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Immortalizing Talent – Hrithik Roshan

As defined by Dictionary.com, the word “immortalize,” when used as a verb means, to bestow unending fame upon, or in simplest terms, to make immortal. When we look at Bollywood, there are many actors who have graced the platform as being immortalized for their acting abilities; and lately there’s been one actor, who has shot right up the ladder since his debut in Bollywood.

In the 1980’s, Hrithik Roshan started his career in the film industry, but it wasn’t until 2000 that his ice was finally broke when he was cast as the lead in Kaho Naa…Pyaar Hai. The movie was so successful that Roshan became that ultimate superstar overnight. With numerous Filmfare and industry awards on his shelf, and sleek dance moves on the floor, there was no wonder that Roshan was rising quickly due to his indescribable talents. Roshan soon began riding the wave of success and landed blockbuster films such as Kabhi Kushi Kabhi Ghamm Dhoom 2, Jodhaa Akbar, to the ever-popular, Guzaarish. Roshan has also been named one of the many few Bollywood celebs to be enlisted into the world-famous Madam Tussauds wax museum. In the start of a new era, Roshan is still booming and not only in the film industry; he’s also taken the television route, as his fellow co-stars, and now you can see him on his show Just Dance. As Roshan prepares for the launch of his forthcoming release, Zindagi Na Milegi Dobara, I had the opportunity to sit down with this superstar and chat about his past, present, future and what make him truly immortal.

Before we get into your film career, I’d like to talk about something about you, which many don’t know; you attended Sydenham College and attained your Bachelor’s Degree in Commerce. Before entering into Bollywood, did you ever put the degree to use? Why did you not consider attending college for music, production or another artistic field?
You know, although I was never pushed into a career in the industry, for me, it always felt like a natural career path. I had such wonderful role models to gain inspiration from – my father, my paternal uncle and my maternal grandfather. I had been exposed to the industry from a young age, but was always encouraged by my family to excel in my studies and have a solid educational background. Quite by chance, I had the opportunity of appearing as a child artist in three of my father’s films and of assistant directing in a couple of later films. Even though I focused wholeheartedly on my education at that time in my life, I was always drawn to a career in the industry, in some way or other.

Now onto one thing that many admire of you: you’re a man of many roles. You’re an actor, a husband and a father. You’ve been married for 10 years now and along with your talents, your wife is quite the businesswoman as well. How do you balance both a professional and personal lifestyle equally?
I think for both of us, family and personal life is the first priority always. We both have demanding professional schedules, but make sure that after work, all of our time is spent together. Where possible, my family travels with me for any overseas work commitments and it is fortunate that my wife also comes from a film background, so she understands the commitments, the long working hours and so forth. Again, it’s about prioritising and family comes first and foremost for both of us.

Do you hope that both Hridhaan and Hrehaan will grow up and follow the Roshan legacy into Bollywood?
I would want to encourage them to follow the path that they feel most passionately about. I am very conscious about keeping them out of the public eye as much as possible and for them to live their lives as normally as is possible, as grounded and humble individuals. They are aware of what their dad does as a career, but I don’t want them to be influenced by that. Both Sussanne and I try to instil in them a value system based on hard work, humility, honesty and integrity. Coming back to your question, we will support them unconditionally in whichever career paths they are respectively drawn towards and encourage them to do their very best in their chosen fields.

Now onto your Bollywood career! In the 1980’s you appeared in films as a child actor. However your Bollywood debut was in 2000 in the film Kaho Naa…Pyaar Hai. How have you grown as an actor? What were your weaknesses when you began and now what are your strengths?
I think for me, as an artist, it is important to keep challenging myself and pushing my boundaries. I think I’ve grown through selecting film projects that allow me to step out of familiar comfort zones and to give audiences something new, something different and something that surpasses my previous roles. I guess my initial weaknesses involved paying too much attention to opinions that don’t count and I have learned to differentiate between opinions that do and don’t count, over time. Primarily, it is the opinion of fans, family and friends that I take on board. I think my strengths now lie in the ability to trust my instincts, and to take risks. I have been offered some amazing roles that I may not have had the opportunity of delivering, had I remained in my comfort zone.

