The first film that Hrithik Roshan signed outside his home banner, Film Kraft, after the success of his debut Kaho Naa… Pyaar Hai (2000), was Fiza (2000). In the film, the actor played Amaan, a young Muslim boy caught in the frenzy and after-effects of the 1993 communal riots in Mumbai. Now, in 2011, his character and performance have become subject matter for at least three books analysing Bollywood in varying degrees, one of which is solely dedicated to the actor’s decade-old journey in films.
The first of the troika is a scholarly study titled, Islamicate Cultures of Bombay Cinema, written by Jawaharlal Nehru University’s associate professor Ira Bhaskar and New York University’s professor Richard Allen. It studies the representation of Islam’s followers in Bollywood films in three parts — historical, courtesan films and new wave realism. Hrithik’s Amaan from Fiza finds place in the new-wave realism section, with films including Salim Langde Pe Mat Ro (1989).
Hrithik’s character from the 2008 period film, Jodhaa Akbar, too makes it to the historical segment. However, the book fails to notice his role as Irfan, a Kashmiri militant in Mission Kashmir. We sent emails on the subject to the writers, which were unanswered at the time of going to press.
Meanwhile, Nandana Bose, a professor and writer of Indian origin at the University of North Carolina, is penning a chapter in an academic book on Hrithik Roshan’s stardom. The section studies the way the actor has worked on his body from his first film to the one he’s currently working on, Agneepath. The chapter draws scenes from Jodhaa Akbar’s elephant-taming sequence and Fiza’s ‘Mere watan…’ song where the actor prepares mentally and physically before shooting two corrupt politicians.
Bose confirms saying, “I am writing a chapter in an academic book on Hrithik Roshan’s star power, and persona as constructed by the media and his fans in the 10 years of his film career. I’m speaking to the filmmakers who have worked with him.”
University of Illinois is also discreetly conducting its research on Bollywood films, with a special focus on Fiza and Hrithik’s performance in it. When asked to comment on the books, Hrithik beams, “That’s really nice to know. It gives me another reason to celebrate my wonderful working experiences, especially Fiza, which was stimulating. I still regard it as one of my best works by far.”
Excerpts: 1. “Fiza depicts the almost unwitting manner in which Muslim youth are trapped in a cycle of violence by two powerful social agents: political leaders and professional militant groups. In the film, however, new wave realism is depicted with the star power of Hrithik Roshan, whose muscular yet suffering body dramatises at once, the promise and the pathos of Muslim youth.”
2. “The extended sequence, where Hrithik Roshan as Akbar tames a mad elephant and rides it in triumph after succeeding to mount him, establishes the finesse by which Akbar shows his will, his fearlessness and his agile mind.”