“For an actor it is just encoded in his DNA. His instincts feel charged with the idea of a great drama or the ideal of creating these magical, inspiring moments convincingly. It’s translating something close to him on screen to inspire millions.” ~ Hrithik Roshan
Hrithik Roshan is one of THE Superstars of Bollywood. Not only is he gorgeous, but he is also very talented as an actor, so much so that he makes every performance memorable. His debut film created a sensation, and he has gone on to do even better work in his later films. Hrithik gets so into the skin of his characters that you forget you are watching Hrithik the star and instead you see Rohit, or Raj, or Karan or Mr. A’s many avatars. Of course you can’t talk about Hrithik without talking about dance and again he is brilliant. As you probably can tell I am a huge fan but I will try not to gush or go on too much as we focus on the career of this incredible actor.
Hrithik Roshan aka Duggu was born on January 10th, 1974 to Rakesh and Pinky Roshan. He comes from a very filmi family – his father Rakesh was an actor and is now one of the biggest producer/directors in Bollywood. Both of his grandfathers were in the industry and his Uncle is music director Rajesh Roshan. He also has a sister Sunaina, who is following in Papa Roshan’s footsteps as a producer. With that legacy it was natural that he would go into the family business.
Growing up and in school Hrithik says that he got away with a lot because he was so cute. “I was always the pet of my teachers in school probably because I was considered to be very cute. Because of my innocent looks I usually got away with a lot of mischief. I was spoilt and pampered by everyone. All I had to do was sport a lost-boy look and I would have things my way. At home too, if I wasn’t given something I wanted, I would simply sit with a long face till I got it.”
With a father for an actor and being “so cute”, Hrithik got his start in films early. In Aasha he was an extra in a dance sequence at just six years old. He also had small roles in Aap Ke Deewane and Bhagwan Dada, which both starred his father. “I first acted in a film called Aap Ke Deewane, which was Dad’s movie. I had a bit part in a song, got paid three hundred bucks, and bought balloons with it! As a kid, I loved balloons!”
Hrithik got his Bachelor’s degree in Business Communication at Sydneham College and he was also working as an assistant for his father, who had now moved into directing and producing. A jack-of-all-trades, Hrithik swept floors, carried bags, served tea, and also worked as an assistant director. Most notably he assisted his father on the films Karan Arjun (1995) and Koyla (1997). He said in an interview that working as an assistant prepared him for his work as an actor, “ Even while I was assisting my father, I’d keep observing the actors, how they acquitted themselves before the camera. But I was also inspired by the process of film direction. I love trying out different camera angles and framing shots. I’d continuously come up with suggestions, which, fortunately, Dad always incorporated. At one point, I seriously considered direction. But finally I gave in to my desire to be in front of the camera, at least to begin with. Acting fascinates me. I remember, during Koyla, I’d come home and act out Shah Rukh’s scenes in front of the mirror.”
He was learning everything he could about the film industry and knew that acting was his calling: “Yes, acting was always there at the back of my mind. So when my parents asked me what I wanted to do in life, I said without hesitating that I wanted to act. Obviously they were concerned. They didn’t think it was the right career for me. I don’t blame them. This is an insecure profession, after all. My mother had seen my father struggle for many years and she didn’t want me to go through it. So Dad suggested that I take up a more stable profession. And out of regard for their feelings, I decided to go to the United States. I was already assisting my dad then and after talking it over with him I gave my SATs and applied for a three-year course in special effects. I got the admission and was all set to leave the country, when I realized that I was running away. Running away from what I wanted to be. So I just tore my admission papers and told Dad I was staying back. ‘You went through the struggle, which is why you’re enjoying the rewards which follow every struggle. So even I want to struggle if I have to. I’m willing to work hard. I don’t want you to worry about me, I’ll take care of myself.’ He understood and let me do what I wanted to. Next, I started training in acting with Kishore Namit Kapoor. It was the beginning of my struggle.”
In 1999, Papa Roshan began working on his next film, Kaho Na Pyaar Hai and Hrithik was involved in the development of the script. As they worked on it, Hrithik said several times to his dad that he did not feel an established star would work as Rohit/Raj. To his surprise, his Dad agreed and said to him “ ‘Look, I’m casting you in the film.’” “I was stunned. I just excused myself and went to my room. He followed me and asked me point blank if I was ready for it. I told him I needed three months to train myself. I wanted to be prepared. He gave me five months.”
