How to encapsulate two decades of knowing someone? He was like the obedient student ready for his exams, textbook, compass box and pencils all in place when I first met him on the sets of father Rakesh Roshan’s Koyla. Nothing’s changed since then. He’s always been diligent. I remember the first time he walked into the Filmfare office to check his transparencies and prints after Kaho Naa Pyaar Hai, there was a frisson of excitement all around on seeing the star. But Hrithik Roshan was calm. The star in question was more bothered about the correct colours and layouts being used for the cover story. He obsesses over his successes as much as he mulls over his failures. He’s disciplined and can be a royal pain in the event of a fast-approaching deadline. But he delivers. Cover shoots with HR have been such a pleasure.
In between there was a lull in our relationship. Reasons I won’t get into. But things became okay soon after. He’s been in the eye of a several storms over and over again. A very public separation, plus some other upheavals that don’t beg repetition. Hopefully, Hrithik Roshan’s trial by fire is now truly over. In 15 years he’s scored several box-office smashers and has also had his share of pitfalls. Milestones and millstones define both his personal and professional career. That he’s been anointed as one of the most beautiful men in the world is a given, while never risking his reputation as an actor. He’s rock solid. On the cusp of the release of Kaabil, I mosey to his tastefully appointed sea-facing apartment to know what makes him tick. His kids Hrehaan and Hridhaan repair to their room while I try and find out what makes HR still one of B-town’s biggest bankable stars and enduring actors. Excerpts from a freewheeling conversation
It’s been a roller-coaster year… a personal controversy, a colossal flop and now Kaabil slated to clash with another biggie! What’s your state of mind right now?
At a theme park, the roller coaster is always their prized ride. The most publicised. People love roller-coasters because they’re scary, they’re uncertain. You don’t know where you’re going to go next ñ up, down, left, right, upside down. And in that fear lies the fun. When you finish it, you feel like ëI did it man!í It’s amazing. Just like life. So the crazier the ride, the more fun you can have. You scream because you’re enjoying yourself. It’s an adventure.
I love the fact that life is parallel to a roller coaster. Just like the ride, life also leaves you surprised. I love the fact that I’m riding this wave. It’s akin to the joy of snowboarding, that’s the fun of skiing – all these adventure sports imitate life. That’s why people get addicted to it. You will grow addicted to life if you just learn how to enjoy that uncertainty. Ride that rush, ride that fear!
Can you share some such extreme moments in your life, which tapped your innate strength?
I’ve been through a beautiful spectrum of emotions. I’ve seen almost all the colours of life. It’s a gift. Few of us get to live through situations, which are so varied. I’m an actor. The more life I live, the more emotions I’ll experience. And the richer human being I become, the better actor I’ll be. I’ve had many instances of revelations, which always come at the precipice of fear – when you feel like now this is it, it’s all going to end, there’s no hope. That’s when your desperation for an answer reaches its peak. That’s when you find the enlightenment. It feels great and you feel proud to have made it so far. You find some beautiful, simple answers and you realise arrey there’s nothing to worry about.í You find resilience, strength, an understanding and awareness. You realise ëOh shit it’s all just a game. I just have to play it well. Life’s not serious after all.
Through all this, what’s the one major positive change in you?
The primary thing is that I’ve unlearnt all the wrong conditioning that we go through. Right through our growing years, it’s been drilled in our minds that we have to be happy. You’ve got to work hard, life is going to be tough, it’s a jungle, you have to find success, you’ve got to make money, you have to find a soulmate, you have to get married, you have to have kids… and then you’ll be happy. Movies say this, books say this, your parents say this… You appreciate someone, who has been featured on the cover of Filmfare, who has a beautiful wife and kids and has made some millions. He’s said to be happy. But is he really happy? That way every billionaire in the world, who’s married and has kids, who has enjoyed money and fame and success should be completely happy. But that’s not true.
Then what’s the truth according to the larger perspective?
Today, I realise that all I have to do in my life, is to wake up in the morning with enthusiasm and live this day. How do you do that? Some will point out that when you’re going through something sad and depressing, you don’t want to get up. I’d say treat it as a game. Get curious like a kid. Get curious about life. Make curiosity a driving factor. These are the sign boards that have helped me through some of the most trying times. That I’m playing a difficult game and level 20! So game on! Come on with controls in your hand. Make it fun and everything becomes simple, everything becomes chilled. If you don’t have a sense of humour, you’ve lost the game already.
Have you battled depression?
No. I haven’t experienced depression. But I’ve witnessed it; I’ve seen it at very close quarters. And it’s infuriating to see somebody who’s using it to undermine himself – that I’m less and weak because I’m depressed. When it should be the opposite. When your kidneys don’t function well, you don’t say shhh don’t tell anyone, my kidney is bad. You don’t feel embarrassed. You call up the doctor and say hello what’s wrong with my kidney man?í Similarly, when your brain goes into dysfunction and you can’t think straight and you wonder why you’re not feeling good, call up the doctor. Call up your friends, your mom, your dad… sister, brother and tell them I’m not feeling good. Something’s wrong. Reach out.
Celebrities like Deepika Padukone, Karan Johar… coming out about depression has given the illness a legitimacy. It’s his (Karan Johar) confidence that he could come out and talk about it. Maybe I would too, it’s not embarrassing. What is there to be embarrassed? We’re all the same.