turning points and test by fire. 


January 2000. The month was peppered with mega Khan releases—Aamir launched his brother in Mela; Salman had Dulhan Hum Le Jayenge; and the biggest anticipation was with Shah Rukh Khan, who was making his production debut with Phir Bhi Dil Hai Hindustani. Two were mega flops and the third did moderate business. Still, things might not have changed as the three had settled into their own niche and were not distinctly uncomfortable with each other at the top. Unfortunately for them, a dark horse reared up in between. On January 14, Bollywood’s nth romantic drama released. No one thought they had to even lift their eyes; romance had long been SRK’s forte and others vying for the same position had come and gone. Kaho Naa… Pyaar Hai didn’t even have a known face. Its claim to fame till then had been debutant Kareena Kapoor’s infamous walk-out three days before the film went to floors. 


Though Rakesh Roshan’s success as a director was well established by then, people associated his son’s launch with Roshan Sr’s inability to carve success as an actor. Moreover, the lead hero had always been known as a shy, gangly boy who lacked the aura required for superstardom. His heroine, Amisha Patel, was practically a nobody. The industry was pinning far more hopes on the other two debutants of that year, Abhishek Bachchan and Kareena. It is what makes this success story sweeter. At the end of first day, first show, across the country, Hrithik Roshan was born again. He was, literally, a three-hour phenomenon. He ushered in the Peacock Era of the Hindi film hero, where the leading man equalled the lady in looks, surpassed her in dance and cried with touching abandon. Years after Vinod Khanna petered out, here was a man who looked like a Greek god, had bronzed skin and possessed a jaw-dropping lithe quality that one would never expect from a body that buffed. Hrithik had made the industry sit up in shock, and given women’s fantasy world a shot in the arm and men, something definitive to aspire to. “After Koyla I was sitting on some subjects and I happened to watch Aradhana, where Rajesh Khanna had a double role,” says Roshan Sr. “I thought, ‘Why can’t I make a love story based on a double role?’ And so Kaho Naa… happened. I remember discussing it with my team—those days Hrithik was assisting me—and someone asked where I was going to look for a new face now. I said, ‘I’m making this with my son.’ Hrithik was upset that I had not told him before, but these are the moments one lives for, right? The element of surprise, preparing something for your child… In a year we were ready to shoot.” There was no looking back. Kaho Naa… was a huge hit. Hrithik was every girl’s dream come true. Light-eyed and well-spoken, he had the added charm of oddities—a third thumb and a stutter that he overcame each time he faced the camera.


Unfortunately, the heady success and several awards later, he chose to work with directors based on their worthy reputations, but who were on a downslide. Sooraj Bharjatiya (Main Prem ki Deewani Hoon) and Subhash Ghai (Yaadein) are only two of them. In retrospect, a pensive and philosophical Hrithik says: “I think everything I did before Koi Mil Gaya was meant to be, because that’s the journey that was destined, programmed. So I don’t regret anything. Talent always finds its own level, even though initially you might not know where it’s going. Before KMG I was only doing reference acting. My filmmakers were extremely supportive and we had a great time. But they were trying to repeat the success of Kaho Naa... and the image that that film gave me. I was also doing the same thing thinking it was the right thing to do.” Critics lauded his performance as the retarded boy in KMG. It had a successful run at the box office and more awards came his way. Then again, detractors pointed out he had done well only with his father at the helm. Rakesh sounds off a possible explanation other than malice. “It’s because Hrithik and I never repeat ourselves,” he says. “As a director I never do the same kind of film twice, and I end up giving Hrithik different roles. He did a romance, then a children’s film, then became a superhero and now he’s doing Kites. If you challenge yourself in the right way, you will do a good job.” Hrithik singles out Koi Mil Gaya as a turning point. “It was the first time I enjoyed my flight as an actor. Post that, everything I have done has been a milestone for me,” he says. “I played a superhero in Krrish, I did Lakshya where Farhan [Akhtar] taught me to be indifferent to the camera. I did Jodhaa Akbar where Ashutosh [Gowarikar] pushed me in a completely new direction.” Dhoom:2 was bigger, better and bolder than Dhoom and the reason was the lead pair’s stunning transformation from saadgi (simplicity) to sexy. Hrithik and Aishwarya Rai Bachchan had built their reputations on ‘safe’ roles. Their transformation into uber-stylish, glamorous and risqué characters was timed well. While one can draw a clear before-and-after line with Dhoom:2, Hrithik denies it changed his life. “It was a side I wanted to explore and Ash, too,” he says. 


