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Hrithik Roshan. Image Credit:

If Bollywood actor Hrithik Roshan — who hit a career milestone this month by completing two decades in movies — could turn back time, he would tell his 20-something self to be “less uptight”.

In January 2000, Roshan made a splash with the blockbuster romance ‘Kaho Naa... Pyaar Hai’, directed by his actor-father Rakesh Roshan. He was instantly hailed as a superstar in the making, a title that’s rarely doled out to debut actors. Twenty years ago, the film made a staggering Rs380 million (Dh19.6 million) at the box office, making it one of the highest grossing Bollywood films of the year.

“Looking back, the 26-year-old Hrithik was self-imposed with the pressure of doing things right… But if given a chance to rewind and restart, I would be more relaxed in my approach to deliver as an actor,” said Roshan in an exclusive interview with Gulf News tabloid!.

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In ‘Kaho Naa... Pyaar Hai’, he played a dashing young man Rohit who gets murdered. His grieving girlfriend (Ameesha Patel) finds his doppelganger shortly after his death and they join hands to find out who killed her love. In the process, she gains closure and falls in love with the lookalike.

The story may demand you suspend your disbelief, but Roshan breathed life into both the characters with a finesse and gravitas that would put a seasoned actor to shame. He wasn’t raw or coltish like other newcomers and exuded a confidence that belied his inexperience. Plus, he looked gorgeous while dancing (remember the dance-heavy ‘Ek Pal Ka Jeena’?) in a black mesh T-shirt.

Apart from winning the hearts of a movie-mad India, he scooped all the best debutante trophies that year, too. Roshan isn’t resting on his laurels though.

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“From where I see it, I still consider myself a debutant. I have an immense gratitude for each day that I get an opportunity to face the camera,” said Roshan.

While his first film was a blockbuster, his career has been a mixed bag, with a few films such as the syrupy romances ‘Prem Ki Deewani Hoon’, ‘Kites’ and ‘Mujse Dosti Karoge’ didn’t fly with audiences. But his turn as Hindi cinema’s most believable superhero with the kid-friendly alien series ‘Koi … Mil Gaya’ and the Krrish franchise strengthened his foothold in an industry that recognises blockbuster success as the ultimate stamp of recognition.

In recent years, Roshan reinvented himself with films such as ‘Kaabil’ — if you can forget the film’s problematic take on rape — and the action-heavy ‘War’ that attained box office glory.

As Roshan celebrates this iconic career landmark, Gulf News tabloid! spoke to him over email about his career highs, lows and everything in between:

You complete 20 years in Bollywood this month. Congratulations! How do you look back on these two decades?

Two decades doesn’t seem that long as it’s meant to be. I reflect back over the years as a series of learnings not only as an actor, but also as a human being because I am discovering myself each day. Overall, I am happy to be at a juncture where I can observe and absorb the best from my environment.

In these 20 years, who has been your rock on the professional and personal front?

It would be unfair of me to burden any one person for being the ideal for me. I come from a family with diverse expertise in filmmaking and I’ve picked up the do’s and don’ts from all of them. However, my Nana [maternal grandfather] was someone who was my closest confidante and my treasured admirer.

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Hrithik Roshan in 'Super 30'.

Do you revisit ‘Kaho Naa... Pyaar Hai’ and what are your thoughts on it?

I have more of a progressive approach towards my work now. Once my product has released, it is the property of the audience. So the only way I would revisit ‘Kaho Naa... Pyaar Hai’ is like a viewer.

You have had life-altering experiences, be it your journey in the unpredictable world of entertainment or your personal health setbacks — your injuries and having undergone a brain surgery. What has been your most significant learning experience?

My most significant learning experience is to never give up. Be it my health or my career, the only way for me is to keep going forward till you become a better version of yourself. It’s a constant process.

What were your career aspirations while debuting as a lead in the 2000s? Any significant thoughts while filming your first scene for ‘Kaho Naa… Pyaar Hai’?

Since my early years, I was always fascinated with the art of acting. I started off wanting to be an actor and my desires have grown from that point on to wanting to be a performer and an entertainer. My first shot for ‘KNPH’ was the dream sequence, the opening scene of the film. My physical being was very similar to my character Rohit’s being. I was living my dream and was focused on delivering on stage.

