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A perfect professional has come to stay

``Kaho Na Pyaar Hai'' is a hit and Hrithik Roshan has been hailed as the latest sensation. But it has hardly affected this level- headed actor, says GIRIJA RAJENDRAN.

AS TODAY'S idol of the nation's youth, Hrithik Roshan - following his sensational breakthrough with ``Kaho Na Pyaar Hai'' - has experienced the style of dizzying success that could have easily gone to his head.

It therefore came as a surprise to discover a level-head on a pair of sturdy young shoulders, as I caught up with Hrithik Roshan.

And Hrithik, I found, was at a loss to comprehend as to what all the media fuss, centering round him, was about, considering that ``Kaho Na Pyaar Hai'' is but his maiden movie and that he has still a long way to go.

Hrithik's way of functioning is radically different from that of stars who can handle both their shooting and the media at the same time. Hrithik is insistent that he will allow no distraction during working hours.

Thus all interviews have to wait till such time when Hrithik is free. The two of us met at Hrithik's producer-father Rakesh Roshan's home, Kavita (in the Juhu-Vile Parle sector of Mumbai), on a day during which Hrithik's shooting had been cancelled.

My very first query, naturally, was about ``Kaho Na Pyaar Hai.''

Did you expect to find yourself zooming into the topmost league like this?

I really can't understand all this craze for me overnight. I'm now keenly aware that my fans' level of expectations could be quite intimidating - from this point. Remember, I'm still to prove how good I am, tackling a range of emotions in the films I am going to be seen, as a follow-up to ``Kaho Na Pyaar Hai.'' I just can't believe that the whole nation has gone bonkers over me. It somehow doesn't seem real at all.

Why have you signed an art-oriented film like Khalid Mohamed's ``Fiza''? Isn't it rather early in the day to try such variety?

But ``Fiza'' was a movie signed long before ``Kaho Na Pyaar Hai'' was even contemplated! ``Fiza'' has been ready for some time now. Only, daddy (Rakesh Roshan) wanted his ``Kaho Na Pyaar Hai'', naturally enough, to be the first film of mine to mount the screen.

As for your related question about exploring too much variety too soon, I say I am an actor first, a star after - I want to experiment with all kinds of characters. I certainly don't want to be stuck with just one kind of screen persona - as a romantic hero - even if my face, right now, is immensely beneficial to me in commercial terms.

In fact, in ``Fiza'', I'm not `heroic' in the real sense of the word. That mantle, in ``Fiza'', belongs to Karisma (Kapoor), whose portrayal symbolises the film's title. Karisma is the strong character in ``Fiza'' - I am a man weak inside, one who can't face life and so flees from home.

How was it working with writer Khalid Mohamed for ``Fiza,'' because it is his first-film as director? Also, Hrithik, you are pitted, in ``Fiza'', opposite a seasoned performer in Karisma Kapoor, not to speak of Jaya Bhaduri being there in the wings. How did you cope?

The best thing about Khalid (Mohamed) is that he is unflappable and is forever smiling. That itself put me at ease. Khalid also believes in giving a lot of freedom to his artistes.

As for Jaya Bhaduri, she was always spoiling me by mothering me. Karisma too, happily, hardly behaved like a superstar. So there was a highly congenial atmosphere on the sets of ``Fiza''.

With your tremendous commercial clout today, would you sign a film like Vidhu Vinod Chopra's ``Mission:Kashmir'' now?

While ``Fiza'' was the first movie which I signed, ``Mission Kashmir'' was the movie I took up immediately after I had been booked by my father for ``Kaho Na Pyaar Hai.'' And I made the decision to do ``Mission Kashmir'' on my own, because it offered me a complex character to essay.

I have been lucky to find variety in my roles in the initial stages of my career itself. I play a terrorist in ``Mission: Kashmir''. Now, of course in the wake of `Kaho Na Pyaar Hai', I have, on the anvil, Subhash Ghai's `Yaadein', Vikram Bhatt's `Aap Mujhe Achhe Lagne Lage', Arjun Sablok's `Na Tum Jaano Na Hum' and Karan Johar's `Kabhi Khushi Kabhi Gham'.

