Happy Birthday, Hrithik Roshan: Jodha Akbar to War, a look at top 5 films of the actor
Hrithik Roshan turns 48, and to celebrate, we bring you the top performances by the actor:
Hrithik Roshan knows how to act. Which is more than what can be said about some of the other current superstars who think they are doing civilization a favour by just standing in front of the camera. Hrithik works hard on his look, body language, dancing, and emotions… too hard sometimes. Like Shah Rukh Khan before him, Hrithik needs to be controlled and told when enough is enough. In his lauded films like Krissh, Koi… Mil Gaya and Super 30, Hrithik is way over the top. And between Sooraj Barjatya’s Main Prem Ki Diwani Hoon and Farhan Akhtar’s Lakshya, it’s like choosing between the devil and the deep blue sea. Here are Hrithik’s 5 best films:
Na Tum Jano Na Hum (2002):
This is a very special film. Every frame, gesture, nuance, and twitch conveys a rich array of romantic emotions. Every shot has a reason and every pause in the narrative takes us to a new plateau of elation. For 2 hours and 40 minutes, we are transported into a realm of tremulous feelings and emotions woven with the finest threads of human sentiments obtainable in the movie-making market. A perennial problem with ad filmmakers who turn their vision to the cinema is, they’re consumed by the process of prettifying the picture. Arjun Sablok, writer and director avoids that pretty fall. His aesthetic sensitivities go way beyond the surface level. If his film LOOKS like a dream, then it FEELS like one too! And for this marvelous merger of body and soul, Sablok must share the credit with cinematographer Manoj Soni and art director Omang Kumar. As a dreamer waiting for true love Hrithik Roshan delivers what is arguably the best performance of his career. Both the technicians titivate Sablok’s wispy romance with a richness of texture that reminds us of that other great romantic epic Sanjay Bhansali’s Hum Dil De Chuke Sanam. Of course, Bhansali had an Aishwarya Rai to enhance his vision of beauty. Sablok works wonders with an Esha Deol.
Guzaarish came along to remind us that excellence of the highest order is alive and throbbing in our cinema. Ironically this wonderful work of art, nuanced and magical in its portrayal of an unstoppable spirit's quest to juice life to its fullest, is about dying. If the journey towards death in the art can be so mystically explored then let's embrace mortality as a stepping stone to immortality and a film about dying as a sign of cinema not dying on us. Not yet. Only those who suffer the numbing pain of isolation would know what it feels like. Dilip Kumar in Devdas, Guru Dutt in Pyasa, Meena Kumari in Sahib Bibi Aur Ghulam, and Nutan in Bandini communicated to the audience the indescribable pain of solitude. Ethan, as played by Hrithik Roshan in Guzaarish, is so bemused by adversity he can look at his suffering with dispassionate humour. Guzaarish is a joyous rapturous ecstatic celebration of life. Those familiar with the art of Sanjay Leela Bhansali know how ably and ecstatically he transports his characters into a universe of seamless drama played at an octave where most cinematic symphonies crack up and topple over into high-pitched extravagance. Not Bhansali. Not his cinema. Played at the highest possible scale his drama unfolds in wave after wave of rapturous splendour. His characters occupy a space that defies definition and seduces audiences into celebrating a state of sublimity and splendour. Ethan's inert physicality is alchemized into an ambiance of animated joy. His spirit dances and sings at the sheer pleasure of every moment that is given to him to live. He radiates joy. We feel his profound happiness at the gift of life. No film in living memory has brought out the sheer blessing of being alive with such spirit and glory. While Shah Rukh Khan's Devdas in Bhansali's opulent opera was a character broken in spirit Hrithik Roshan's Ethan in Guzaarish is irreparably damaged in body. But his spirit soars, his eyes light up like thousands of stars every time Sophie walks in. Barring Amitabh Bachchan in Black there has never been a better performance in a Bhansali film than Hrithik Roshan's in Guzaarish. He grabs Ethan's role by the solar plexus and makes the dying character come alive in delightful waves of provocative histrionics. And if we're talking chemistry between Hrithik and Aishwarya then let's get one thing clear. This ain't Dhoom. It's something far deeper and satisfying.
