An earnest performer

An earnest performer


An earnest performer

Packed with emotions: Hrithik Roshan in a still from ‘Guzaarish’.

Sanjay Leela Bhansali’s Guzaarish, which has him playing a super magician who gets paralyzed, is a film that changed his life, he says. “I am a different person from what I was when I signed the film,” says the actor. “I went and met these quadriplaegic patients in various homes and hospitals and have made lasting friendships there. When Sanjay narrated the script to me, I found it so beautiful. But I also became aware of the huge responsibility involved in doing the role. How we told the story was important. But the message was even more vital — these people show us how to live life — they teach you how to be happy and that their disability cannot take away their joy of living!”

Reference points

Did all this personal interaction and evolved thought result in him giving inputs for the film? “Of course, it did. Filmmaking is always teamwork,” says the actor. “Sanjay and I would always discuss crucial sequences. If there was any gray area, I would actually go and ask my newfound friends. But slowly, thanks to my familiarity with them, I was sure of what they’d say and do in a situation and what they wouldn’t. But like I said, there was a huge change in me. For example, I had a knee injury and my doctors said that I would never be able to walk normally again. As it turned out, I was reading Sanjay’s script during that phase, sitting on a chair with my legs up on a stool. By the time I had finished reading the script, I was no longer depressed about my knee. I thought that it would be great if it became normal again, but it would not matter if it did not.”

He adds, “That’s the reason why I feel that everyone must watch Guzaarish. My character has led a full life in health — he has written books, given sermons and won awards — and now, part by part, his body is dying. But because he is a magician, he wants the curtain to come down with applause. He does not wish to go as a vegetable but wants to gallop towards his end.” And this is a subtle hint that the film and its title (Guzaarish means an earnest request) refers to euthanasia or mercy killing, as the buzz goes.

Hrithik also raves about his rare equation with Sanjay Leela Bhansali.  “His unit people told me that they had never seen such a rapport between Sanjay and anyone else earlier! After the first schedule, I would say lines that were not in the script, completely impromptu, and he would never object. In fact, whenever he said ‘action’, I would spontaneously get into my character and he would actually expect me to modify his lines.”

Instinctive performance

Hrithik says, “For this role, I had to be instinctive, not calculative as in my other films.” How did he otherwise prepare for his character? He replies, “I had to look unwell, so I stopped all my fitness programmes. I left the gym for six to seven months, and for the first time in 15 years, I tasted batata vada. I even went and watched just about any film just to eat samosas and popcorn. You could say that I went on a toxic diet regimen.”
But surely he must have enjoyed his fling with this junk food? “I did enjoy it perversely,” he grins. He winks when asked whether he learnt any tricks, as he plays the character of a magician in the film. “I can lift this table without even touching it — seriously,” he says with a straight face. But he adds that the interview is not the occasion for a magic performance.

Asked how he felt about moving from portraying a superhero (Koi…Mil Gaya, Krrish) to a compromised human being, he shakes his head. “But you are wrong. These people are superheroes in real life. They are never depressed, never sad, but in a state of higher consciousness where they know that we are more than our body. They have learnt that man evolves by solving his worst problems.”

What does he have to say about Sanjay being the music composer of the film? “That man is just amazing. I always knew that he had been a choreographer, but when I saw him physically dance I was zapped! Then even more incredibly for a writer-filmmaker, he also composed music — he has done 10 fabulous songs for Guzaarish. I have myself rendered a song that I will also lip-synch and when he sang it out to me before giving me the CD to study the composition, I was wondering what else this genius excels at. As for the dance – it was the toughest one that I ever did, and it took me a month to train for.”

Hrithik’s record with Aishwarya Rai Bachchan has been foolproof and varied, with Dhoom 2 and Jodhaa Akbar. How does he rate their chemistry? “It is unspoken and completely natural. I think that our tuning scores 100 out of 100 because our approach to work is similar,” he says. “We like to give our 100 per cent to each role.” And is Krrish 2 happening? “We'll meet again for that.” he smiles broadly. 

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