Super 30: Recounting films where Hrithik Roshan has changed his look, from Koi Mil Gaya to Guzaarish
Hrithik Roshan has experimented with his appearance throughout his career; while some have worked — like Koi Mill Gaya, others have tanked without a trace, like Kaabil
Almost two decades ago, Hrithik Roshan waltzed into the Bollywood scene with his father's blockbuster film Kaho Naa... Pyaar Hai. While the plot of the film may come across as hackneyed now, Roshan's turn as two diametrically different characters — the wronged/murdered boy-next-door Rohit and the suave and charming Raj was well received by critics and audiences alike back then. He even nabbed the Best Male Debut at the Filmfare, IIFA as well as the Zee Cine Awards in 2001.
With a breakthrough as grand as his, Hrithik went onto sign a spate of films, that consisted of both big-budget star vehicles and smaller projects. The success of Kaho Naa...Pyaar Hai had turned Hrithik into an overnight sensation, with magazines projecting him as the other debutante of the year, despite Abhishek Bachchan making his debut in the same year with Refugee. Hrithik's performances in Fiza and Mission Kashmir were lauded, but it was nothing in comparison to the kind of response he generated with his debut movie. His following films — Yaadein, Aap Mujhe Achche Lagne Lage, Na Tum Jano Na Hum, Main Prem Ki Deewani Hoon — were also commercial and critical failures.
This period of lull in his career made people write him off as a "one-prick pony" whose days of basking in the sun were over with his debut film.
The turning point in Hrithik's career came in 2003, again with his father's film Koi... Mill Gaya. Moving away from his blue-eyed romantic hero avatar, Hrithik completely immersed himself into the role of Rohit Mehra, a boy-man suffering from intellectual disability, who befriends an alien and rescues him from becoming a guinea-pig for a scientific experiment. The film, even with his obvious similarities to Forrest Gump and ET, successfully placed Hrithik on the Bollywood map. The film and Hrithik bagged the top prizes in major awards ceremonies.
Reminiscing about the time he shot Koi...Mill Gaya, Hrithik wrote in 2018 that the film helped him accept his own shortcomings. In the eyes of the audience, Hrithik was no longer just a very handsome, ace dancer-actor, but one who was also ready to expose his vulnerabilities.
“Rohit (his character) helped me understand every single thing I went through as a boy with a stutter. And made me realise how everything that ‘is’ was simply meant to be. He helped me understand that strength was not as important as courage. And that it was okay to have weaknesses,” Hrithik wrote on Instagram.
In his latest film, Super 30, Hrithik plays Anand Kumar, a brilliant academician, who turned down a life of immense wealth and recognition by taking 30 underprivileged students under his wing and training them to crack the entrance exams of the esteemed Indian Institutes of Technology (IIT). In order to get into the skin of his character, Hrithik has undergone a notable physical transformation.
Ahead of the release of his film, we take a look into the various roles that have required him to change his appearance, a trend of sorts he kickstarted with the widespread acclaim and success of Koi ... Mill Gaya.
Soon after Koi Mill Gaya, Hrithik was roped in for Farhan Akhtar's Lakshya, a coming-of-age drama set against the backdrop of the 1999 Kargil War. Hrithik played a confused, young man who finds his purpose in life after joining the Indian Army post the influence of his friend. Farhan required a physically fit actor for the part who would look convincing enough as a lieutenant.
"I agreed on Hrithik because he has the physique and the looks that suited the character. Physicality was important because he should look like he is in the army. He should be able to convey physical as well as mental toughness," Farhan was quoted as saying by rediff.com.
But even then, Hrithik had to undergo rigorous training sessions with the Indian Military Academy (IMA). Some of the sequences were reportedly shot at minus 8-9 degrees and at the approximate height of 17,800 feet above the sea level. The actor also chopped off his thick, luscious mane and opted for a cropped hairdo to complement his role. Many have argued that Hrithik's role as Karan Shergill is his best till date.
