January 7, 2000 marks the release date of Kaho Naa... Pyaar Hai, Hrithik Roshan’s debut film. That year, by his birthday on January 10, the actor had already become a Bollywood star. Kaho Naa... Pyaar Hai became a huge hit, a box office phenomena that remains unmatched till today.
The hype generated by the son of Rakesh Roshan two decades ago is yet to be replicated by any newcomer in Bollywood. It was said that before Hrithik, the last time the Hindi film industry witnessed such frenzy was in the case of Sanjay Dutt’s debut (Rocky, 1981).
He has all the attributes of a quintessential Bollywood hero – Greek god looks, terrific physique, superb aptitude for action and romantic roles. For the most part of the two decades of his career so far, Hrithik has been mostly seen playing to his strengths.
But he never chose to stay in his comfort zone and deliver the typical song-and-dance fare that defines mainstream Hindi cinema. Right after his debut with Kaho Naa... Pyaar Hai, the actor was seen in the Karisma Kapoor-starrer Fiza, playing a disillusioned youth who joins a terrorist organisation and is killed in the end.
In the same year, the actor starred in Mission Kashmir, playing a Kashmiri boy Altaaf whose entire family is accidentally killed by police officers. He is adopted by the police chief (Sanjay Dutt) who is responsible for this, and when Altaaf finds out, he seeks revenge and becomes a terrorist. Despite the film focussing on Dutt and his dilemma, Hrithik earned praise for his performance as a young man torn between love and hate.
After Mission Kashmir, a number of romantic dramas followed – Yaadein, Mujhse Dosti Karoge, etc. In 2004, Hrithik starred in the coming of age story of Karan Shergill, who grows from an aimless young man into an army officer in Lakshya. Hrithik charts the path of maturity of his character beautifully. Farhan Akhtar’s second directorial wasn’t as successful as his first, but Lakshya definitely earned a special place in both their filmographies.
Lakshya was followed by a number of big budget blockbusters for Hrithik – Krrish, Dhoom 2, Jodhaa Akbar – up until he once again went off the beaten track to star as a quadriplegic seeking euthanasia. Sanjay Leela Bhansali packed a lot of poignancy and pathos into Guzaarish. Hrithik’s nearly 6 feet frame was confined to a wheel chair for the most part of the film, and the actor had only his face to emote and express with.
We don’t know if the failure of Guzaarish is the reason Hrithik never went back to work with Bhansali again, but the actor continued with his experimental streak, this time with the remake of an Amitabh Bachchan film. Agneepath had more dance moves for Priyanka Chopra and Katrina Kaif, which is strange for a Hrithik Roshan film. Relying heavily on his acting chops, Hrithik delivered one of the most moving performances of his career.
In the seven years after Agneepath, we saw Hrithik star in four films only - Krrish 3, Bang Bang!, Mohenjo Daro and Kaabil. Other than the superhero film, none of them fared well with the audience.
Two years after Kaabil, Hrithik ventured into a completely new zone as an actor. He gained weight, darkened his skin tone, acquired a Bihari accent to play maths genius Anand Kumar in the biopic. The sophisticated Arjun of ZNMD or the suave Jai of Bang Bang turned into a rustic man from Patna who sacrificed pleasures of life to help the underprivileged.
His casting was met with immense criticism, with many dismissing Hrithik as unfit for the role, given his urban image. The darkening of his skin tone did not sit well with many. But those that were able to see beyond those layers, saw him bare his soul as an actor, pouring his heart into portraying the struggles of Anand Kumar on screen.
This birthday, too, is surely going to be a happy one for Hrithik, who has had an incredible year thanks to the success of Super 30 and War. In a recent interview with Film Companion, the actor said that he has always tried to play it safe as an actor, mapping out each role, each shot in front of the camera. But he has been trying to change that and be a more spontaneous actor.
“I am at a juncture right now where some change is about to happen. I am an adventurer, that's what I like to say about myself, but I am now going to put that into practice. I can’t see myself repeating the same thing just because it has worked. I want to experience something new,” Hrithik said.
Well, here’s hoping the new adventures in his life are equally enjoyable for his fans and the next decade turns out to be an even more interesting chapter in his career.
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