About his first shot he said, “How can I forget it? It’s very special to me. It was a long shot. There were no dialogues but it involved a lot of comic timing. The shot was of me waking up in the morning to the alarm bell and trying to switch it off. But if just doesn’t go off. And to top it, I had this huge blanket covering me, I was to do the whole comic number before finally switching off the alarm clock. The shot was okayed in the very first take, and I realized that I was on my way!”
The film released in 2000 and created the mass hysteria known as Hrithkmania. It was the biggest grosser of the year and Duggu went on to win not only the Filmfare Best Male Debut Award but also the Filmfare Best Actor Award. One review said, “One must say Rakesh Roshan knew what he was doing when he cast Hrithik as the lead. The boy is good. The ease and style, with which he dances, emotes, fights, makes one forget this is his debut film. He’s had to essay two different characters, and he’s done justice to both.”
After this unprecedented response to a debut film Hrithik was well on his way and he had many offers for roles. His next performance was in Khalid Mohamed’s Fiza and it was a completely different role than Rohit/Raj in Kaho Na Pyaar Hai. Director Mohamed said of him, “He understood the finer nuances of the role and added much to the character. He is one of the best among the present generation of actors.” The film, also starring Jaya Bachchan and Karisma Kapoor, was a critical success though not a box-office success. Taran Adarsh in his review praised Hrithik saying, “The mainstay of the film is undoubtedly Hrithik Roshan. His body language, his diction, his expressions, his overall persona deserves great praise. With this film, Hrithik proves that there is more to him than just being a fashionable rage, a Mills & Boon lover-boy and a sex symbol. His talent comes to the fore in several scenes, especially those with Karisma. All said and done, the show belongs to Hrithik, who saves Fiza to a major extent. A brilliant performance undoubtedly!” For his performance as Amaan Ikramullah, Hrithik was nominated for the Filmfare Best Actor Award.
Next was Mission Kashmir and his performance as Altaf Khan stood out and was praised by critics and audience alike. The film was the third highest grossing film of that year. Of his performance one critic said, “Hrithik once again cuts a splendid performance as a youngster sucked in the vortex of terrorism. He is portrayed as anti-government in the early part of the film– a bold role to play for even a seasoned actor, leave alone a budding superstar.”
In 2001, he appeared in two films by two of the biggest directors in Bollywood. The first was Yaadein directed by Subash Ghai and co-starring Kareena Kapoor. The film did not do well at the box office but Hrithik’s performance was applauded. The second film was the lavish Kabhi Khushi Kabhie Gham, Karan Johar’s second directorial venture. For his role as Rohan Raichand, Hrithik as nominated for the Filmfare Best Supporting Actor Award. The film was a big hit in India and an even bigger hit overseas.
2002 saw the release of Aap Mujhe Achche Lagne Lage, Na Tum Jaano Na Hum and Mujhse Dosti Karoge. Sadly, none of these films set the box office on fire, but both Na Tum Jaano Na Hum and Mujhse Dosti Karoge are two of my favorite Duggu films.
Mujhse Dosti Karoge also starred Rani Mukerji and Kareena Kapoor. Hrithik in an interview said of the film, “ What I liked about Mujhse Dosti Karoge was that it came from a completely honest source. I have worked with the best of directors and I can say that Kunal surprised me with his clarity of thought. An actor feels very comfortable when he can trust a director’s instincts. In this case I could leave myself completely in the director’s hand and be more adventurous in my performance. In Mujhse … I have definitely gone beyond my self-imposed restrictions. The dialogues are so beautifully written and the scenes so amazing that I couldn’t help doing something extra in every scene. A lot of times we changed the flow of the scenes and treated them differently. So though there was room for change, the script remained our touchstone.”
