He’s played musical chairs with fate this year. Flirted with Lady Luck. That capricious thing wanted to play Blind Man’s Buff with the Bollywood superstar whom Variety, the definitive American entertainment trade magazine, described as a “Greek God with celestial beauty”. She wanted to blindfold him and twirl him around and let him find his destiny all over again.
But Hrithik Roshan wasn’t having any of it. He’d been down that road already in 2016. Seen the dark side of life. Hit all the speedbreakers. And kept going. That’s the stuff heroes are made of. That’s how people win. And Hrithik is a hero. A winner, too. Whether he’s been blindfolded or is just plain blind.
There’ll be no more games. Kaabil has given him reason to smile again.
I was sitting back with him in his Mercedes-Maybach, the luxurious sedan was eating up the roads, Hrithik was hungrily eating a salad that had come from home. We talked. Not so much cinema. But life. “You’re on a high right now,” I said. “That’s not the best place to be,” he protested with a smile. “Highs are great but don’t desire to stay there. “good to experience it but best to come back to earth. For me, a high is my kids Hrehaan and Hridaan showering me with love. They saw the trailer of Kaabil. ‘It’s nice,’ Hrehaan said. I was happy they didn’t feel forced to please me and say ‘it’s mindblowing!’ just because they want to make me happy. It shows that they know their daddy’s happiness is not dependent on compliments. That for me is a high.”
As a divorced Bollywood dad, Hrithik’s scoring an extraordinary number of brownie points. Everybody, but everybody knows, he’s a doting and hands-on parent, 5.2 million people follow zealously on Instagram how he’s “a man on a mission to live the best life possible come what may”. And the best life is the photo-ops he’s snatched with his kids and proudly put up on social media each time he’s kicked back and had some fun with them. It’s a cheerful sight to see father and sons celebrating togetherness, they’re doing push-ups in the open, shooting arrows on a wildlife safari, sharing ice-cream cones, having a pillow fight, dancing in tuxes and dark glasses, posing before the Burj Khalifa, outside a pizzeria on a cobbled street in Madrid, acting cool before a private jet, like it’s not Hrehaan (10) and Hridhaan (8) with Hrithik, but Abhay Deol and Farhan Akhtar in his 2011 coming-of-age, comedy-road drama Zindagi Na Milegi Dobara . I wondered what he would do if he had girls.
The space he’s in today is not a high. “I’m feeling centered and content. At peace with myself,” Hrithik admitted. “I’m finally owning my space. I feel like I’m journeying back to the person I was.” He’s been many different people down the years. From Kaho Naa... Pyaar Hai in 2000 to Mohenjo Daro in 2016. A shy Bollywood kid with a stammer who achieved super stardom with box office hits and Best Actor Awards to the possessed actor who channelised all his energies at the height of controversy and negativity to finish his next film in 60 days. “Which person do you mean?” I asked. He pondered, then said, “I was a perfectionist, a stickler for wanting to get things right, but also humble to the extent of being called naive. Then things occurred that made me think all that was wrong. I thought I must change, so I did for a bit . But, after having journeyed this far, I realised those were just situations. And they had nothing to do with the person I was. That realisation brought me back to the real me. Back to the person I was. Now I know exactly what I want. I have faith in my likes and dislikes. I’m feeling gratitude and love for everyone.”
Roshan & sons
I had heard that Hrithik had become spiritual. Or philosophical. And that like Hollywood hunk Hugh Jackman he too found comfort in the teachings of the Oneness University at Chittoor. Also that he trusted wellness gurus. He pooh-poohed my notion. “I don’t know what spiritual means,” he said dismissively. “It’s just a word. I guess when you detach yourself from issues that you thought were humongous and put yourself in perspective, like when you see that even the solar system can be just a dot and insignificant in the universe, it kind of gives you a spiritual edge, and so the only thing that becomes important in life is feeling good about yourself. So whether you’re searching for things that you’re passionate about on the ground floor or 100th of the evolution ladder, your soul will only be stimulated if your eventual goal is happiness, not fame and riches.”
He sounded like he had evolved. Or, perhaps, moved on. I wondered if these were the new values Hrithik was bringing to his sons. “I’m just having fun with them teaching and learning at the same time,” he said. “They’re at the age when their model of the world is built for the rest of their life. We as grownups are so afraid of being judged, we live in the minds of other people. My lessons in life for Hrehaan and Hridhaan started early. One boy came crying to me because a friend had called him ‘stupid’. I asked him, ‘What’s the truth? Are you stupid?’ He said, ‘No!’ I told him, ‘Then there’s no need for you to react at all!’ He realised I was right in a second.” Was it difficult doing this alone as, say, a divorced father? Hrithik shrugged, “All I can say is that I can’t see my life with my work and my kids being any other way but the way it is now. Three years ago I would have been convinced of the opposite.”
