With Kaho Naa Pyaar Hai, Hrithik Roshan burst onto the Bollywood scene with his sleek looks and smooth moves in 2000. He had everything going for him as the quintessential Bollywood hero – a background in the industry, a love story launchpad and good looks.
But he decided to expand his horizon as an actor with his very second film, Khaled Mohamed’s Fiza. Set against the background of the 1993 Bombay riots, the film had Hrithik play brother to Karisma Kapoor’s central character in the film. Fiza was nowhere close to the phenomenon that Kaho Naa… Pyaar Hai created, and many fans were disappointed with Hrithik’s offbeat choice as his second film.
In his third film, Mission Kashmir, Hrithik took on another complex role, that of a young man traumatised by the discovery that his adoptive father had been responsible for the death of his entire family. The actor was praised for his passionate portrayal of a conflicted Kashmiri youth, but the film is hardly one of his career best.
Despite the setback in the initial phase of his career, the actor continued to intersperse his mainstream filmography with certain unusual choices. In Koi Mil Gaya, within three years of his Bollywood debut, he played a man whose mental abilities do not match his age. It was quite a departure from the romantic leads he’d been playing before that in films like Mujhse Dosti Karoge! and Main Prem Ki Deewani Hoon.
But Koi Mil Gaya is probably the only experiment in Hrithik’s career that was also a box office success. It was his next big hit after Kaho Naa Pyaar Hai, and many credited the success to the fact that this film was also made by his father Rakesh Roshan.
His collaboration with Farhan Akhtar in the coming of age story Lakshya was again a courageous attempt. As Farhan’s next directorial after Dil Chahta Hai, Lakshya had a lot riding on it, but failed to live up to the box office expectations.
While Krrish, Dhoom 2 and Jodhaa Akbar continued to safeguard his star status, a film like Sanjay Leela Bhansali’s Guzaarish didn’t quite work in his favour. Despite initial reservations, and understandably so, the actor made the brave choice of playing a quadriplegic who files for euthanasia, but the film failed miserably at the box office.
Hrithik played the role of a farmer in Ashutosh Gowariker's Mohenjo Daro. His role required him to undergo a lot of physical transformation to achieve a lithe and agile physique. Despite being a highly anticipated release, it failed commercially. Film critic Anupama Chopra wrote that Roshan "pours his soul into every scene. But the burden of carrying this leaden, cartoon-like narrative proves too much even for his Herculean shoulders."
Hrithik is not one to shy away from undergoing extreme makeovers to look the part for any film he takes up. The actor has done that again for Super 30 to play Patna-based mathematician Anand Kumar in a film bringing forth his struggles to ensure underprivileged kids get a fair chance at IIT entrance. Initial photos from the sets of the film showed Hrithik in an almost unrecognisable avatar. The role and his looks are nothing like anything he has done so far.
Before its release, the film has also been mired in multiple controversies. First came the #MeToo wave, when Vikas Bahl, the director of Super 30, was accused of sexual harassment by a woman crew member of Phantom Films. Although he was cleared of all charges later, questions around the issue continued to plague the lead actors at promotional events.
Next was the release date clash with Judgementall Hai Kya (then called Mental Hai Kya). The brawl surrounding that was a spillover from a past spat with the film’s lead actress, which had begun when she supposedly referred to him as a 'silly ex' in an interview.
When Super 30’s posters and teasers were released, many criticised Hrithik’s casting in the role, saying that the darkened makeup and Bihari accent does not make the actor resemble Anand Kumar. In a recent interview, Hrithik has justified his choice of the film. “I need to find stories that fuel me to go through the entire process to wake up at 6 o’clock, to take the aching back, knees, shoulders, the broken bones and do what I do. Super 30 just hit it out of the park for me, especially the climax,” he said.
Indian cinema is at a stage currently where good content and honest storytelling is being rewarded. When Super 30 releases, it’ll have to stand the test of both – being a watchable, thought provoking piece of cinema as well as a commercially viable one. It is only a matter of time before we find out if this experiment will finally pay off for the actor.
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