Main Prem Ki Diwani Hoon was released in 2003 and did not do so well. But, with his next film, Hrithik would show his excellence in his craft and regain his box office magic. Koi Mil Gaya, directed by Papa Roshan, was groundbreaking in its story and in Hrithik’s performance. Hrithik portrays a man who has the intellect of a six year old until he meets Jadoo, an extra terrestrial. One critic raving about his performance said, “ Koi Mil Gaya undoubtedly belongs to Hrithik Roshan who seems to have got under the very skin of his character. The conviction with which he plays the mentally challenged boy in the first half is surely worth praising. Not only does the actor deliberately distort his facial expressions while speaking his dialogues, he also brings about a garbling accent in his voice. And then he transforms into a superhuman (in the second half) with quicksilver ease.” On a personal note I remember that about half way through the film all of a sudden I realized wait a minute, that’s Hrithik?? I actually had to go look at the credits because I did not recognize him. He had become the character of a six year old in an adult’s body so convincingly that I could not believe it was the same person I had seen in his other movies. His performance in that movie firmly established in my mind that he is one of the finest actors I have seen ever. The film was a blockbuster and the biggest grosser of the 2003. Hrithik was honored with both the Filmfare Best Actor Award & Filmfare Critics Award for Best Performance.
In 2004, he again took on a role completely different from his last film. In Lakshya, Hrithik portrayed Karan Shergill, a character who goes from a man with no purpose to a man with a Lakshya (an aim). His complete change from the beginning of the movie to the climax, even the way he changed how he held his body was so incredible that you almost forget he is the same actor. “Lakshya belongs to Hrithik Roshan undoubtedly. A performance like this comes once in a while and can compete with the best from across the Atlantic. The ease with which Hrithik slips into the character is amazing and the outcome is spellbinding. If he is lovable as the aimless youngster, he is admirable as the officer,” said one critic. Though the film was not a hit, he was again nominated for the Filmfare Best Actor Award.
About these two roles Hrithik said, “Lakshya is my most subtle performance. Koi… Mil Gaya was an in-your-face performance.”
Hrithik went on a two year break, but during that time he was preparing to bring a role never before seen in Hindi cinema, that of a superhero. The 2006 film Krrish was a sequel to Koi Mil Gaya and in the film Hrithik portrayed 3 different avatars, young innocent Krrish, then the masked Krrish, the superhero who performed mind boggling stunts; he also portrayed an older Rohit Mehra from KMG. He was outstanding in all three. Audiences went mad over the innovative film and it was a blockbuster, smashing box office records. His performance was of course lauded by all and Taran Adarsh wrote, “To state that Hrithik is the soul of Krrish would be an understatement. If the actor walked away with all noteworthy awards in Koi… Mil Gaya, it’s going to be an encore with Krrish. You cannot imagine any other actor enacting the role of a gifted child with aplomb. If his mask and robe look is splendid, watch his make up, gait and mannerisms as the aged father and you’d agree, he’s one of the finest talents on the Indian screen today. Krrish is yet another ground-breaking film in his dazzling repertoire!”
After the success of Krrish everyone was waiting to see what he would do next, and what he did next blew everyone away. In Dhoom 2, Hrithik became Aryan aka Mr. A, a mastermind criminal. His portrayal of a bad guy is one of the coolest ever seen on film and for each avatar Mr. A took on Hrithik portrayed them with amazing skill and ease. About his role Hrithik said, “I’ve played the good guy long enough. Now it’s time for me to get seriously evil. I always wanted to play a cool villain. And since the bad guy in Dhoom 2 is multi-dimensional, playing this nightmarish guy is a dream come true” Hritikrules.com said of his performance, “And if he rescued the world from miscreants in Krrish, in Dhoom 2 he proved his versatility by playing the silver screen’s most dashing and enthralling thief. As Mr. A, Hrithik oozed confidence and style, thrilling women and men, young and old alike with his stylishly planned heists, mesmerizing charisma and a body sculpted to sexy perfection! The entire movie-watching world buzzed with the unanimous opinion – that Dhoom 2 was fantastic because Hrithik Roshan was fantastic. Hrithik’s effect on movie goers was like a intoxicating drug, making us go back again and again to enjoy the rush one more time!” The box-office was set on fire with Dhoom 2: it was the highest grossing film of that year and even surpassed Krrish. For his role as Mr. A, Hrithik won his third Filmfare Best Actor Award.
In all his films, Hrithik also showed his talent for dance. His skill in his numbers is exceptional. He can do all styles and, though he has had no formal training, looks like he has studied from birth. Some notable numbers are ‘Ek Pal Ka Jeena’ in Kaho Na Pyaar Hai, ‘Main Aisa Kyon Hoon’ in Lakshya which is one of the most spectacularly choreographed songs by Prabhu Deva, and though only a small part of the song, Hrithik’s dance section in ‘Aye Dil-Dil Ki Duniya Mein’ from Yaadein was one of his best, outstanding! In Dhoom 2 he showed his breathtaking talent in all the songs, especially in ‘Dhoom Machale’, which showed his proficiency in all aspects of dance. One could say he was the perfect dancer: excellent technique, joy in his dancing, and of course looking good while doing it does not hurt!
