Updated: September 27, 2014 5:00:02 pm
Hrithik Roshan last year, stunned the film industry and his fans outside of it when he announced a brain surgery and soon thereafter a conscious uncoupling from longtime spouse Susanne Roshan. What followed were reports of failed efforts at a rapproachment on the personal front as also prolonged delays of projects he had signed up for.
Bang Bang was pushed back by a couple of months and then again he opted out of Shuddhi, one of the big projects that had been announced by Dharma Productions, due to inordinate delays. And just when whispers of the downturn of Roshan’s dazzling career and personal life were growing louder, the actor is back with what appears to be a complete entertainer, replete with the essentials of a Hrithik Roshan film-sizzling on-screen chemistry, mindnumbing action and a lot of dancing and prancing around to soulful catchy numbers. And yes, through it all he has slipped back into the bronzed Greek god avatar too. Those who know the actor intimately would understand that this resounding reaffirmation of his star power was inevitable. It always has been that way with Roshan. During a Master Class session with renowned film critic Anupama Chopra, the actor spoke of how when Showtime, a film magazine put him on their cover with the headline “Finished” he knew it was a sign from the universe, a stimulus to debunk the perceptions that had been formed. And he proved them wrong and then some more, establishing in his “I -will-let-my-work-speak-for-me” way that he was here to stay.
Since his meteoric rise 14 years ago, the actor has stayed the showbiz course riddled as it always is with the ups and downs and yet, there is seldom a Hrithik Roshan film that does not stoke curiosity. There is that whole thing about his Greek god looks and the unfailing chemistry that he shares with all his stunning co-stars whether it is Aishwarya Rai Bachchan in Dhoom, Jodhaa Akbar or Guzaarish, Katrina Kaif in Zindagi Na Milegi Dobara or Bang Bang or Preity Zinta of Mission Kashmir or Lakshya. At this point however, it is his chemistry with Katrina that’s talk of tinseltown. Roshan doesn’t give it much credence, but he does express great admiration for Kaif. Anyone who can learn and ace an acting career in an unfamiliar language merits a doffing of hat to, he avers.
His foremost thought, however is about how to make things better for himself and those around him, something he reiterates right through our conversation preceding the release. As he curiously awaits the verdict on his next film, the actor is full of beans, cheerful and excited about life as never before. As he says, he is too busy focussing on the positives to reshape his life, to evolve and go one step further time and again. And this once it’s no different. It is no wonder that along with his line HRX, he is working on a book on fitness, besides multiple endeavours to reach out to the millions who love him. We bring you Hrithik Roshan, inspired and inspiring:
How does one turn a Hollywood film like Knight And Day into a Bollywood film? What can the audience really expect from your forthcoming film Bang Bang?
It is an entirely different film because we have taken the basic genre of Knight And Day only to turn it into an all out Hindi-action romcom. Yeah, so I am dancing after a long time. I have filled up my tanks with all the things that I needed to fill them up with. I enjoyed this film to the hilt from the flyboarding to the Meharbaan song in Greece, the action we did in Simla, a song in Manali, one major car chase , the waterskiing behind a seaplane… This film fulfilled all my needs of variety. I have done it all.
You wear different perfumes when prepping for roles so which fragrance did you pick for Rajvir in Bang Bang?
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For Bang Bang, it was Creed.
Last year you had the third edition of Krrish with a fair share of superhero thrills so what’s different between a superhero and a regular Hindi film hero?
Krrish is symbolic of that superhero in all of us and there is a side to me that likes to identify with that spirit. I was very fascinated by that identification right up until Krrish 3. It gave me an identity in my own head about the way that I can be in spite of my weaknesses, but with Bang Bang, I think I went one step beyond which is realising the potential of just a regular human being. Being ‘super’ as a human being is even more powerful.
From films like Guzaarish that look inward to some like Dhoom 2 and Bang Bang packed with action, which are you partial to?
It depends on my mood. I was in the mood to do a film like Guzaarish. And then I was in the mood to do something like Bang Bang, so I did it. Both are challenging, both come from a space where I want to vent something, and I am at a juncture where I feel it’s the right time. Doing Bang Bang which is one of the most positive films, was ideal for me at this point of time, for whatever reasons.
And to think that you had this nerve wracking brain surgery in the midst of all the dance and water boarding.
Yes, it got stalled for seven months. Multiple concussion syndrome because of that, there was a leak in one of my veins in my brain and the left side of my skull was filled up with blood —my brain had shifted to the right side, and they had to drill a hole in the skull and suck the blood out . I was not feeling good, so I told my doctor that I need to take another scan because something does not seem right as I couldn’t co-ordinate myself. They did the scan and spotted the blood. I asked them what needed to be done as I had to catch a flight to Prague in the next eight hours for an action schedule of the film.