Jodhaa Akbar (2008):
Is Ashutosh Gowariker’s Mughal-e-awesome fated to be as tall and magniloquent as Asif’s deserved costume drama? In terms of the creative and visual terrain covered in the course of the 3 hour-20 minute journey from history to hysteria from mellow to melodrama, and back, Gowariker’s vision subsumes a reined-in wealth of ideas and images suppressed into an opulent but aesthetic orgy of love, romance, war, hatred and secularism, and sublimity. The noble righteousness of the creative mind (so evident in Gowariker’s earlier films Lagaan and Swades) here jumps out of the screen to seize the audience by the solar plexus and transport us into an era when brother battled brother in a bitter rage. But love, Kambakht Ishq, blossomed in the inner chambers of a secular Muslim emperor who married a fiercely individualistic Rajput queen and allowed space to be her person. Wisely the narrative patterns Akbar’s chequered life love and wars through the various characters who influence his mind and heart. To begin with we see the young Akbar being moulded into a violent creature of revenge and acquisition by his Senapati-mentor Bairam Khan (Uri). But sorry, Akbar with his melting eyes and a heart to match, won’t behead his enemies unless they push him beyond the brink. In a frightening burst of vengeful brutality, we see Akbar ordering his soldiers to throw down a stubborn adversary head-first to death. Alas, Akbar lived in violent battle-friendly times. His repudiation of a culture of confrontational is benchmarked by the characters who shape his life …There’s the very complex relationship that Akbar shares with his foster-mother (Ila Arun, brilliantly choleric)This troubled relationship and the friction between the foster mother and Akbar’s new bride could be straight out of Indra Kumar’s Beta…More filmy stuff? You got it! Doesn’t the ambivalent equation between the foster-mother and Akbar’s real mother (Poonam Sinha, eternally lost as though worried about what the cook must be preparing back home for the kids’ dinner) remind you of Durga Khote and Sonia Sahni in Raj Kapoor’s Bobby? Ashutosh Gowariker purposely and sure-handedly brings in kitschy elements from great commercial cinema to provide a kind of warm and ready-to-wear accessibility to his historic tale. The filming of the durbar-song Azeem-o-Shaan shahenshah is the last word in the spectacle. Breathtaking is the word that comes to mind often in this breathless but never breadth-less tale of vibrant valour and vitality. Never before have we seen battle sequences so spectacular and energetic in Hindi cinema. Take the opening sequence where the battle lines close ranks in such passionate movements that we the audience feel trampled at the center. Kiran Deohans’ swift-but-sublime cinematography is of international caliber, on a par with anything that we’ve seen in Gladiator or Braveheart. A R Rahman’s music is a bit of a letdown, though. Veering between authenticity and listener-friendliness it’s a bit of a mellow mish-mash signifying none of those enchanting echoes of Jodha and Akbar’s royal hearts resonating with ever-lasting romanticism. The love story occupies the pride of place in Jodhaa-Akbar. The sudden marital alliance between the benign king and the free-spirited Rajput queen, their post-marriage courtship, the monstrous misunderstanding that cuts through their growing fondness, and the final and irreversible reconciliation, are portrayed with exquisite and penetrating fluidity. Not once does the director allow the inherent opulence of his theme to overpower the love that grows like a tender blossom in a parched desert? Hrithik Roshan’s pleading poetic eyes in a warrior’s face define the historic romance as much as Aishwarya Rai’s swan-like grace and passionate individualism. After Dhoom 2 this pair whips up a Mughalai feast of passion and romance without skipping a single beat. There’re thundering interludes of romance between the central characters all done in a captivating blend of poetry and drama echoing the past in a sprinkle of ever-renewable emotions. But none of this is ever done in a self-congratulatory over-flamboyant style. Jodhaa-Akbar takes us back to a time when love meant never having to say you are Salim. Watch this Mughal-e-awesome as a splendidly spiced-up slice of history. Or just savour the chemistry between the warrior and the princess, with hundreds of junior artistes, elephants, rabbits, and parrots accompanying the couple’s journey from secularism to eternity.
