The fortunes of War


The fortunes of War

The commercial success of his new film catapults Hrithik Roshan into superstardom all over again

By Khalid Mohamed

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Published: Fri 25 Oct 2019, 12:00 AM

Last updated: Fri 25 Oct 2019, 2:00 AM

It has crushed all opposition, in terms of sheer popularity, in the year so far. Premiered worldwide on October 2, War has collected over INR300 crore. According to  trade trackers, the espionage thriller - produced by Aditya Chopra of the Yash Raj banner - will end up with a lifetime score of INR408 crore-plus at the box office.
Shot on scenic locations in as many as seven countries, on a budget estimated at INR 200 crore, here's a glossy action-crammed entertainer, which was absolutely a make-or-break gambit, especially for its main attraction, Hrithik Roshan, whose 19-year-old career has witnessed as many downcurves as uppers.
Fortuitously, the extremely photogenic actor, at the age of 45, has reason to rejoice with the public thumbing up two of his diametrically different films in 2019 - Super 30, in which he was deglamorised, and War, in which the camera highlighted his sculpted body, chiselled face, expressive eyes and the ability to belt out lines of dialogue - even the most illogical ones - which are assigned to him, with conviction.
Apart from boosting the market equity of Hrithik, the blockbuster has also brought the 29-year-old Tiger Shroff to the forefront, besides consolidating the reputation of its director Siddharth Anand, who had collaborated with Hrithik earlier in the actioner Bang Bang (2014) and is known for belting out typical formula fare with the requisite quotients of songs, dances, stunts and a rousing do-or-die climax.
Admittedly, the premise of War - in which a rogue secret agent has to be brought back to line by a younger, agile spy - is not meant for the cognoscenti. The derivative storyline from Hollywood's Mission Impossible and Bourne series is apparent. Not surprisingly, then, the reviews were a mixed bag, although Hrithik was singled out for his magnetic screen presence. Unlike the performances of Salman Khan, which tend to be casual and off the cuff, a certain internalised brooding quality has been exercised by the actor. Incidentally, he appears to be as much of a perfectionist as Aamir Khan, who could well be his role model.
Soon after the film was declared a certified superhit, Hrithik made it clear in interviews that he doesn't intend to stick to roles in which he has to execute death-defying feats, or else he could get irrevocably stereotyped. An exemplary gameplan that, but like it or not, the audience does seem to prefer to see him in a larger-than-life avatar, rather than as a common man. Indeed, the script for his next project, Krrish 4, is not ready yet. Ostensibly, the aim is to present him as a vulnerable, ordinary middle-aged man in his 40s. The question is: would the audience be receptive to that at all? After all, a superhero can't be a weakling, can he?
I presume that the screenplay will go halfway - as indeed the actor's debut film Kaho Naa. Pyaar Hai (2000) did, thanks to a double role. Before the interval, the simple hero named Rohit succumbed to evil machinations, but in the second half, his look-alike Raj bashed up the baddies to pulp. In fact, Hrithik's switchover from the ordinary to the extraordinary, however incredible it may seem, appears to be a sureshot formula to connect with the masses. Whenever he has been shown to be physically challenged - take Guzaarish (2010) or Kaabil (2017) - the audience response hasn't exactly been overwhelming.
Over time, naysayers have carped that it's only dad Rakesh Roshan's direction which guarantees a smash hit for Hrithik. At long last, with War, that canard has been erased. And news is that if and when Krrish 4 does take off, it will be helmed by Sanjay Gupta and not by Roshan Sr, who is recuperating from ill health.
By the way, off-screen, Hrithik does seem to have become extra-fastidious and mistrusting. According to B-town's grapevine, he monitors every photograph of his printed in the newspapers or posted on websites. This proclivity for being excessively wary of his image is disturbing. A cooler approach towards the publicity campaigns of his films would ensure that he's not only a drop-dead good-looking star but an outstanding actor as well.
Ah, but then, that's Dugu, as his pet name goes.  He has survived a chronic spine ailment, a brain surgery, a 14-year-old marriage with his childhood sweetheart Sussanne Khan which culminated in a divorce, and a controversy of the most unpleasant kind with Kangana Ranaut levelling charges of unbecoming conduct at him. He seems to be at his best and relaxed in the company of his two sons, 13-year-old Hrehaan and 11-year-old Hridhaan.
A somewhat more chilled-out attitude, in reel as well as real life, would do him a world of good. And now's the time to do it. With the astounding success of War, he's in a comfortable zone. Here's hoping that he selects his roles in the future, going by his gut instinct instead of overthinking. So, as that good old song goes, Dugu, don't worry, be happy.

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