“As actors it’s our duty to extend and explore all our sides. By then, Ash and I knew how to face the camera, what body language to put on, etc. We were coming from the same space, probably because initially we both wanted to fit into the mould of the perfect hero and the perfect heroine. It’s not necessarily the best goal to have for a good actor, but we just happened to be coming from there. And, all those years of watching ourselves manifested in Dhoom.” Dhoom:2 clicked at the box office, after which he won rave reviews for his portrayal of Emperor Akbar. Save for an item number in Krazzy 4 and a spot-on guest appearance in debutant Zoya Akhtar’s Luck By Chance, Hrithik lay low for the next two years. Kites has become the most important film of his career. It has been Hrithik’s test by fire. It placed him under intense media scrutiny, but brought a special friend into his life. It has taken a visibly noticeable toll on him, yet delivered him from a terrible handicap. It kicked the media frenemies out of the closet, but has possibly paved the way for kind, make-up reviews. Kites could have been his Waterloo, yet just might end up being his Everest. To begin with, he nearly didn’t do the movie and was seriously considering an alternative career. Reason: he couldn’t get up on his feet without propping himself up with his hands because of his knee injury, more serious than he had let on to the public. Rakesh recalls, “He told me two weeks before shooting commenced that he cannot do the film. I told him, ‘Come, try it, see how you feel and if it doesn’t work out, I’ll cancel it.’ But… I was always sure he would do it. Somehow, anyhow.” Kites also threatened everything he had worked hard for as reports of a torrid love affair between him and leading lady, Barbara Mori, spread. While Hrithik is not a stranger to such talk (the other rumoured affair was between him and Kareena), he has rarely been barraged with gossip as much as during the making of Kites. The media had a field day coming up with puns for white ants and zeroing in on which bungalow Hrithik bought for himself and Barbara. 


With no clarification at his end, it moved on to his film and reports of fights over the final cut, director Anurag Basu walking out and struggling to find international distributors filtered out. The last such incident was a publication leaking the ending of the movie two weeks ago. Says Rakesh: “Rumours were always part and parcel of an actor’s life, but now the media is abusing its power. I take on challenges. I enjoy making films that give me sleepless nights. So I can safely say I haven’t slept for the last two and a half years! “One can never know how a film will fare at the box office, for the chemistry you have with it, as its maker, is bound to be very different from the chemistry it will share with the audience. I am very clear that the script should not change while shooting is on, for one comma altered here and it will affect the end. Once it is completed, then you will be able to execute changes, if required, much more smoothly. You can re-shoot, that’s all right.” For shy Hrithik, it might have been a relatively smooth transition from assistant director to lead actor as he was familiar with his father’s style of shooting. But Hrithik the actor took his father aback. “He gets involved completely. He is in the skin of that character, much more than what even a director can imagine,” says the proud dad. Ask him if that in itself can turn into a weakness, and he replies gravely, “Never. That is not his weakness. If anything, I cannot take him for granted as an actor. You cannot give him a scene in the morning and say, ‘Lights are ready, come shoot.’ He won’t know what to do. But give him that same scene two days in advance and allow him time to prepare, he will be confident, relaxed and thoroughly in character. So as a director, you have to be prepared with your material when you are shooting with him.” 


It is an approach that is finding favour as Bollywood creeps its way to methods that explain its madness. Hrithik entered the industry at a time when films like Dil Chahta Hai and Lagaan were finding their feet. He switched gears at just that moment when maverick directors like Anurag Kashyap and Dibakar Banerjee were discovering new audiences. The one film that will immediately pop to mind upon saying Hrithik’s name is yet to come. It might be Kites; if not, it’ll be another. One thing we may rest assured of. With directors like Sanjay Leela Bhansali and Zoya Akhtar taking him on for their projects, that movie will certainly come.