The doctors said that if you fly in eight hours, you will die because the moment you will hit altitude, because of the pressure, you will pass into a coma and you will be dead. So the next day I was in the operating theatre and they drilled a hole and took the blood out.The doctor said I will recover in about a month, but it took me about six months more because I was doing the post-production of Krrish and promotions too.
And you had the surgery performed on you while being conscious, without anaesthesia which is probably tougher than any imaginable stunt?
It’s actually like a jackhammer inside your head, vibrating like never before. For a surgery of the brain, it’s better to be awake so that if they go a bit too deep, they will see the signs—either your hands will twitch or your face will become contorted or something. It’s a good way to keep a check so that if there is any intrusion beyond the point of safety, you can actually see it happen on the body.
Over the years, you have suffered major health mishaps and injuries —how do you bounce back each time?
I wasn’t OK. I was in a box, all my senses were screwed up. I couldn’t hear, I couldn’t put any pressure on my head in terms of any extra blood that would rush into my neck upwards and kill me with the pain which meant that I couldn’t laugh loud, I couldn’t become emotional, because the pain was unbearable. My own voice used to hurt like hell because the vibration then resonated in my own head; even the silences were deafening so all my senses were screwed up. It was like living in a box for six months—a complete disassociation with reality. Whenever I sat, I thought I was in a movie because I could hear myself being too loud and it was very distressing. At a certain juncture, I thought it was going to be like this for the rest of my life because the doctors said one month, and it took me six and a half! It was only when I started shooting for Bang Bang that the pain started to dissipate and I think that’s got a lot to do with my focus shifting to my work. Through that, I learnt how to build the power of the mind and focus on things that I am enthusiastic about ignore the pain. And in time the pain disappeared.The human threshold is absolutely fantastic. It’s stronger than you can ever imagine. You just have to keep moving forward. If you sit and ask the wrong questions, it’s a downward spiral. So you focus on asking yourself—what can I do right now to make my day even better? And the answers will come.
When you say, Why is my life so bad? What kind of answers do you expect? You will only get all the negative answers—it is bad because all these negative things happened that’s why. But when you ask, ‘How can I make it better?’ it starts to change with your thoughts. So that’s something I built—I call it my mental muscle, like the physical muscle. This was a phase when I built my mental muscle so strong that I think from this point onward, I don’t think there is anything that can hit me now that can ever effect me negatively because all you need is the right approach.
You make it all sound way too simple…surely it takes more than that?
It’s true. We are just not taught about it, hence we remain unaware; so that’s our only problem. It’s almost become kind of a responsibility now. A desire to do something about it gave birth to HRX; it’s almost like I had found The X factor in me and now I want to share, to give back; that’s going to be my biggest contribution to the world but that’s still work in progress.
There are a lot of things in the mix, but it’s all going to be about empowering individuals, give them access to the tools and the philosophy that can help them build their lives into whatever they want it to be. And everybody is looking for change—everybody wants to change something in their lives, but they are never getting to a point when they are actually doing it. And it doesn’t matter what the change is. It doesn’t matter whether it’s a six pack ab or you want to change your environment, it all starts with the same rules. It’s about working on that part of your brain that you never accessed. And it really is that simple.
Would you agree with the general notion that a celebrity is under greater pressure when going through the cycle of life, with alternating success or failure?
Pressure is what causes the change, pushes you beyond; you either succumb to it or if you are made of the right mettle, and we all are, you just have that self assurance that you are a human being and a human being has the power to survive everything that happens to it. It’s all about reframing the situation in your head and looking at the brighter side. For me it’s probably great that I have had to go through all those challenges. The pressure is even more because I am out there and its physical and emotional in a space where the world is watching, so it’s even more spectacular—that pressure. Which is why as I said, you want to build 20 inch biceps, you have to lift an equivalent amount of weight so the more the pressure, the finer you will be. I always look forward to the pressure because I know it will do something good to me. And a stronger and better person can contribute even more strongly to people around. The reason I want to be significant is because I have the power to make others more significant.