Krrish and Krrish 3
The success of Koi...Mill Gaya spawned two other films — Krrish and Krrish 3. If Krrish was a superhero origin story, Krrish 3 saw Hrithik's eponymous superhero take down an evil super-villain and his band of mutant cronies. Hrithik played Krishna, the son of Koi Mill Gaya's protagonist Rohit Mehra, who inherits his father's superhuman abilities. Here, Hrithik played both the father and his son with equal conviction. Speaking about playing dual roles again after Kaho Naa... Pyaar Hai, Hrithik said told Bollywoodlife that he found playing both Krrish and Rohit simultaneously extremely challenging.
"It was a huge challenge, especially after playing Krrish all night and then get into the make-up room and spend three hours for doing the make-up of Rohit. And then to get into Rohit’s emotional space when I am so tired after playing Krrish! I had to go back into the same frame and act opposite the me who was not there. So I am actually acting opposite air. So when you see both of us in same frame, one of us is not there," he said.
In the same interview, he said that it was imperative for him to make the mannerisms of Rohit and Krrish different from each other. "It was a big challenge since he is not only a child in the film, but he is also a father. So to balance out the child-like qualities and yet have the power to give him the strength to put his hand on his son’s shoulder and say, ‘I am your father’ - that required a lot of thinking."
In the words of his sister Sunaina Roshan, Hrithik stays in character for days on end during the shooting of a film. She revealed that he uses different cologne for every character. "He gets into his role completely so much so that he lives his character day in and day out. An interesting fact about him is that he uses a different Cologne for each of his characters and never uses it again,” Sunaina told Statesman in a 2018 interview.
Hrithik also uses his the entity of his characters to navigate through issues in life. In a conversation with India-West, Hrithik had even said that he used to wear Krrish's pendant to draw strength from his character. "The pendant is not about me or about Krrish; it is about the power of courage and the right attitude," he told BollywoodLife.
Hrithik slipped into the shoes (and the bejewelled garments) of Akbar in Ashutosh Gowariker's period-drama Jodhaa Akbar. Hrithik's physicality may have been the reason why Gowariker cast him in the role but he had to go through grueling Urdu speaking sessions to perfect his diction. Kamaal Ahmed, who trained Hrithik in the language, told Times of India in 2007 that Hrithik is a "perfectionist" who does not give up before getting his pronunciation correct.
With a thin moustache and a perpetual smirk plastered on his face, Hrithik's Akbar collected accolades from all corners of Bollywood. Reportedly, Amitabh Bachchan even likened Hrithik's trance scene during 'Khwaja Mere Khwaja' with Stanley Kubric's Space Odyssey. He even earned the Filmfare Best Actor award for his role in the film.
Hrithik's drive to reinvent and challenge his creativity has been instrumental in his choices. During the promotions of Jodhaa Akbar, Hrithik had confirmed the same, "Consciously or subconsciously, I have chosen films that have scared the hell out of me like Koi Mil Gaya, Krrish, Dhoom and now playing Akbar’s role. Jodhaa Akbar was my biggest challenge. For a month, I had asked Ashutosh if he was sure about the cast."
If Koi Mill Gaya and Lakshya de-glamourised Hrithik, Guzaarish cemented his footing in the industry as a bankable star. In Sanjay Leela Bhansali's tale, Hrithik plays a former-magician rendered paraplegic after an accident. For the most part, Hrithik was limited to a wheelchair, allowed only to move his eyes.
"I used to spend six hours with the patients, initially once a week and then once a month. I used to go to understand what they go through, what they think, what their needs are. They have taught me a lot of things," Hrithik said to Deccan Herald about preparing for this film.
Shrouded in a blanket of beard, Hrithik was also required to gain a significant amount of weight for the part. According to India Today, Hrithik initially refused the role since it required him to put on weight. But the vanity quickly waned away and Hrithik gave his nod to the movie.
He also trained under a Ukranian magician for the flashback scenes which showed him performing magic, a 2010 Mumbai Mirror report says.
The film had an underwhelming run at the box office, but Hrithik was hailed as a "tireless fighter," sailing through difficult roles from one after the other.
Even though many of Hrithik's experiments have worked, there have been others where even his stardom has not been able to uplift a film. Case in point — Kaabil and Mohenjo Daro. However, it would be interesting to see how Hrithik fares in Super 30, which has already received backlash for "brownfacing" Hrithik's character.
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