When most people were posting decadent pictures of New Year’s Eve revelry as 2022 drew to a close, there was Bollywood actor Hrithik Roshan who cheekily chose to kick-start the New Year by posting a sumptuous selfie of his ripped torso at his gym.
His eight-packs were proudly displayed, making most of us suck in our holiday bellies as we marveled at his rock-solid abs.
So when Gulf News got an opportunity to speak to him in Dubai, as he swooped in to unveil the luxury watchmaker Rado’s Hrithik Roshan Special Edition watch costing Dh15,600 on January 16, we went straight for the jugular.
What’s the secret behind his toned physique? Is it some extreme protein rich diet, exercising rabidly, or pumping iron?
“I am going to tell you a very, very, boring secret,” said Roshan conspiratorially.
“Just discipline and that’s so boring. That’s why I think don’t do it because it’s not some cutting edge technique … It’s the same old boring technique – discipline. That’s what works … My aspiration in life is to be fit and happy,” said Roshan.
While he cuts a striking figure at 49, Roshan – whose debut blockbuster romance ‘Kaho Na … Pyaar Hai’ released 23 years ago, also lets us in on another secret.
“I am one of the laziest person ever. I am so lazy that I must keep myself in check. Otherwise, I’ll let go. I need to inspire myself and because I am lazy I have to always keep myself in check,” said Roshan.
We believe him because as anybody can vouch, it’s not easy to be consistent with your workouts or eating healthy. Apparently, his propensity to injure himself also sets him back considerably.
But with this actor, it’s not just about his looks. He looks at life, the highs, and lows in the most pragmatic manner. His last release ‘Vikram Vedha’ in 2022 in which he plays a morally corrupt criminal indulging in mind games with a strapping cop (Saif Ali Khan) saw Roshan in top acting form. Point that out to him and he gently reminds me that the film didn’t make a lot of money at the box-office, but it felt great to be appreciated. It’s rare for Bollywood actors to talk about perceived lows, but Roshan speaks about the ‘Vikram Veda’ misfire with impressive pragmatism.
“Box-office is a very important validation for an actor, but hearing good things about your performance makes you empowered to do more good work. So when I hear words of appreciation, it empowers me to do more such work,” said Roshan.
Currently, he’s working on director Siddharth Anand’s ‘Fighter’ with Deepika Padukone and Anil Kapoor. In the glossy action film, he plays an Indian Air Force fighter pilot. Earlier, he had joined hands with director Siddharth Anand for ‘War’ (2019), an action film that did robust box-office business.
According to reports, ‘War’ garnered over $60million making it one of the highest-grossing Indian films of all times. And director Sidharth Anand’s films are always high on high-octane action and gravity-defying stunts and his actors are invariably in strapping form. It’s as much about the looks as well as the action and spectacle.
“He’s [Siddharth Anand] is all about how everything looks which includes his actors. So it’s always tougher … that struggle to balance the actor and the star. Sorry, I am calling myself a star here. But just to explain there’s a lot more going on in his films. In ‘Vikram Vedha’ or ‘Super 30’, I am happy being just the actor,” said Roshan. He’s absolutely right. In movies like ‘Vikram Vedha’ and ‘Super 30’, his physicality and star power were not in question but his performances were in the spotlight. In fact in ‘Super 30’, his rakish looks were toned down and dialed down for better effect. In ‘Vikram Vedha’, he played a borderline unhinged felon and was suitably grimy for the same.
“I was super happy being just the actor there. But when you have to straddle both – the star that people expect to see – it gets a little hectic,” said Roshan. But in all fairness, Roshan – who prefers to be known for his acting prowess – has always been declared as a natural star material.
23 years ago, when his 2020 ‘Kaho Naa … Pyaar released, he was catapulted into this rarefied bracket of superstars who could act, dance, and do stunts like a thorough professional. With just one film, critics and his growing army of fans felt he had the charisma and acting heft to be another Khan – like Shah Rukh or Salman – who had always dominated the cinematic landscape in Bollywood. It was an unfair comparison at that time, but over the years Roshan has endured by experimenting with roles and characters. His checkered career in Bollywood has splendid hits and spectacular misfires too, but the important thing is that Hrithik has managed to enjoy a long inning.
“Honestly, I am more comfortable when I am spoken to as an actor rather than a superstar. Superstar brings out a lot of evil in you and a lot of vibration that is not enjoyable,” said Roshan. Even though he has entertained us over two decades with films spanning various genres, Roshan claims he never knew if he would last in show business. His father and actor-producer Rakesh Roshan launched him in the world of movies, but Hrithik was always unsure if he would endear himself to millions of movie-mad Indians. So did he expect to last this long in Bollywood – notorious for being callous when it comes to embracing and rejecting actors based on their movies’ and how it fared at the box-office?
“No, no … Not when I started. I was just hoping for passing marks. I think the people gave me more than I deserved. So I try to make the best,” said Roshan.
And he has done well for himself. The face of Swiss watchmaker Rado has his own watch named after him. The time piece, under the Hrithik Roshan Special Edition, is a neat blend of sporty and classy – just like the actor himself.
When something like this -- where a watch is named after you -- happens, you feel like a star for a few minutes. It’s a good feeling because I have always been a fan of Rado
So what’s his life philosophy?
“Good times and bad times are a part of life. In fact, I don’t look at it as bad times, just feedback. Currently, it’s a great time for cinema because it’s a moment where we are recalibrating and we are growing,” said Roshan.
Post the pandemic and multiple lockdowns, Bollywood cinema is undergoing a major shift in terms of what works and what doesn’t. Traditional star-driven song and dance spectacles are being rejected as its fans forage for good story telling and sturdy spine of acting.
And Roshan is just glad that he’s a part of this giant, chaotic circus.
“It’s uncomfortable, but it’s a place where growth will happen and I am excited … And remember hard work makes you lucky,” said Roshan.