In 1995 and 1997, you were an assistant director, helping in the production of your father’s two films, Karan Arjun and Koyla. How did these experiences help you as you were stepping into Bollywood?
They gave me an extremely good grounding into how the industry works. It was also invaluable insofar as gaining insight into the other side of the fence – what a director wants from his artists, which I was certainly more mindful of when I appeared on the other side of the camera.

There were a few films you starred in which didn’t do too well at the box office. However, critically your acting was highly praised. How do you handle such criticism? Are they merely bumps in the road or truly something that one can learn from as an actor?
That’s what I mean about taking risks – you never know how audiences will react until they have seen the end result. From my side, it is the audiences that I have in mind from the outset – I want to give them my best, offer them something new, and it is ultimately their approval I seek. So when they don’t take well to one of my films, I am certainly disappointed as I feel I have let them down, and it makes you evaluate what did not work. You have to learn from those experiences, ever more determined to win their approval the next time round.

One of your most acclaimed roles was of Ethan Mascarennas, a quadriplegic patient in Sanjay Leela Bhansali’s, Guzaarish. When approached for the role, what was your initial reaction? How did you prepare for such a role? Did you spend time with such patients to learn their behaviour better?
When I was offered the role, I embraced it wholeheartedly. Disability has never really been highlighted in out films, or even in mainstream cinema, so it was extremely important for me to sign this film. My first thought was, am I going to be able to do justice to the role, as that was the most important aspect, above all else. I had to do justice to the role and spent a lot of time with patients, finding out more about their day-to-day lives, their thoughts, frustrations, their optimism as well as their worries, and also about how they feel others perceive them. For me, the role was a milestone in my career, but more important that any sort of critical acclaim was the fact that we had the opportunity of raising awareness around disability in our films. It is not something filmmakers should ignore – it needs to be addressed and the misperceptions removed.

Currently you’re shooting for ZIndagi Na Milegi Dobara, directed by Zoya Akhtar. We already know there’s an amazing cast, a danceable soundtrack and exotic locations. Do share some more details about your character and the film!
Filming completed sometime back and the film releases shortly. It’s a beautiful film project and a completely fresh offering in terms of Indian cinema. It’s a gentle, humorous and extremely human road trip film, which takes three male friends on the ultimate bachelor party trip across Barcelona. It ends up being a journey of self-discovery for each of them in different ways and forces them to re-evaluate their lives. I play a character called Arjun, a financial trader based at a large, London firm. Arjun lost his father at a young age and subsequently saw a very tough life. As a result, he is extremely driven and determined to succeed and get ahead.

You are also finishing up filming for another release, the remake of the 1990 film,Agneepath. In this film, you reprised the role of Vijay Deenanath Chauhan, originally played by Amitabh Bachchan. Tell us about the intensity behind the film and your character.
It’s a very intense experience but completely fulfilling. The original film and Mr. Bachchan’s inimitable performance are iconic staples of Indian cinema. I wouldn’t even try to emulate his performance, but it is about justly paying respect to such an amazing film and an unforgettable performance. I am honoured to be playing the role, but naturally, a lot of pressure comes with it. I sincerely hope Mr. Bachchan, the original filmmakers and audiences are happy with my reinterpretation.

Many critics are already saying that you’re taking a huge step by redoing a character that has been portrayed by Bachchan. Do you think it’s fair for them to make such a comparison? How does such a comparison make you feel?
Again, Mr. Bachchan is an iconic institution in his own right and I would never try to compare myself to him. He is one of the biggest role model and inspiration of many. Mr. Bachchan is Mr. Bachchan and no one else would come close to that. So what I am trying to do is pay respect to him and the film in my own way, with the sincere hope that my tribute is appreciated.

In this film you’re also starring opposite Priyanka Chopra. Many are stating that the on-screen chemistry you two share is intense, giving Johar (Karan) déj