To Hrithik On His 42nd Birthday
In an age where we know far too much about the actors we worship, Hrithik Roshan is a riddle, wrapped in a mystery, inside an enigma. Post the Khan era, he’s the last male superstar. And yet, after decades of Angry Young Men and Thinking Man’s Heroes, Hrithik doesn’t come with an archetype attached…not because he defies conventions, but because 16 years into his career, he still hasn’t quite seemed to find where he fits in.
Perhaps the difficulty comes from the fact that Hrithik is a man of contradictions. He has the looks of a Greek god, but he lacks the “I Just Had Sex” aura that practically drips off other conventionally handsome poster boys like John Abraham and Arjun Rampal. He knows he’s beautiful (after all, he invests a lot of time and energy into maintaining that body), but he never seems quite self-assured enough to project real confidence. He’s too gentle to be a bonafide action star, but too testosterone-driven to be a convincing lover boy. He’s played every role from a Mughal emperor to an undercover agent to a quadriplegic, and while he’s given several noteworthy performances, one can’t help but feel that Hrithik’s best is yet to come.
In over 20 films, one brief scene in a supporting role stands out as Hrithik’s finest work. It is a moment from Zoya Akhtar’s debut film Luck By Chance, where Hrithik plays Ali Zaffar Khan, a Bollywood superstar not unlike Hrithik himself. Sitting in his car with his windows rolled up, he is accosted by a gang of street kids. He ignores them at first, but slowly softens, making silly faces at them through the window and holding his large hand up to their small ones. You can almost see the movie star facade fade away to reveal the flesh-and-blood man underneath…and then the moment is over, and the curtain comes down on one of the rare glimpses the audience has had into what makes Hrithik Roshan tick.
And maybe that’s the problem: how many roles out there are written with as many complexities and contradictions as Hrithik’s own persona seems to contain? We obsessively divide characters into heroes and villains, leaving little room for the shades of grey that colour men like Hrithik and allow them to explore their own talent onscreen.
On his 42nd birthday, our biggest wish for Hrithik Roshan is that someone finally taps into his potential as an actor. His artistry has been bubbling under the surface for a long time now; maybe this will be the year that it rises to the top at last. After 16 years, Hrithik certainly deserves it…and so do we.