“How much has your own growing up experience as Rakesh Roshan’s son helped you in raising your kids,” I asked. Hrithik struck the philosophical note in his reply. “We are all products of the degree of evolution of society that determines our own individual state of mind,” he said. I shook my head. He smiled tolerantly. “When I was growing up, society said a lot of things were taboo for children. I remember watching Superman with my father. He asked me to shut my eyes when Superman kisses Lois Lane! Being told kissing is bad, intimacy is a no-no, creates a negative emotion in growing kids. They become determined to see more of it or do it themselves secretly. This causes fear and anxiety in their relationships. They believe they’re doing something bad or wrong when they’re with a girl. I tell my kids kissing is a most beautiful thing and they should not be hidden from it. There’s no need to protect them from visions of love. Yes, I would not allow them to see any depiction of love in a crude way. Or if it was vulgar and abusive. But Spiderman kissing his girlfriend upside down is beautiful, it’s meant to be enjoyed, not be restricted.”
Not just realisation, Hrithik is also teaching his sons acceptance. “My ultimate happiness is in them being the best versions of themselves,” he said. “But at their age, this is not easy to understand. So I point out how easily they do somersaults and remind them of all the gym classes they didn’t want to go to. I believe in the philosophy that every single drop makes an ocean. Once this is ingrained in their minds, this discipline will serve Hrehaan and Hridhaan all their lives. So now when they are learning something new, they know that they aren’t good at it. I tell my boys, ‘Accept that you’re not good but keep doing it, the word we use is synapse. I taught them what it means so we say “don’t stop trying, the brain is synapsing!”.’ When they are running a race at sports day in school, I say, ‘My condition is not that you come first. It doesn’t matter what you come. But do your best and run to enjoy yourself. And if your effort is truly even one millimeter more than last time, you’re a winner. But for that you’ve got to put in a lot of effort. Not effort out of fear, but out of love – because you want to be the best you can be. Your actions will flow and you’ll be in alignment with the universe’.” “They’ll be kaabil you mean?” I asked. “Yeah,” he said, “that’s it.”
Who’s your sons’ favourite hero?
And their crush?
At their age, they dislike girls. But they’re in denial.
Do you envy anything about others?
It’s unwise to be envious. Joy comes from being the individual you are. Comparing myself to somebody is not in my DNA. Would Captain America sulk and not want to save the world just because Superman has more powers and a better costume? Or Hulk throw a tantrum because he’s green and ugly and not sexy like Thor? If superheroes start comparing themselves, it would be ridiculous. Also detrimental because every single person has something better than you.
You’re a strict parent or a bumchum?
Both. I make sure they take responsibility for their decisions. I guide them but I don’t stop them. I want their decisions to be their own. I’m there to pick them up. One of our greatest weaknesses is our inability to take strong decisions. I’m making sure they develop that strength.
As a hands-on father you changed nappies?
They say magic happens when you lay eyes on your newborn. Nothing of that sort happened with me. Our relationship began when they turned two. I started understanding their character was in sync with mine. I saw us in a relationship of choice. We like each other as persons. Not because we’re father and sons. I like my sons and don’t just love them. I like them for the people they are. I appreciate and admire their characters.
What are the privileges of being Hrithik Roshan’s kids?
It’s not a privilege to be born as a rich and famous man’s kid, mostly it’s a disadvantage. You tend to become lazy and complacent and used to luxury. Where Hrehaan and Hridhaan are privileged is in their being born to a father who has experienced ups and downs and acquired a humble sense of life and the world. And if you have space, these few additions are also great.
Success, fame and money are transitory. What do you value most in life?
My character. Everything you do in life is with the sole purpose of building a character. If you have grown from every situation positive or negative, then your character is built. But if you’re still blaming God and complaining about your circumstances still, then your character is not even defined.
What’s the downside of fame?
The world makes you out to be better or worse than you actually are, causing you to rejoice or despair. I’m detached from these two reactions. If you don’t let overexaggerated adulation change who you know you are, then it’s easy to be comfortable when the world says you’re worse than you are!
Do you get Friday release jitters?
Yes – but only when I know I’ve done something worth something. The films I get the jitters for go on to become super hits.
From HT Brunch, December 4, 2016
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