Hrithik Roshan is back: With bonafide hits in Super 30 and War, the actor has found fresh wings
Hrithik’s been written off before, but he’s somehow always beaten the odds and forced his way back into the reckoning.
When Hrithik Roshan glided off that helicopter in War, I could sense a collective sigh of pleasure amongst the audience in the theatre where I watched the action thriller. It isn’t every day that you behold beauty in 35mm, and that’s what this was — goosebumps for the aesthete within. Even Tiger Shroff was mesmerised. Hrithik’s Colonel Kabir is tanned and buff but the flecks of grey in his sideburns and the lines on his face add an element of rugged charm that don’t belie his age. It added a dimension of ethereal world-weariness.
It’s almost apt that War and Hrithik's look should round off what’s been an exceptionally good year for him. A comeback has long been overdue.
Hrithik’s been written off before, but he’s somehow always beaten the odds and forced his way back into the reckoning. You’d be forgiven to think he was born into stardom with his looks, talent and proverbial silver spoon. But you’d be wrong. Hrithik’s stammer was so bad as a child that he’d find it difficult to complete sentences, or so the legend goes. He worked hard on his skills, only to be diagnosed at 21 with a bad back that would not allow him to dance or perform stunts. That’s what the doctors said anyway, but the young man had other ideas. Five years later, the world saw Hrithik Roshan on screen for the very first time in Kaho Naa... Pyaar Hai (2000), and an excited industry couldn’t get enough of him. Govinda’s days were over, the three Khans were coming into their own but here was Gen-Next for an industry that dotes on its heroes.
His chiselled body and looks, coupled with some insane fighting and dancing skills, made him perfect hero material, and that’s what most tabloids loved to call him then: India’s first ‘manufactured’ hero, groomed for a throne that was awaiting him. What most people didn’t know then was the struggle behind this story, and how close he was to being a non-starter. The follow-up to that dream debut then, was not just disappointing, it was near-disastrous given the expectations. Hrithik had a string of seven flops (not counting the 2001 multi-starrer Kabhi Khushi Kabhie Gham) over the next three years. He had finally got his day in the sun, and had seemingly squandered it. A popular film magazine led with a cover picture of Hrithik and the headline, ‘Finished!’
It would take another film with his father at the helm to resurrect a career that was quickly being called a flash in the pan. Koi... Mil Gaya (2003), a desi version of E.T., was Hrithik’s first transformational role, one that had him playing an autistic young man. Hrithik shed his vanity, donned a pair of glasses and won himself two Filmfare awards for the film. This was his first comeback.
Hrithik went on to do a dozen films over the next decade, and won hearts with his performances in popular films like Zindagi Na Milegi Dobara, Dhoom 2 and the hugely successful Krrish franchise. His acting chops were tested in films like Lakshya, Jodhaa Akbar and Guzaarish, and even his worst detractors found little to criticise. It was like Hrithik could do no wrong. The fall, however, is harder when you’re somewhere near the top, and the last half-decade has probably seen the biggest lows in the 45-year-old actor’s life. Krrish 3 (2013) and Bang Bang (2014) got panned by critics and didn’t do much for his currency as an actor. These films did well at the box office though, and if anything, it was Hrithik’s star power that was continuing to draw audiences.
This was also the time that Hrithik was going through a series of personal crises, starting with brain surgery in 2013 for the removal of a blood clot. His fourteen-year-long marriage to Sussanne Khan also ended in a messy divorce that hogged the headlines and countless online chats with unsubstantiated rumours of adultery, wife swapping and threesomes. It was ugly. What followed, however, was way uglier than anything the industry has seen before. Hrithik allegedly began seeing actress Kangana on the sets of Krrish 3, one of the many theorised reasons behind his divorce. That they continued seeing each other over the next couple of years is still a matter of conjecture, but the aftermath played out in the media. Defamation suits, legal notices, leaked photographs, e-mails and countless insinuations followed — this was way beyond washing one’s dirty linen in public, this was a PR disaster like no other.
That the only film Hrithik did through this entire period was Mohenjo Daro (2016) didn’t really help matters. This was supposed to be an epic, a film that would cement his superstar status and win him accolades. The hype wasn’t misplaced — it was, after all, the same duo of Hrithik Roshan and director Ashutosh Gowariker that had previously created Jodhaa Akbar. The only thing epic about the film, however, was the way it bombed at the box office. And the detractors were back again. Many called him a fading star and the sentiment has been echoed across multiple publications over the past three years.
This year, though, he seems to have found fresh wings.
Super 30, a biographical story, dropped in July this year and did phenomenally well at the box office while earning him a chip or two from critics as well. Like his first comeback, this film too saw Hrithik shedding his vanity, this time to play a small town Math coach.
YRF's War, however, has the actor doing what he does best — exuding star power. The film’s yet to complete a week and is already being billed as his biggest hit ever. It’s still early days but the signs of a third coming are hard to miss.
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