Zindagi Na Milegi Dobara (2011):
Some movie experiences can be summed up in a few lines. Others can take longer. This one would be hard to define. And to try to slot it or give it shape in any other form but the visual would take some doing. The witticism, of course, flows. With Farhan Akhtar around, what else can we expect? But the spoken lines (a brilliant fusion of the colloquial and existential) are so doggedly wedded to the visuals that we come away with a complete and satisfying cinematic experience, so replete with life's most luscious home-truths that we want to carry the plot's bumper-sticker wisdom in our hearts forever. Farhan Akhtar did it ten years ago in Dil Chahta Hai. He got three friends on the threshold of a career on a road trip and let them come to terms with their weaknesses and insecurities, even as Farhan, that wily filmmaker, discovered his strengths as a storyteller. Now it's Farhan's sister Zoya Akhtar's turn to take that road trip. Some day we need to figure out the Akhtar siblings' affinity to films about three male friends on a journey to self-discovery. Suffice it to say that Zindagi Na Milegi Dobara (ZNMD) takes the theme of male bonding to a more illuminating plane than Dil Chahta Hai. As the workaholic money-obsessed stockbroker (Hrithik Roshan), the happy-go-looking-for-his-dad prankster (Farhan Akhtar), and the about-to-be-married-nice-guy (Abhay Deol) set out on a trip through locationally lush Spain (Ummm, full marks for seductive eye-candy visuals) we follow right behind. Without trying to set up dramatic road-blocks and U-turns in the road journey, Zoya Akhtar gets us so involved in the drama and adventure of the threesome we gradually forget the actors and see only the characters that they so fluently and robustly play. Oh yes, the ladies take the backseat. Nonetheless, Katrina Kaif's 'Laila', a gorgeous diving instructor who teaches Hrithik to dive into the soul, makes such graceful space for herself among the boys that we wonder how she managed to make herself heard in a film that celebrates the spirit of male bonding in all its robust colour splendour and noise. ZNMD is a coming-of-age film on many levels. It celebrates the sheer beauty and physicality of location and their deep connection to the characters' state of mind, without apology or explanation. Trust me. I looked. I couldn't spot even one unpleasant face or topography in the entire length and breadth of this beautiful film. Yes, the surface is lovely. But so is the soul. Zoya, God bless her aesthetics, sucks us into the beauty of the moment, not giving us any reason to believe that life's most precious truths are swathed in squalour. ZNMD celebrates splendour. Underwater or up in the air thousands of feet above sea level, the moments of tenderness are not stapled into the climate of camaraderie. They just happen. The moment when Hrithik discovers love under the stars with Katrina, or when Farhan Akhtar finally meets his biological father (Naseeruddin Shah, in a naturally compelling cameo) or that breathtakingly blistered moment of reckoning when after a bout of male backslapping in the initial episodes, we suddenly realize the cause for friction in the Hrithik-Farhan friendship...These are masterstrokes of muted drama not written in to impress, but simply as an integral part of that journey which we undertake so enthusiastically and willingly with the threesome. Technically the film wears its art on its sleeve. Carlos Catalan's cinematography captures the pain and the fun in Spain without letting the touristic urge take over. Yeah, the film looks fetching. But not at the cost of the characters' search for bearings in a world that mocks at the beauty of Nature. Editor Anand Subaya doesn't cut the film. He carves the material in shapes that a jeweler would probably like to imitate if he only knew how. What can we say about the performances without keeling over with gush? Every actor seems to be the character born. Hrithik's stuffed-shirt act would have been almost self-parodic were it not so sincere.
Barring the last twenty minutes War is a rollercoaster ride, a catchy cat-and-mouse bromance where the two protagonists Hrithik Roshan and Tiger Shroff play the mentor-turned-tormentor and pupil with a large level of conviction and warmth. It’s is heartening to see Tiger keeping pace with Roshan, even though the latter uses a lot of tricks to get our full concentration (notice how he swallows in between sentences to suggest tension and anxiety). You wish the two actors would have danced together some more. Watching them glide together was to me all the entertainment that I could hope for. War has more. Its slick spin on the spy genre is welcome. The stunts are well-edited to merge into the plot and not to let the two heroes play a game of one-upmanship. If only the closing 20 minutes had not decided to go rogue! War is a lot of fun to watch. It could have been a lot more enjoyable if the script didn’t take itself so seriously. This is a film version of a cartoon strip. It plucks the language of espionage bravery from its natural habitat and plants it into never-never land. The transplantation survives. Locations shift fast and furiously to all possible exotic spots in the world, and so does the mood. This is a beautiful film to look at. The picturesque landscape is used to shoot beautiful people in repose as well as a landing spot for decimated opponents. The prolonged action sequences are the centerpieces of the plot. They fire up the narrative engines and keep our interests alive. There is a not-unwelcome break from action midway when Hrithik’s Kabir romances a sexy single mother who dances around the world to support her daughter’s upbringing. It’s an interesting role, played with sincerity by Vaani Kapoor. But then, hell, like all good things must come to an end, so must this film’s mood of suave seductive action and intrigue. The endgame is stupid and so crudely forced into the plot, it seems as if the story writers just didn’t know how to wind up the shindig. It’s like a party suddenly gone bust.
Subhash K Jha is a Patna-based film critic who has been writing about Bollywood for long enough to know the industry inside out. He tweets at @SubhashK_Jha.