On the surface, Hrithik Roshan’s road to superstardom has been enviably easy. Pedigree, looks, talent, luck: It was hardly fair for one man to have it all. But dig just a little deeper and his story metamorphoses from a straight-up ‘to the manor born’ tale into a struggle that could have ended differently, badly.
The destination may be the rarefied top rung of the Bollywood hierarchy but the actor’s journey has been fraught with challenges. Some even back-breaking.
A schoolboy struggling to complete a sentence because of his stammer is now known for his acting skills; a youth suffering from terrible health issues is a fitness icon; a self-admitted “bad dancer”—a claim that’s hard to digest—has moves that are hard to match.
Yes, Hrithik Roshan has been tested. But yes, he also, eventually, got it all.
Fourteen years ago, Roshan became Bollywood’s heartthrob with Kaho Naa… Pyaar Hai. Nothing has changed since. Younger, fitter actors throng the box office on Fridays but no one has managed to diminish the unique pull he has on audiences—both male and female.
“I don’t know what makes it work. But when I choose my scripts, I look at them as a platform to inspire people through the strength and courage of the characters I play,” Roshan tells Forbes India. “My idea is to be able to create an experience for the audience because that is your real wealth, not money or fame. I choose films which can bring a smile on people’s faces.”
And he is in no hurry. He hit the theatres with Bang Bang! almost a year after the success of Krrish 3 in November 2013. While Bang Bang! didn’t win much love from critics, the box office, as ever, did not let him down.
“Today, they label me a superstar, but as an eight-year-old, I did not imagine that I would be where I am today,” he says. “No amount of failure could take my spirit away. I welcome the struggle and fear.” He should know: He has accepted challenges head-on and overcome the biggest obstacles, the latest being the clot in his brain for which he underwent surgery in July.
Those who have known the 40-year-old closely are not surprised by his ability to fight the odds. “Junoon [passion]. He has that in excess,” says his childhood friend and actor Uday Chopra. “It is that madness that keeps him going. His single-mindedness has made him what he is,” says Chopra, who co-starred with Roshan in Dhoom:2.
But focus and hard work had been his calling cards even before he attained superstardom. And that explains why the actor chose the “most difficult role” for his first film.
His father Rakesh Roshan’s decision to cast him in Kaho Naa… Pyaar Hai came as a surprise to him. The script was being discussed at home when Roshan Senior suggested his son’s name for the lead role. The son walked off seething. “Why didn’t you tell me about it before? I am not ready yet. I need to prepare myself,” he told his father.
Director Roshan agreed to give him six months. “He was very skinny then, but he worked on his physique and built bulging biceps for the characters [it was a double role] he was essaying. The doctors had advised him against it because he had a severe back problem but Hrithik defied everything and portrayed both the roles so differently,” says Roshan.
In fact, the back problem his father refers to almost prevented Roshan Junior from becoming an actor. At the age of 21, he was diagnosed with the “back of a 50-year-old man” that would neither allow him to dance nor perform stunts. Heartbroken, he had locked himself in his room and stayed disconsolate for months. The dream seemed to be over.
But he had not accounted for his own fortitude.
About a year later, in the midst of July rains, he went to Juhu beach one day. As he stood there wondering about his future, the downpour drenched him, and his eyes turned moist. He decided to take a chance against the doctors of the world who had warned him from lifting “even a pin”. As if enacting a scene from a film, he removed his blazer and started jogging on the beach, taking calculated steps on the wet stretch. As his confidence grew, he ran faster. “There was no pain. The doctors were wrong,” he told himself. And that was the day he decided to become an actor. “That was the turning point of my life,” Roshan says, his eyes emphasising the significance of that moment.
Having won critical acclaim and mass appreciation for his performances in Koi… Mil Gaya, Guzaarish and Jodhaa Akbar, he remains one of the most-sought after actors today. Zoya Akhtar, who directed him in Zindagi Na Milegi Dobara, says, “Hrithik has got both emotional and physical intelligence, and can display a range of varying emotions and movements almost at a whim. He does not take his talent for granted or ever wing it on the sets.”
