It’s a Hrithik Roshan release after two years, and film industry pundits are already speculating on numbers. Kites, directed by Anurag Basu, hits theatres later this month on 21 May after almost a year of publicity—most of it negative. India’s most handsome superstar was always the clean guy, the perfectionist, the family man, before rumours about everything from his alleged affair with Mexican co-star Barbara Mori to a fractured marriage, and health issues became fodder for the tabloids.
In the groove: J, played by Hrithik Roshan, and Natasha, played by Barbara Mori, romance in Las Vegas, Los Angeles and Mexico in Kites.
Roshan’s career hasn’t exactly been a fairy tale story—from his phenomenal debut in Kaho Naa... Pyaar Hai in 2000 to playing India’s first masked superhero (in Krrish in 2006), to playing the most admired monarch in Indian history (Jodhaa Akbar, 2008), he has seen success as well as flops. In the middle of all this, he became a father of two and almost had to give it all up due to a crippling knee injury. In Kites he is romancing, dancing and fighting with co-stars Mori and Kangna Ranaut, and then he will go on to play the role of a dying paraplegic in Guzaarish.
On a relaxed, but working Sunday afternoon at his opulent Juhu home, between sips of coffee and cigarette puffs, we caught Roshan in an unusually philosophical mood. Edited excerpts from the interview:
What have you learnt from being an actor for a decade?
I think creativity is just a reflection of the kind of person you are. You can’t create something that’s not inside you, or is not what you are inside. And your instincts decide your pace and next step. There are a lot of things I have learnt. It’s made me believe that there is no good or bad in life. Every experience is for you to learn to rise above and find peace again.
I have found that in order to keep on target, I need to follow my instincts and my heart, no matter what people say in reference to my films. A lot of people were trying to dissuade me from doing Koi... Mil Gaya because I had four failed films behind me and here I was breaking my action-star image by playing this mentally challenged boy. They told my dad it would kill my career. But look what happened. With Krrish, they said: “A masked Indian hero with a cape flying around, have you gone mad?”, and look what happened with that. So you have to follow your heart.
You started with a bang. And as you mentioned, a few films didn’t do so well. That was not the best time for you.
That was the best time. I grew and learnt from that experience. I analysed what was wrong and what was right. During that phase, I got distracted from that magical guiding light and I was going in another direction, which was the way that the herd was pushing me to go. I started doing the things that I thought would sustain my star status—with the same dancing, the action and the introduction shot, etc. That’s my “reference phase”—where I performed based on references. With Koi... Mil Gaya, I revisited that earlier passion I had felt when I did my first film. I said “Wow!” And that’s when I decided that I will only do films I am willing to give my right arm for. If there is something you believe in and are committed to, you should not listen to what people say but follow your instincts.
Do you feel that way about ‘Kites’?
Whatever work I did before Kites was preparation to play a role in a world (created by) Anurag Basu’s vision—of making this really honest film. I play J, born and brought up in Las Vegas. He does whatever he needs to do to put food on his table and money in his pocket. His mission is to be rich because he thinks that would be the end of his suffering. And that leads to the journey of Kites. This film is so exciting for me because it is devoid of any commercial manipulations and is not catering to the audience by trying to impress or provoke laughter, claps. Having Barbara in the film was an added impetus because she comes from the same school of thought of honest film-making. She would question everything, especially if it did not come naturally to the character.
It took me a while to realize that I have honed my craft so much that it is a part of me now. All craft had been juiced out in Dhoom (Dhoom:2). I lived that extreme, and felt I had to live the true life of an actor now. Having the craft, Kites was a return to art. Don’t get me wrong, Dhoom is an honest film—it promises you dhoom. It says come have your popcorn, enjoy the items and go back with a smile on your face. I would do 10 more Dhooms.
How do you react to the gossip and stories that have followed you recently?
I have learnt there is no reason to cope with it. Ninety-nine per cent of celebrities live a life that is in the clutches of people’s judgements and points of view. I have always said philosophical things on how I want to live my life and here I had an opportunity to put my money where my mouth is. If the front page of a newspaper says that a celebrity’s nose is crooked, the celebrity will go insane and refute that. But why react when you know your nose is straight? A section of the media will always write things from their point of view. Now, I sort of feel victorious in my mission. I wanted there to be a mountain of rumours before the truth came out. If I write down all the stories, you will start laughing by point 6 or 7, because apparently my sister has walked out of the house and gotten married; my wife has walked out; I have fought with my father and walked out; I have bought five-six bungalows around my house; Raju Hirani has cut the film; Anurag Basu has been thrown out—the list goes on. And then when I did not react to anything, they tried to sabotage my film by giving out the climax.
Some of the aspersions were pretty nasty.
I believe I have become an alcoholic? I try and make sense of it. The papers have images of mine from Guzaarish in which I look very haggard because I lived on the other extreme and did all the things I could do to make myself look the part of a dying man. The world is out to provoke you and if you get provoked, it is your downfall. You have to stay connected with the magic that exists in the world.
Look at where I am. I have no reason to complain about anything. I got a second lease of life with my knee when Kites fell into my life. I was on a crutch for five months and science had given up on my knee saying I had one or two years left to do all the things I am doing. I travelled all over the world for cures. My heart was broken. I was depressed. I could not get up from a chair without the use of my hands. I didn’t want to live the life of a compromised actor so I thought maybe it was time for me to change my path and passion. Then I heard the narration of Kites and I saw my face on that character, doing all the things he had to do.
That vision was so strong that I knew it was going to happen. Eight months later, I was still in the same pain. I was waiting for a miracle. I was doing 3 hours of therapy every day for two years and then one day, just before the shooting began, my pain went down by 50% and in a week it had disappeared. I have now found a way to maintain my knee. It takes away from my spontaneity—if I want to play with my kids, I have to warm up my knee for 10 minutes before I can jump on the bed—but look at what I have in life. I can still jump and dance, so what if I have to go through one hour of extra effort every day? Life is more fun with its struggles.
You have some exciting films coming up, including Sanjay Leela Bhansali’s ‘Guzaarish’, Shekhar Kapur’s ‘Paani’, Zoya Akhtar’s ‘Zindagi Milegi na Dobara’ and ‘Krrish 3’.
Guzaarish was a spiritual experience. I have watched the world through the eyes of a dying man for eight months and I realized how insignificant our stresses are. Guzaarish also helped me to not absorb all the negativity that was being written all through last year. My perspective of the world changed and it no longer mattered what someone said about me because I know my truths. I always love bouncing off one extreme and experiencing the other extreme. After the intense space of Guzaarish, my thrust is even more powerful into breaking out and having some fun with Zoya’s film. As for Krrish 3—hopefully, dad will get inspired enough to take it to floors soon.
How would you define your decade as an actor?
The difference in me now, compared to the Kaho Naa... Pyaar Hai time, is that then there was (the) finish line and I was running towards it as if a dog was chasing me and I had to reach the finishing line before he bit my backside. Today, there is no finish line, or dog chasing me. Today, I am running for the sheer joy of running.
Kites will release in theatres nationwide on 21 May.
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