You recently announced your separation from Susanne which would obviously have been a very difficult phase and yet, if anything, you seem even more ebullient with a greater zest for life…
I was too happy in my cocoon before that, so I never needed to know what is happening outside, in the world. This change that was forced upon me (the separation) revealed the real side of me to myself. I discovered that this is the person I was meant to be… when you join the dots, everything that happens, makes sense. Which is why Bang Bang is so special to me because the character that I play—Rajvir is the first character I didn’t need to prep for. I am famous as the guy who spends hours in a room, prepping, but I didn’t even spend a second to study Rajvir because he was just me. And he’s the opposite of whatever I have played in the past. It’s been a journey where I have been discovering so much about myself, about the world and others too. And it’s a happy place, it’s a beautiful life.
Was this journey something of a self-discovery?
The few things I discovered were a reaffirmation of all the things I believe in. And this seemed like a good time to put my money where my mouth is. So while it seemed impossible to finish this film for all of the reasons mentioned. I could have taken three-four years for things to settle, but I am not the kind of person who would leave things to chance, to god, to life. I believe that if it is to be, it is up to me. I just removed myself from the equation and said I am here because there is a purpose. Throughout my life, my purpose has been to give to people through my work and creativity, and that’s all we do all our lives. We are trying to fill ourselves up and the only way to do that is when we give; I had to do that consciously. I had to do it purposely without me in the equation at all, if that makes any sense. I looked back at my life, the work I do and figured that if I am a person who people look up to, then that’s my purpose. More than two billion people love me, and they love me because I have given them my time, my sweat my blood, my work and creativity. I entertain them and that’s my purpose and I must continue without my own assumptions and suffering. I think, if I just continue my duties everything else will be taken care of. That was another way of building myself into this mindframe. I turned unstoppable. I just had the best time. It was the easiest film I have done. And whether it’s action or anything else, I have done more in this film than in any other film. It’s the happiest film I have done in my worst time. I just used a few of the mental tools and kept shifting my focus, reframing my perception and I was getting better and better. I was enjoying myself and I got comfortable in life. I am content.
Speaking of contentment, you mentioned during the Master Class with Anupama Chopra, that you realised early on that you needed to do away with safety nets in order to fly. And you have done well, but no safety nets could be a dangerous thing for an action hero…
When it’s a leap of mind you don’t need to be safe. You need to be safe in your belief and conviction. But when it’s about physical stunts, you had better make sure you are safe. Of course, there is always a little bit of calculated risk, but attention to details have to be followed to the hilt. My staff and I, train in making sure that safety precautions are bang on.There is a lot of kinesciology where you understand the physics of the body, you understand the impact and the travel of impact through the joints of your body. For instance, how you are supposed to land, or keep yourself safe when something goes wrong are all technical aspects which you learn with experience. So now I have reached a point where I can see the stunt and see the danger points and I know how to deal with it. It’s like threading a needle—you need complete clarity when you do the stunt. If there is a part of you that is holding back, it is the most dangerous thing to do. If you are not throwing your ‘chi’ (vital life force as per Chinese) forward; if a part of you is holding back, you will fall and stumble. If you don’t do it with full conviction, it won’t work.
Now you have a film with Zoya Akhtar and Ashutosh Gowariker coming up so what’s the excitement for you like?
Zoya has not said anything about her film so there’s just Mohen Jo Daro. I enjoy the journeys, the experience of working with Ahsutosh. I think he is a great director. I love his scripts and that’s it. The buck stops at the script. I can’t tell you exactly what I am playing, but it’s a very beautiful journey, it’s a love story.
And to end on a cliché, where do you see yourself, say another 15-20 years down the line?
I could never imagine that far. I don’t think I am the kind of person who looks forward that much, but maybe I have become so now. I can see myself alive and kicking at 90; doing all the things I love. When I started out, I just wanted to be loved, to be liked. I did whatever I could to get that. Today, I feel like I am unstoppable. I am going to be riding this wave till I am 90. I want to make movies, do business, expand my horizons, to empower the youth—in other words, I am just raring to go.
HRX is my big dream. More than anything else I want to create a movement wherein I can help people create that change in their lives whether it is body-building or fitness, or just a mental shift to see life more clearly and feel empowered and enthusiastic. There are so many out there who have been in an environment that’s not given them access to the right tools and processes. They have been looking at life with the wrong filters and it just seemed like a really bad world to them. But it’s all in the mind and that’s something I wanted to address. We have started off with a few partners like Myntra who are going to come on board. We are penetrating the world of health first as it was my discipline and enthusiasm for health which created so many patterns in my head which I then adopted to conquer other impossible dreams. Through our bodies we can learn so much more and apply the same tools because our body gives us instant evidence if something is working or not. So fitness is going to be the first movement. We are going to deal with the body first and then I want to get into the process of empowering the mind.
Very soon I am going to be living the dream.
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