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What was Hrithik Roshan like in his 20s: precocious, restless or reckless?

I would call myself precise and thorough. Twenty years ago, I was someone who would do his homework meticulously and be prepared to perfection before coming on sets.

How has your acting game evolved in these years?

I have come to learn that letting go or not being in control is a sign of maturity. So I guess with time and age, the actor in me has developed into being more spontaneous. I don’t act, I instead react. Fortunately, I’ve had the opportunity of sharing the frame with some powerful actors, who in turn have brought out the best in me.

Describe your best and worst phase as an actor. And finally, what’s next for you?

I strongly believe that you are at your best when you have the luxury of choice. I thoroughly enjoyed myself in the beginning of my career where I delivered roles with diverse magnitudes of intensity. Being an explorer by nature, it’s versatility that drives me. There was a point when I was stagnant with my choice and that to me is an undesirable state to be in. But the last decade has been one of enriching trial and error which has kept me on my toes. I plan to continue this process of discovering and rediscovering in the near future, while chasing my dream of being an entertainer and performer.

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HRITHIK ROSHAN’S REEL LIFE: THE TOP HITS

If you aren’t familiar with Hrithik Roshan’s works, here’s a crash course on the films where he shone bright:

Kaho Naa … Pyaar Hai (2000)

Hrithik Roshan and Ameesha patel in 'Kaho Naa... Pyar Hai'.

If you love romantic films, then this should be your first stop. Roshan made his debut with this romance that morphed into a murder mystery. It’s Roshan’s show all the way as he plays a dual role. With this romance, we were also acquainted with his superb dancing skills. And, his moves in a clingy perforated black T-shirt is now the stuff of Bollywood folklore.

Jodhaa Akbar (2008)

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Hrithik Roshan and Aishwarya Rai Bachchan in 'Jodhaa Akbar'.

To play a Mughal emperor in an elaborate costume is never easy, but Roshan made it look like child’s play in ‘Jodhaa Akbar’, the warrior romance between Jalal-ud-din Mohammad Akbar and Rajput princess Jodhaa Bai, played by Aishwarya Rai Bachchan. Roshan looked regal and majestic, while Rai Bachchan as the delicate princess was spot on.

Guzaarish (2010)

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...with Aishwarya Rai Bachchan in 'Guzaarish'.

Be warned, this life-affirming film about a magician-turned-quadriplegic is highly dramatic, but it had its golden moments. The chemistry between Roshan and Rai Bachchan strikes home and the scene in which his bedridden character Ethan pleads for euthanasia is gold. 

Zindagi Na Milegi Dobara (2011)

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Abhay Deol, Roshan and Farhan Akhtar in 'Zindagi Milegi Dobara'.

As far as coming-of-age friendship dramas go, this one is standout film. Roshan as the workaholic stock broker Arjun on a boy’s trip to Spain was a heartbreaker. His romance with Laila, played wonderfully by Katrina Kaif, and his chemistry with his mates played by Abhay Deol and Farhan Akhtar makes it a must-watch.

War (2019)

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Roshan in 'War'.

What’s not to love about Roshan in a uniform playing a character who’s out to save the world? He plays an Indian soldier who can flip and dance like a dream. His chemistry with his mentee soldier, played by Tiger Shroff, is cracking too. ‘War’ was one of the biggest grossers of 2019.

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WHO’S HRITHIK ROSHAN?

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Hrithik Roshan was born in Mumbai on January 10, 1974 and is the son of actor-director Rakesh Roshan and Pinky Roshan. He attended the Bombay Scottish School and graduated with a commerce degree from the Sydenham College in Mumbai.

Before his acting debut as the lead in his father’s directorial ‘Kaho Naa … Pyaar Hai’, he assisted his father in films such as ‘Karan Arjun’ (1995) and ‘Koyla’ (1997).

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Roshan with his ex wife Sussanne Khan.

He married his childhood sweetheart Sussanne Khan in December 2000 and they have two sons, aged 14 and 12. In 2014, they divorced but they have an amicable relationship and are a portrait of a modern-day parenting. As a child he stammered, but overcame his speech impediment as he became older. He suffered a brain injury in 2013 while filming action scenes for ‘Bang Bang’. He has acted in more than 35 films over the last 20 years. He’s also a certified deep sea diver.

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Roshan with his sons Hridhaan and Hrehaan.