If Hrithik Roshan had to draw a line demarcating the shift in his career, it would cut through Kaabil (2017). In the rape-revenge drama, the actor played a blind voice-over artist, veins popping, slamming doors, seeking vengeance for his lover’s murder. “I got tired of looking at my shots,” he shares. “I was hiding a lot of myself because I was afraid of my shortcomings, my failings. After Kaabil I started being more of myself.”
Although the lavish celebration of Hrithik’s Greek-god-persona, along with his sturdy action and equally flowy dance moves, resulted in the 2019 colossal hit War, he felt that the actor in him was slipping away. “After Kaabil and Mohenjo Daro (2016), I got myself an acting coach and asked him to see all my films. I asked him to point out my repetitive expressions to rework them. I don’t think I am a natural actor. I might know the craft because I watched actors, was an assistant to my father and was born in the film industry. I knew the DNA of a hero, but I was missing the abandonment of an actor.”
With Vikram Vedha, the Hindi remake of the Tamil original of the same name, Hrithik seems to have found a balance between heroic masala entertainment and content-driven cinema. The film is being helmed by director duo Pushkar and Gayathri, who made the 2017 original as well.
“The greatest thing about Vikram Vedha was being part of its screenplay. I have enjoyed being an actor in this film. But it is still a part. I am a shade of the painting, not the complete picture. It’s refreshing,” he says.
Hrithik also credits his co-actor Saif Ali Khan, who plays the dutiful cop Vikram in the film, for accentuating his acting prowess. “Saif has always been a real actor. He never tried to be ‘The Hero’ even when his peers were trying to exuberate that swag. When I was opposite him, I knew I had to be as real. Every little mistake, every moment I was extra would have felt spotlighted on camera,” he explains.
It takes a sense of security for a superstar to work with co-stars, who have the potential to attract the limelight towards them. Hrithik, however, takes this as sharing the load. He has exceptionally shone in ensemble or two-hero films like War, Zindagi Na Milegi Dobara (2011) and Kabhi Khushi Kabhie Gham(2001). “Multi-starrer films make your work much easier,” he says. “For me, the more the merrier. Working with multiple actors in films like ZNMD, War and now in Vikram Vedha pushes you to do better. Every time I have done a two-hero or a multi-starrer film it has only been more fun for me.”
More than that, the actor believes in films being a collaborative medium. “My film is greater than me,” he announces. “You can’t make something better if it is not bigger than you. I am a collaborator working towards lifting the film. The time when you just had to focus on your performance in a film has passed now.”
Pushkar and Gayathri back Hrithik on this. They reminisce about the time when he called them home before the shoot began. “Treat me like a new actor. I will do whatever you ask me to do." This was the first thing he said to the director duo. "This is a superstar saying that. Be it Hrithik or Saif or any other actor in the film, nobody did anything that was for their image. It was always for the character,” shares an elated Pushkar.
With a remake, comparisons are bound to happen. A lot of times films are traced shot by shot with the original and serve only as profit multipliers. The remakes are also considered safe bets in terms of business. “A better business decision would have been making two films in the time we made a remake,” says Pushkar, laughing. “Actually, it took us six to eight months to just confirm that we will be involved in the remake. We needed to find something exciting to make the film again. When Hrithik and Saif got on board, we found that zeal.”
“There was no going back after that,” adds Gayathri.