Hrithik Roshan: Special kind of Fighter

The actor talks about his new film Fighter, his pairing with Deepika Padukone for the first time and his immensely successful partnership with director Siddharth Anand

Hrithik Roshan

Mohnish Singh

A STUNNING career filled with accolades, critically acclaimed performances and blockbusters has established Hrithik Roshan as one of the biggest movie stars of this generation.

The Bollywood superstar has captivated audiences worldwide with his acting prowess, chameleon-like ability to transform into any character and magnetic on-screen presence.

He has added to his roles by playing distinguished air force officer Shamsher “Patty” Pathania in the newly released Bollywood biggie Fighter. Set against the backdrop of a high-stakes aerial conflict, the bigticket film also features Deepika Padukone and Anil Kapoor in the cast.

Eastern Eye recently caught up with the in-demand actor to discuss his new film, his pairing with Deepika Padukone for the first time and his immensely successful partnership with director Siddharth Anand.

 Years after playing an army officer in Lakshya, you play an Indian Air Force officer in Fighter. As an actor, what was your approach to the two characters?

Hrithik Roshan in ‘Fighter’

Well, you know, the uniform has some magic. There are three uniforms I have worn. In Krrish, I had a cape and costume. When I wore it, I felt strong. When I used to wear the uniform in Lakshya, it gave me strength. When I wore it in Fighter, within a second I felt the responsibility, the weight and strength. The strength you derive from it is very difficult to replicate. It is something surreal. You actually feel the power when you wear it. It’s a strange feeling.

How exciting was it to pair with Deepika Padukone for the first time in Fighter?

Of course, I was very excited to work with her. She brings a lot of realism into her work. So, I had to make sure that I was at that frequency and thanks to her, I think all the scenes between Mini and Patty look extremely vulnerable, endearing and very, very real in the film.

Did you learn anything from her while working together?

We were shooting for the song Sher Khul Gaye and I had put in a lot of effort into getting the steps right. But when I saw Deepika doing the same step, I was like, this is looking so effortless. We were on set, the camera was ready and I was like, ‘No, I am not do – ing this until I understand what’s going wrong with my steps’.

What did you do about it?

So, I asked her, ‘Deepika, can you just do your step for me, please?’ I saw what she was doing and then I copied her style. Sometimes, you get very lost in the technicality of the step. When I saw her do – ing it, I was like, ‘I’m going to now change the step a little bit and do it the way she does it’. That enhanced my dance as well. So, thanks to her for that.

Did the Hollywood film Top Gun influence Fighter, as there are similarities?

In my view, they are not the same at all, because in Top Gun, he (Tom Cruise) is a rebel without a cause. That’s just his character. Patty, his arrogance is a force field. He doesn’t allow people in because he is going through something. There is a backstory, which you discover in the film. So, actually, he is not arrogant or a rebel. He is just protecting his inner feelings that he doesn’t want to expose to people. That’s what ignites the scenes between Mini and Patty.

This is the kind of film of yours which everyone loves watching – Hrithik Roshan on a larger-thanlife great canvas.

Actually, it took time for me to be convinced about playing Patty because he is not larger than life. The film is larger-than-life. Up until then, I had been doing these larger-than-life characters, which had this emotional arc.

But I understood what Siddharth was trying to achieve – breaking his own mould and constructing a hero. Taking aspects of me as a person and putting them together, and saying, ‘Hey, this is what I want from you as a human being’. From that person, I have extracted these bits and created my character. He is not larger than life. He is not Kabir. He is not Pathaan. He is just a guy.

Hrithik Roshan

Deepika has said she has the best chemistry with you. What is your reaction to that?

You have to see the film, judge and tell us. I have said this repeatedly and will not tire of saying it again. I think the chemistry works when two actors come in and bring realism to the dialogues. Because sometimes the dialogues can sound like dialogues, you know. Her interpretation and expression of each dialogue are so real that it pushes me to be even more genuine. So, I have been constantly reacting to her in the scenes between Patty and Mini. I believe that this interaction will create the chemistry that I hope you will discover.