February 15th will see the release of Jodhaa Akbar, an epic film set in the Mughul era. It took over 2 years to bring this period film to life because of the massive scope of the sets, the costumes and the battle scenes (even one with an elephant) and is a film not seen in Bollywood before. Hrithik portrays Akbar and about the role he says, “I am a very shy person. Akbar was a commander. That gave me immense driving force. I read a lot about Akbar. I wanted the character to be my interpretation derived from what’s available. I wanted it to come within me. So I put myself in his shoes, his surrounding keeping in mind his lineage and upbringing. The film certainly explores the love-relationship of a couple, who got married some hundreds of years ago. But the basics of a successful relationship are no different than now. Akbar is somebody who is very identifiable. At least that’s the way I’ve portrayed him. We have shot the film when Akbar is breaking out of his shell and how this love-story stimulates that. Jalal-Jodha are very real and identifiable.”
We will finally see Hrithik’s Akbar come to life this Friday and I am sure it will be a performance that will firmly establish him in the Bollywood firmament.
Fun Facts and Quotes:
According to Hrithik, “I have an unusual name, Hrithik refers to the purity of the soul that is attained by all those who perform havan. It has a spiritual connotation.”
He married his true love Suzanne Khan on December 20th, 2000. They have one son Hrehaan and are expecting another baby due in May.
Lata Mangeshkar said, “I believe Hrithik Roshan eats, lives and breathes his work. Who sirf apne kaam ke baarey mein sochta hai. There are so many good artistes who haven’t had a successive run of hits. Does that make them any less as artists? To hound him for his failures is not right. I’ve become a big fan of Hrithik. But when he meets me with so much affection and respect in public, I’m unable to express my appreciation for him.”
On Valentine’s Day in 2000, Duggu received an unbelievable 30,000 marriage proposals.
We might soon see him in a directors hat. In a recent interview he said, “And very soon I am planning to wield the megaphone. I have always wanted to be behind the camera and not in front of it. Yet no regrets! I think I am more prepared and experienced now to do full justice to my passion of directing a movie all on my own.”
He says he is terrible with money and leaves it up to Suzanne and his parents.
He also says he has a terrible memory and cannot remember names or faces.
At 21, he was diagnosed with scoliosis, a curvature of the back. Doctors told him he would never be able to dance, act or do any of the action scenes.
Once said, “Every once a week, I get up and feel that I cannot act any more. I just get very unsure of myself. But, once I give my first shot, I’m back on track. Insecurity isn’t bad, it makes me work harder.”
Says he makes the best Spanish Omelets but will not divulge his secret recipe.
Had crushes on Gabrielle Anwar and on Jessica Rabbit. “I had a huge crush on her (Gabrielle) for ever so long. Jessica Rabbit from Who Framed Roger Rabbit (1988). I thought she was really hot!”
His favorite song is “Stand By Me” by Benny King. He said the song “is about Suzanne and me; it’s very special to both of us, actually.”
Hrithik is an avid photographer and likes to document his daily life. In fact recently when asked if everyone was safe from a fire, what is the one thing he would go back and get? He said he would save his pictures.
His debut film was almost Shekhar Kapur’s Ta Ra Rum Pum Pum. However, Kapur got the call to go to Hollywood and the film was never made.
“I am the person I am today primarily due to the fine example set by both my parents.”
His favorite Hindi films are Dilwale Dulhaniya Le Jayenge, Kaho Naa Pyaar Hai, Sholay; Hollywood films are Pretty Woman and When Harry Met Sally.
Believes that, “Film acting is work, appreciation and stardom are merely its by-products.”
“To just have a vision to have his [an actor] cinema rise higher and go beyond the ordinary. It’s the ambition, passion, the human instinct to strive and realize your ultimate potential. That’s what I feel and most actors who are ambitious in this regard feel.” This quote defines his body of work, and we hope Hrithik continues to challenge himself and do roles that are deep and complex. One can only imagine where an actor with such an amazing caliber can go from here! I know I will be waiting and watching and running to the theater for each new release.