Fighting constant pain has its collateral damage. Suffering wearies, not just the body, but even the soul. Forcing one to ponder deeply about life and one’s place in it. The actor sitting in front of me believes you suffer pain so that you can become a better person. “I have had physical pains since I was very, very young. My attendance in school was low because I had scoliosis (curvature of the spine). My basic constitution was really weak; my knees would hurt and I would wake up every morning in deep pain. In the seventh standard, I missed so many classes that my class teacher told me they would fail me if my attendance was less than 70 per cent.”
All this has wrought Hrithik Roshan into a philosopher searching for meaning beyond the obvious. “These are the cards I was dealt and if I complained I was not going to get anywhere. I just had to find the best way to play them. I analysed my weaknesses and realised that through practice, hard work and, more importantly, through research and educating myself a lot could be accomplished. And because of that, I’ve gained a lot of knowledge on health and fitness. Anything you create in life comes from your experiences—they have made me the man I am.”
He’s had conversations with pain. “Pain is one thing, suffering is another. Suffering happens in the mind. Once you detach from that, you can handle the pain. You make it your friend; it helps make you tougher and stronger.”
Hrithik’s often been invited on stage to encourage people who are physically challenged. The star admits he feels close to their struggle and does not baulk at being seen as their poster boy. “It is a perfect match. If I get an opportunity to empower or inspire someone, I am always ready for it. Their struggle has been mine too in a certain way.” The last time we’d met for an interview he had suffered a double slipped disc in his thoracic spine that had grounded him in bed. It had taken months of physiotherapy to get Hrithik fighting fit again. This time around it has been a dreaded clot in the brain.
“I’d had constant headaches for three months. The first scan of the brain was absolutely clear. So I was left to my own devices. After another two months of more headaches, I was leaving for a 30-day schedule to Prague for an action scene. I knew I was not well so I did another scan six hours before the flight. It showed copious amounts of blood in my brain. I was wheeled into the operating theatre almost immediately. It was already quite late for surgery because my brain had shifted to the right, compressed because of the blood there. A general anaesthesia is not the right approach for any kind of brain surgery; the patient should be awake so that if something goes wrong it shows instantly in your expressions or your co-ordination. So I chose the more intelligent option of local anaesthesia, which meant I was talking to my doctor while it was happening and saw the blood squirting out three feet above me when they made an incision.” How did he deal with that horrific sight? “I sang songs.”
He’s walked in a bit crabby on this shoot; it’s clear the post-op restrictions are chaffing. “I haven’t worked out for the past two-and-a-half months. I am a complete foodie, so this absence from the gym is messing things up as I have to control my diet. These are testing times. My pain is still there. It’s not gone. I have had headaches now for more than five-and-a-half months. I don’t even remember what being normal feels like.”
He unwinds by playing the PlayStation 3 with his two young sons, Hrehaan and Hridhaan. “The Krrish 3 game is out right now so I am going to be competing with them on that.” The star is also a tad anxious as to what his progeny will think of daddy’s film. “I hope to get a good reaction from them.” Sweet…
Krrish 3 promises the works. Five mutants ranging from rhino man, scorpion girl, frog man, swordfish man…whew! He agrees the mutant concept is going to be a thoroughly new concept to challenge the Hindi audience. “Technology was the vision here. I could see the special effects in my head and knew it was achievable as there is no dearth of talent in India. In fact our technology is better than our Hollywood counterparts. It’s just that so far no one has bestowed that kind of faith in them and we hope this film will help give them the recognition they deserve.”
Shah Rukh Khan looked drained out after Ra.One. It is no secret that superhero films take a toll for the sheer technological dynamics involved. Hrithik agrees, “In every single way, Krrish 3 has tested us. Apart from the make-up and special effects, I am myself playing three roles in the film. After eight years I had to re-enact Rohit from Koi... Mil Gaya. I revisited the voice, the way he walks, the way he talks—as you grow older, your voice changes, things change… That was the biggest challenge I faced—to play a mentally challenged child, to show him like a child and at the same time he is also the father who has dignity and power. It was a pleasure to go back to the world of Rohit who is a child at heart—he is a giver, full of love and really vulnerable.” Hrithik clearly adores the movie’s main hero at a subliminal level. He agrees, “When I am playing Rohit, it’s like it is completely me. So also with Krrish. They both are two sides of me.”
With the Krrish franchise being so successful, does Hrithik feel that he now owns the superhero space in Bollywood? “Sure, there will be Krrish inside me always, for I believe in his values. But I am never going to hold on to one good thing because I am constantly evolving.”
He refuses to buy into the superstar tag that compels an actor in that space to work only on big money projects. “I have never worked just for the money. I did Fiza which was a very low budget film. I shared screen space in Zindagi Na Milegi Dobara with Abhay (Deol) and Farhan (Akhtar) and that’s not about being a superstar.” He is following up Krrish 3 with two films, Bang Bang and Shuddhi.
Things have been quiet on the social front. He is confounded to be told that he along with Shah Rukh Khan were once cardholding members of Bollywood’s intense party scene. “I am a simple man. I don’t have any needs. For me, nightclubbing is the equivalent of going nowhere. I don’t need geography to have a great vacation. My vacation can be just my house. I don’t enjoy shopping so I’ve hired people who help me, as looking good is a part of my job. Yachts and jets don’t interest me. I believe in doing my duty. I think I have the simplest life one can ever have.”
Since he burst onto the scene with his Greek god looks, no one has been able to snatch that title from him. How seriously does he take his good looks? “It’s the most insignificant thing—your looks. Good looks is not about facial aesthetics, it’s how you express your spirit and what you are contributing that makes you look beautiful. When you look at Oprah Winfrey you see beauty there because of what she has contributed to the world.”
Rumours have been swirling furiously that he and his lovely wife Sussanne have hit a rough patch in their marriage, but this is not the first time that the chattering classes have written them off, so one is wary to lend any credence to this talk. Is marriage tough, we ask him? “It’s a challenge like any other. You work at it like any other task in your life. If you say: ‘Oh my god! It’s tough.’ It is going to be tough.”
This article first appeared in November 2013 issue of Hi! BLITZ magazine