Hrithik Roshan regains brand reputation, with Super 30's box office success and dignified stand on Kangana Ranaut
Hrithik Roshan has managed to reemerge as a superstar worth watching. Hwopefully, this new, grounded, accessible persona remains over time.
Hrithik Roshan’s latest release, Super 30, is a super hit. Having raked in over Rs 100 crores in India and overseas gradually, this film, about the fascinating life of Anand Kumar, a mathematician from Patna, Bihar, has turned a corner for the superstar.
After all, a film about a coaching class teacher who dedicates his life to train those from the most economically marginalized section of society to crack the prestigious Joint Entrance Exam (JEE), is not the stuff of a masala potboiler, his forte. Instead, it is a humane story rooted in grassroots level Indian reality, worlds away from Roshan’s privileged, super posh upbringing and life. Yet, with questionable make-up marring his face, he delivered a convincing, winsome performance with this film.
A second achievement, which might have gone unnoticed, is the dignity with which he has conducted media interactions and rounds of publicity without a single mention of the most searched term on Google around him, Kangana Ranaut. With a single smart statement about managing toxicity and bullying, he has kept this ugly controversy away from conversations around the film. It is important to note that he hasn’t taken the ‘no comments’ route, instead choosing to address questions around postponement of his film’s release date to his sister’s struggle with mental illness in a mature way. Roshan has displayed growth as a person and control as a star over such conversations; choosing to focus on his work instead.
Super 30 went through it’s own challenges, with director Vikas Bahl facing sexual harassment allegations, and his star disassociating himself from the filmmaker as part of the #MeToo movement. Unconfirmed reports suggest that Anurag Kashyap stepped in to complete the film’s post-production. Films and shows that change hands during making often tend to suffer, but that didn’t happen here. Even as Bahl’s name could be cleared in court, Roshan remains the subject of speculation (Did he or didn’t he have an affair with Kangana and then ditch her?). But the film has worked, and both its star and filmmaker have taken a step forward in rehabilitating their public images.
Roshan has gone through an unprecedented low recently, with a slew of accusations of marital infidelity and mental harassment from Kangana Ranaut. He went to the police, but given that Indian laws do not consider the possibility of men facing stalking, basically couldn’t find any support here. He did a couple of interviews to clarify his stand on this matter, even as Ranaut and her sister continued to rain fury and rage over his father and him. Roshan did not say much, because he felt that from his position, speaking out would come across as exploitative of his star power. In the long run, he admits that being passive and silent hurt people’s perception of this situation.
This controversy followed abysmal box office failure with Mohen Jodaro sinking without a trace and Kaabil performing below expectations. The aura that Hrithik had built over time, as an action super hero who could charge multiple crores (rumors say he asked for upto Rs 40 crores as his share of profits at one point), was dented. After a public divorce from childhood sweetheart and mother of his kids, Suzanne Khan, Roshan’s entanglement with Kangana, and public sharing of emails that she sent him, nearly boxed him in with Bollywood’s worst cliché: the philandering powerful star who had no ethical limits.
Meeting Roshan for interviews can be bewildering. When the author was younger, and tended to view relationships in black and white, Roshan’s retort on his reported romance with fellow actor Barbara Mori while shooting Kites was confusing. It was pop philosophy, around desires, destiny etc; and resonant of his tendency to philosophise regularly. Trying to match this to the iron pumping, chiseled and drop dead gorgeous movie star, would leave one nonplussed. In fact, when this film didn’t do well, I had to endure a not so polite live interview with my editor-in-chief Arnab Goswami, grilling the superstar from his plush Juhu home. After the interview, the actor was pissed off. He threw out the mike and said, wow, that was long before leaving. Before one could react, his father Rakesh Roshan, clad in black silk dhoti and kurta, showered his ire. He threatened to throw me out, again bewildering me with the change in temperaments within minutes. It was a classic case of shooting the messenger. Hrithik’s tendency to spout deep thoughts at cluttered Bollywood media interviews was always incongruous. But meet him during a casual showing of trailers or teasers of his upcoming film, and a jovial, friendly person emerges. Perhaps it’s with being camera conscious, but Hrithik is not at his easiest when he speaks to the press. That he has managed his statements and stand on the Kangana allegations effectively, reflects a different side.
But that aspect of his personality has definitely changed. Hrithik’s social media feed now reveals a doting dad, a friend to his ex wife Suzanne, a passionate movies man and a person willing to engage with his audience. He has War slated next, which is set to cater to his staple audience of action buffs (it’s too early to comment on how the film will turn out, just yet).
And there is more to come. Reality check, as to how failure of a film’s fate can turn a superstar’s career around, has come his way. So has infamy. By keeping his dignity and his nose to the grind, Hrithik has managed to reemerge as a superstar worth watching. Hwopefully, this new, grounded, accessible persona remains over time.
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