The enormity of an interaction with Hrithik Roshan begins to weigh on me when I notice the excitement in my friends and colleagues when I tell them I’m going to interview him. Offers to carry my bag for the interview at JW Marriot Hotel in Juhu, are followed by reminisces about their favourite Hrithik film. That’s the kind of emotion the third-most handsome face in the world (going by a recent global online survey) elicits.
Before we start the interview, Hrithik walks over to turn off the air conditioning and reaches for two bottles of water. He is a courteous man, his manner attentive and earnest. Very earnest. So what does it feel like to be chosen the third most handsome man in the world next only to Hollywood stars Tom Cruise and Robert Pattinson?
“Well, handsome is as handsome does,” he says. “I am honoured, of course. I’ve told my sons to always thank people for compliments. This is a compliment, not an achievement.” If he’s flattered or overwhelmed, he’s not showing it. To not care about how you look makes you look even more attractive, doesn’t it?
That radiant Kaho Naa...Pyaar Hai smile is intact. And that bodaciously well-built, hush-your-mouth body peeps through a sweatshirt and track pants. The Bang Bang star is forthright, elliptical and lucid, despite a gruelling 21-hour action and dance shoot. There’s more to come as the actor is on a whirlwind of shoots and interviews. He revels in it. “There are times when there is an overlap of schedules and you don’t get a clear window to spend time with the family,” he says. “Then you make strong choices and let go of something monetarily. I make sure that I strike that balance. It’s never been a problem for me.”
His earlier choices were defined by looks and commercial viability. “Years ago it would have been a problem for me to sit at home doing nothing.” He’d rather have been on the sets of a film that he thought wasn’t ten on a scale of ten, but was at least 7.5. “I realised that it wasn’t for me. I can’t work for the sake of it,” he says. “I’d rather sit at home and involve myself in my other world, which is my family and kids. One can be creative in so many ways. You don’t always have to run after your career and money. Now I only do what keeps me enthusiastic. No matter what. Or I sit at home and do fun stuff like paint, learn new things or travel the world—until I find something that drives me insane again.”
Years ago it would have been a problem for me to sit at home doing nothing.
Hrithik is not shy about admitting the names of the actors who have affected him the most. He was 15, when he interned as a clapper boy on the sets of his father Rakesh Roshan’s films. “My first teacher by observation was Anil Kapoor,” he says. “I learnt persistence and perseverance from him. He showed me that mistakes are made. I really admired that and learned that I could make mistakes and yet excel. It was allowed. From Shah Rukh, I learned how to risk everything. I learned fearlessness and belief in myself; to take a leap in spite of not wanting to let go fully. SRK used to do action scenes that I thought were dangerous. But I saw him not only do them, but give his all. I do the same now.” It’s this willingness to learn from those around him and his ability to embrace fear that took Hrithik to a new and thrilling place—the threshold of stardom.
That, however, is not the only reason that Hrithik is the most exciting leading man to emerge in years. It’s because he dives into roles that would make most Bollywood himbos look like kindergarten actors: an awkward, bespectacled autistic teen, an army officer, a Mughal emperor, a paraplegic, a superhero.
“I love everything about being an actor. It has taken me time to actually say this as I would keep getting distracted by the amount of effort that it used to take. I now realise that I am totally, wholly and solely in love with what I do. It ignites me. It drives me. But it is my responsibility to choose the correct platform that keeps me passionate.”
He’s undoubtedly a perfectionist, but Hrithik Roshan at 42 figures he can survive a dud or two. First there was Siddarth Anand’s action film Bang Bang with Katrina Kaif that tanked and recently Ashutosh Gowarikar’s exquisite, but deplorable Mohenjo Daro. “Failure can teach you what success cannot,” he says. “What I learnt was something that centred me so beautifully that I am grateful for everything that transpired this year.”
This year and a few before have been particularly harsh on the actor, who suffered a back injury and then had a brain surgery in 2013. A legal separation from his wife of 13 years, Sussanne Khan, and a toxic war of words with his former Krrish 3 co-star Kangana Ranaut made the star shun the spotlight as much as he could. “You learn (in situations like these) how to be patient, creative, and not to waste your time sitting and wondering. Instead, you should keep moving. Things ultimately settle down, and the body heals itself. Plus, as long as your mind is healthy and creative, and you stay focused on what you are enthusiastic about, even if you are in bed, your body will heal.”
One can be creative in so many ways. You don’t always have to run after your career and money.
Being one of the most recognised faces in show-business in the world has its own disadvantages. The world makes you out to be better or worse than you actually are, causing you to rejoice or despair. “I’m detached from these two extreme reactions. If you don’t let exaggerated adulation change who you know you are, then it’s easy to be comfortable when the world says you’re worse than you are!”
Right now Hrithik is at peace with himself. He feels centred and content, he says. He is having fun boot camping with his boys, going on road trips, zip lining at 300ft in the air through forests, going for 4 a.m. safaris in Africa and sleeping under the stars in the desert. “My idea of travel is not going to some place and feeling the breeze. I like to do crazy things. I have a map of the world on the wall in my boys’ room. We choose where we want to go. My mission is to have travelled to most parts of the world by the time they are 18 or 21. Let’s see, fingers crossed.” Meanwhile his sons, Hridhaan and Hrehaan, are fascinated by the thought of being actors. “I tell them it’s going to be their decision, but they are exploring the idea,” he reveals.
The mega star’s bodyguard, standing beside the gaggle of publicists makes makes his presence felt, signalling the end of the allotted time. Hrithik plays a blind man in his next film, Kaabil. If there’s tremendous pressure to make moviegoers choke on their popcorn, Hrithik isn’t showing it.
I love everything about being an actor. It has taken me time to actually say this as I would keep getting distracted by the amount of effort that it used to take. I now realise that I am totally, wholly and solely in love with what I do. It ignites me. It drives me. But it is my responsibility to choose the correct platform that keeps me passionate.
I love: Travelling, and my time with my boys. Of course, there is my gymnasium which is like my temple. That’s the place I feel most like myself. My greatest desire: Is to keep discovering my potential. I want to have the same enthusiasm that I have now till my last day.
The thing that makes me happiest: My kids. And not when they give me something. They make me happy when I see growth in them. When I see them making their own decisions or when I see their characters evolving. The thing that angers me most: Stupidity… even my own.
Luxury is: Not being wasted. Having a choice to do the kind of things you want to do. For me it is going to a mountain-top and jumping off with a parachute if I want to or when I want to.
Love life: I have a lot of it in my life and I don’t feel the need for it. But the thing with life is that it always surprises you. So never say never. The first thing I notice in a woman: Her smile.
Fashion mantra: I feel I have not grown there. I know what looks good on me and what doesn’t. But I am not fashionably inclined. I just don’t have that faculty in my brain.
My wardrobe: I mostly live in T-shirts, shorts and tracks. My gym routine: When I am not shooting long hours, I work out one hour in the morning and one and half hours in the evening. Mornings are dedicated cardio or cross fit. Nowadays, I do calisthenics, which is using your own body weight to do crazy things.
What next: I am looking forward to doing some crazy and exciting work.
Photos : Raj Chaturvedi
Styling : Sukriti Grover for Style Cell
Hair : Aalim Hakim
Make-up : Vijay Palande
Text : Nivedita Jayaram Pawar
Location Courtesy : JW Marriott Mumbai Juhu