His answers tend to have a philosophical overtone, but his friends say that is not a mask. “He is a philosopher at heart and is trying to find the answers to life,” says Chopra.
Since it launched in November 2013, HRX has sold casual wear, active wear and women’s wear worth close to Rs 30 crore through exclusive retail partner Myntra. For now, Myntra, India’s leading online fashion retailer and now a part of Flipkart, manufactures the HRX-branded products, but that might change. The actor reckons that HRX will form a large part of his long-term legacy. And he’s also clear that it isn’t akin to David Beckham-branded underpants or Maria Sharapova’s candy business.
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(This story appears in the 26 December, 2014 issue of Forbes India. To visit our Archives, click here.)
You are the beston Jan 19, 2016
u r best best actor in the world my faviourt actor Hrithik Roshanon Jul 20, 2015
trully I love and respect him not just as an actor but as human being he absolutely inspired all of us. god bless broon Jun 27, 2015
Hrithik Roshan... A true inspiration.on May 29, 2015
U r the best. And perfect .my dream actoron Jan 10, 2015
U r the best .my dream actor.and u r perfecton Jan 10, 2015
His ability is manifestation of inner power. Off-course...It\'s a very small portion of it. If he had any offer to work with film of 100% dance (It means right from the first real to end), then we can expect much more from Hrithik.on Jan 6, 2015
Truly inspiring!!!on Jan 6, 2015
Awesome actoron Dec 30, 2014
He is the real Greek God. No other person in the world can be compared with this Hero. He is perfect in all the facets of the life. be it dancing, body building, acting, good looks,..etc. etc... Hrithik means PERFECT. A word which can be taken up by English Oxford dictionary.on Dec 30, 2014
He is the only actor in bollywood whose other name is GREEK GOD and he was meant to be.on Dec 28, 2014
hrithik i love you you are the beston Dec 28, 2014
I assume clearly as from now not to judge the book by its cover! Seriously this Man is the definition of Austerity & Passion. Never thought him like that though being one of my most loved actors. Truly inspirational for people who want to do achieve in life and love oneself. Hats off!!!on Dec 28, 2014
Hrithik is a great actor and very good person. He is my favourite actor. May he get more n more in life. That article shows all aspects of his life.on Dec 28, 2014
i woke up in the middle of the night just now, perhaps stressed over a few things . im glad that i read this article that caught my eye bcoz of the name- hrithik. he is a brand in himself. no other actor is an industry in himself except hrithik and madhuri. God bless you. ameenon Dec 28, 2014
Hats off to u.....#hrithikroshan...on Dec 28, 2014
Hey i just a great great great big fann of Hrithik sir i love him soo much and he is a real superhero,there is no other hero in bollywood are there like hrithik sir,m waiting for mohon jo daroon Dec 28, 2014
A words for u are Awesome.. And you are truly Gentalmen.. Slute to you.. Hirthik..on Dec 27, 2014
Hritik is a complete pack, a film industry need. Awesome figure, great acting skill, flow less dialogue delivery. He can now regarded as true character artist as well like Tom Hanks of Hollywood. hats off to Hritik..eagerly waiting for Shuddhi & Immortals of Meluha.on Dec 27, 2014
Hi am a great fan of Rhitik and he is a real superstar. Am also suffering from backpain but idont dare to take risk.God bless you my favourite star...on Dec 27, 2014
If only all the actors in the world had the same mind set as Hrithik. This would be a much better world. There are people who follow their favorite actors footsteps. Hrithik is the perfect example of a perfect down to earth, humble person. It\'s an amazing trait and very admirable. Congratulations on this success!on Dec 27, 2014
an inspiring article..enjoyed.on Dec 27, 2014
I like hrithik sir from his first movie and after reading this article about his past life and from his movies is very inspirational for us also .He is a real superstar and will be.Love you Hrithik sir....on Dec 27, 2014
I have no words to express,how much I like hrithik & what is he for me....on Dec 27, 2014
Reading about this man or reading what he says is an absolute inspiration. A great feature!on Dec 26, 2014
True Superstar!! Proves perseverance Pays...on Dec 26, 2014