Why Hrithik Roshan is still a bankable actor

Why Hrithik Roshan is still a bankable actor

The actor shines in an otherwise erratic film based on Indian mathematician Anand Kumar's social initiative


Khalid Mohamed

Published: Fri 19 Jul 2019, 12:00 AM

Last updated: Fri 26 Jul 2019, 9:58 AM

His manners are flawless in a business that tends to be excessively arrogant and self-serving. He laughs rarely but when he does, it's full-throatedly. And there's a layered side to him, which he once admitted to saying, "Frankly, I feel there are too many personalities within me, which is perhaps why I can be full of contradictions."

That was Hrithik Roshan ruminating, during the course of a flight from New Delhi to Mumbai, at the outset of his career when he had just wrapped up the shoot for Kaho Naa. Pyaar Hai (2000). The romantic entertainer, directed by his father Rakesh Roshan, went on to catapult him into an overnight sensation. Driving past huge billboards of the film all over the city, he'd mull, "I can't believe this is happening to me. I just hope it isn't a dream I wake up from suddenly."

The Hrithik hysteria, especially among the millennials, had to be seen upfront to be believed. Now, nearly two decades after achieving mega-stardom, the unarguably sensitive actor has evolved immeasurably. Proof: a conviction-laden act in the biopic Super 30. It is culled from the life of Anand Kumar, an educationist and mathematician, who initiated a programme in Patna to coach underprivileged students for the entrance examinations of the prestigious Indian Institutes of Technology.

The 45-year-old actor's glamour-shorn performance, indeed, is the strongest crowdpulling element of the film, in which the erratic direction by Vikas Bahl, unfortunately, doesn't quite match up to Hrithik's histrionic skills.

Bahl, who was outed in the #MeToo movement, and, controversially, cleared of the allegations, doesn't display any of the storytelling chutzpah, which he did in the valentine to plucky children Chillar Party (2011) as well as the fluidly narrated dramedy Queen (2014).

In the case of Super 30, Bahl falters, particularly in the second-half of the inordinately lengthy two-hours-42-minuter. The retelling of the story of the cause-driven mathematician becomes far too sanctimonious and, at junctures, even implausible. Fortuitously, Hrithik sustains his acting graph firmly, pointing towards a classic case of the lead actor being superior to the material assigned to him. Mercy be.

The box office collections for the opening days have been upbeat despite the mixed reviews. Practically every reviewer, though, has singled out the actor for praise - yes, even garnering wah-wah tweets from mediapersons, who had dismissed him as a misfit not so long ago. Obviously, Hrithik's resilience has paid off with Super 30, in which he is seen after a hiatus since Kaabil (2017). Those who were straining at the leash to write him off have had to eat the proverbial humble pie.
Am I being biased in favour of Hrithik Roshan? After all, we did Fiza (2000) together, didn't we? To such a charge, I would say, no way. Unlike an overwhelming majority of actors, he has been consistently open to criticism. Perhaps that's why he hasn't collected a group of fawning flatterers around him.

Fault his performance, as I have over time, and he won't sulk or cut off a professional relationship egotistically. If he disagrees with a scene in the script, he requests if there could be a discussion for improvement. For instance, during the making of Fiza, he would say politely, "I know I'm overstepping my line, but do you think we could improve upon the scene, with your permission?" He would give his inputs and I have no hesitation in affirming that's a must in filmmaking, if it is to be viewed as teamwork.

Clearly, here's an actor who has enhanced the quality of the often-chaotically assembled mainstream Bollywood cinema. He can be the vulnerable superhero of Koi.Mil Gaya (2003) and its spin-offs Krrish (2006) and Krrish 3 (2013), distinguishing them with varied nuances. And he can be the death-defying antagonist of Dhoom 2 (2006), the authoritative emperor of Jodhaa-Akbar (2008), the cool corporate dude of Zindagi Naa Milegi Dobara (2011) and the avenging angel of Agneepath (2012), with equal finesse.

To cite just a few random instances, there have been downers like Yaadein (2001), Main Prem Ki Diwani Hoon (2003), Kites (2010) and Mohenjo Daro (2016) in which he couldn't redeem the out-of-control shows. Also, in Guzaarish (2010), directed by the celebrated Sanjay Leela Bhansali no less, he couldn't quite hold up the derivative script (from the Spanish film The Sea Inside, 2004) with his acting pyrotechnics.

Travelling the same route as Aamir Khan, Hrithik strives for perfection. And like Aamir, he misses the mark when a project flounders. Aamir has survived calamities. Ditto for Hrithik, who stays afloat and how in Super 30, which could have capsized had it featured a lesser actor.

On the personal front, I can sense that he does get hurt but doesn't show it. If his 14-year-old-long marriage to Sussanne Khan culminated in a separation, he has attempted to focus on the positives. The two have remained close friends and are often seen in the company of their sons Hridhaan and Hrehaan.

The allegations of misconduct flung at him by Kangana Ranaut have had to be handled with sobriety. And if his sister, Sunaina, went on social media lately to level a welter of accusations against the Roshan family, these have had to be dealt with composure. It's no secret that for over a year, dad Rakesh Roshan hasn't been in the best of health. To prevent aggravation, the media intrusion had to be kept at bay.

Incidentally, as a child actor, Hrithik had featured in brief roles in five films piloted by his father. His turn, especially in Bhagwan Dada (1986) was outstanding. Unbeknownst to many, the Roshan family didn't want Duggu (his nickname) to eventually join Bollywood, although he had assisted his father during the making of the Salman Khan-Shah Rukh Khan hit Karan Arjun (1995). No surprise, then, when he entered the industry, he was already familiar with the basic elements of acting, camera and editing techniques.

Duggu was scheduled to go to the US for further studies after graduating from Mumbai's Sydenham College of Commerce and Economics. Despite his stammer and a recurring back ailment, the graduate expressed his wish to act in Kaho Naa...Pyaar Hai. The stammer and ailment were mastered through sheer dint of spirit.
So Hrithik Roshan has been with us since then - at times, down in the tradition of all actors, but never out.

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