How was it working with Siddharth Anand five years after blockbuster hit War?

I have seen Siddharth Anand as an assistant. He is actually a rebel. That’s what I saw in him as an assistant. He is definitely a fighter and has done so much. He has a deep understanding of Hindi and global cinema. His information, knowledge and resources are extensive. He is well-versed in the spectrum, journey and history of Indian cinema. His familiarity extends to every song and movie; he has watched everything. This wealth of information serves as his reference point, allowing him to draw inspiration from a wide range of sources.

From Bang Bang and War to Fighter, how do you look at the films you’ve done with him?

Our partnership has been extremely fruitful and I have seen him grow through those films. I have seen his confidence grow as well, which is very important. But I have not seen the humility disappear. He is just as humble; he is just as self-aware and eager to find out about himself.

There is no ego and that is just heaven for me. When I am on set with a director who I can communicate with, without any fear, I know he will be a soldier right till the end. I think those aspects have been the best parts of our partnership.

What else do you like about him as a director?

At the time when we started, he was the only one who was thinking that big. I don’t think that should be ignored. He was the only person who was thinking beyond. He is not okay with giving audiences something that he lready knows they will like. He wants to give them something that they will not only like, but also be surprised by, which is why he is just pushing the boundaries all the time. Can you think of a better person to partner with?

Post-lockdown, superstars like you, Salman Khan and Shah Rukh Khan have been doing only bigticket films. Will the audience ever see you in a smaller-scale film?

Of course, why would anyone not hope and dream of the scope of the films being as wide as possible? I have done many such films where the box-office was not in the calculation at all. It was just something that appeals to your heart. If I find a script which does that, like Super 30, Kaabil and Guzaarish did, I will do it because I am a slave to my instinct.

Tell us about that.

As actors, we need to be slaves to our instincts. There is no mathematics in that. If it doesn’t happen, it will be sad because that means we are not functioning as artistes but as mathematicians, calculating that this film might fetch us this much and so on. Artists can’t do that; artists have to follow the heart.

You, Deepika Padukone and Anil Kapoor have found the perfect balance between looking a certain way and proving your potential in your craft. Is it challenging to strike a balance and does that confidence come from experience?

Well, first of all, I don’t attach any value in the shape of your nose, eyes or chin. For an actor, there is absolutely no value in that. I think what’s attractive is a mix and the journey of your expressions. When you are expressing something, with any face, it may be any face in the world, but if it’s expressing, taking you on a journey through those expressions, that’s what becomes attractive.

So, it’s really not about the position of your eyes and nose. If we started believing that, art would not exist.

Where does the confidence come from?

Roshan with Deepika
Padukone in the filim

I really think that actors should be very, very confident in the belief that they will look as attractive as anybody else if they are expressing correctly. If I am expressing my soul, if it’s coming out there, if I am getting into the depths of this character and taking them through the mystery of what is going on in my mind, that is when the audience will be engaged and when I will look attractive.

 It’s been 24 years since your debut film Kaho Naa Pyaar Hai. Is there anything that you are constantly fighting within yourself when you are giving a shot in a film after all this time?

I think the first effort is to learn how to interpret the lines. You have to bring your humaneness and your experiences and kind of merge them. Find that point where those lines become you. So, I think that is the first effort that we all go through.

Second, you always have a vision of how you want that character to look, where he is starting, where he is going, so you can see where in that scene you can enhance the qualities and characteristics of the role, because you are still painting [the character]. By the end of the film, you finally see what that character was really about.

You are one of Indian cinema’s finest actors, tell us more about that process.

As an actor, your role involves continually incorporating moments, gestures, and nuances that help you grasp the essence of the character beyond the written lines. I am actually very afraid when I am reading a scene because that aspect is unpredictable and you are always searching. That search doesn’t stop until the director says cut when he has got that shot. That’s where the story behind that shot ends and then we begin the next shot. So, it just goes on and on, and that’s just life.