As a director, how different was Rakesh Roshan on the sets?

They are two distinctly different personalities! My father is the most exacting director I have worked with so far! He is totally committed to his job and doesn't like his artistes to be even marginally casual on the sets. He expects you to stay focussed all the while and cannot tolerate any kind of relaxation. In fact, it is his sense of strict professional discipline that mentally prepared me for hard work and absolute dedication while on the job.

You are already being toasted as ``The Phenomenon'' by the media. How do you react to this level of adulation?

I am quite used to the media's ways, having grown up in this industry. I have seen people being lifted to the skies and then being pulled down, mercilessly, by the media, when it suits them. So I am neither elated by their pampering now; nor will I feel deflated when they bring me down, as they must. I hope to maintain a rational balance, without being swung around by the media. I think I know myself. And I will never change just because it suits the media to have a more glamorous Hrithik Roshan to sell, for spicy stories to be spun! The point I am making is that, even at this young age, I have seen it all and so know what is coming - I know I am no ``phenomenon''!

Having the late Roshan as your paternal grandfather would suggest that music is in your genes. How musical are you in real life? Did you involve yourself in the evolution of the score for ``Kaho Na Pyaar Hai'', as it was a home production and as your own talented uncle, Rajesh Roshan was composing for the film?

(Hrithik is only too happy to be allowed the opportunity to make his point on this little-discussed side of his family's moorings.)

I have, been a regular at the music sittings of our home productions for the past six or seven years - as Rakesh Roshan's directorial assistant - and can say I do have an ear for music. I love my uncle Rajesh Roshan's compositions for their Indianness, simplicity and soothing quality, blended with uncomplicated and uncluttered orchestration. I honestly feel that Rajesh Roshan is the best composer, creatively speaking, in mainstream cinema today. I particularly loved two of his ``Kaho Na Pyaar Hai'' numbers - the foot-tapping ``Chaand sitare phool aur khushboo'' and ``Naa tum jaano naa hum.'' The one song I never thought would be such a hit but which my uncle insisted would be a chartbuster is ``Sitaron ki mehfil.'' I just couldn't believe it when ``Sitaron ki mehfil'' had the whole country's youth dancing to its beat.''

You have caught the imagination of the young and old alike with your style of dancing. Does it come naturally?

All that so-called stylish dancing you see in ``Kaho Na Pyaar Hai'' is, believe me, the result of sustained practice. It is true that I can get any step right. But I find that I also need to practise a lot to achieve perfection. The other day, we were shooting a song for Vidhu Vinod Chopra's ``Mission: Kashmir'' (in the midst of nowhere in Film City), when I couldn't get the steps right. I just mumbled that I wished I had a full-length mirror in which to watch myself and, lo and behold, Vidhu had conjured it up, in next to no time, making the job of reflecting on my dancing that much easier for me.

What does overnight superstardom mean to you?

It means I get to put by enough money to make the life of my loved ones secure and comfortable, buy them the material wants of life and, generally, be able to lead a good life myself too. Thus work is, yet isn't, my entire life. While at work, I will give my life for it. But there is, I say, also a life to lead outside work and I intend to keep myself meaningfully preoccupied here too - to be able to draw a healthy balance in life.

As I come away after the a cosy chat, before me materialises the image of a slender young Hrithik dancing effortlessly with Jeetendra and Master Raju (matching the two step for step), before walking away, happy to have earned his share of chocolates and ten dinky cars - by way of remuneration from his maternal grandfather, producer-director J. Om Prakash. Hrithik then (a full 20 years ago) had just made his debut in J. Om Prakash's ``Aasha'' - in that `dhaba' scene in the same Film City - along with Reena Roy, Bhagwan and others. To that scene I myself had been an eye-witness - as I then happened to be waiting for Jeetendra to join me for an interview. From there, Hrithik Roshan has already come a long way.

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