After the much-hyped Kites went down without a whimper, Hrithik must be pinning his hopes high on Guzaarish , which brings together a high-profile team of actors under maverick director Sanjay Leela Bhansali. The same Bhansali who made his debut with the critically-acclaimed, soulful Khamoshi , about a girl who was the voice of her speech- and hearing-impaired parents. Will he work the same magic and resurrect Hrithik's career with this film that has him essaying a quadriplegic? Excerpts from an interview with the actor.
In Guzaarish you play a quadriplegic. How did you research for your role?
I got the opportunity to meet quadriplegics, and would spend six to seven hours with them at a stretch. I learned what goes on in their minds. While filming, if I had any confusion, I would go back to my new friends and ask them what they would have done in a similar situation.
Are you still in touch with them?
Yes, we've all become good friends. They've taught me and my family several things. And, if I've benefited so much, I'm sure the audiences will too.
What will the audience take back from the film?
That you should have gratitude in life — don't grumble, don't get irritated. After reading the script, I felt I should tell people this story because the film teaches us how to live. Despite all his troubles, this person laughs and makes others laugh — and, that teaches us an important lesson about living. My character, Ethan, is a superhero. I've met more than 20 quadriplegics; not even one looked sad. They are real-life superheroes. This proves you are more than your body. You have to treat each problem as a gift. These people show that despite everything, you can still be of service to others.
What's this talk about the film dealing with euthanasia?
The film is not about euthanasia, neither does it take a stand on it. It is an individual's story, and his strength. It's about a quadriplegic who lived for 14 years without being depressed a single day. He wrote books, won an award, gave sermons.
And, as for euthanasia, you have to look at it from the character's point of view — he lives with pride even though he can't move. But, when he discovers that that his body is giving up, he decides he does not want to go as a vegetable. He wants his eyes to be open as he gallops towards his end.
You were going through a major knee problem when you started Guzaarish . Did that pain help you empathise with and, maybe, portray your character better?
Well, I was in a state wherein I could identify with this character. I was depressed when I began reading the script; but when I was done with it, I didn't feel so depressed anymore. It brought a smile to my face. I stood up and said, ‘Knee or no knee, I'm doing this film.'
How did you prepare for the role?
It was not about looking good, so I stopped gymming for six to seven months. And, after 15 years, I rediscovered the taste of batatawada and samosas . At times, I would book a ticket for a cinema, and for 12 samosas . The movie was not important; the samosas were. I had to look fat and unhealthy. For 15 years, I've followed a very restricted diet, and here I was living in the other extreme — eating cakes and fried stuff. For this film, health took a backseat. My blood reports went crazy, my hormones went haywire. My doctors ordered me to get my life back on track! But, it was a good excuse to enjoy all things sinful!
This is the first time you have worked with Sanjay Leela Bhansali…
I wish there was someway I could describe my emotions… it's been a fabulous, never-before experience. In the beginning, people told me that he screams on the set. But, we gel well because of the kind of actor I am and the kind of person he is. There was not even a single day we had a reason to frown. In fact, members of the crew were surprised that, for the first time, there was calm and peace on a Sanjay Leela Bhansali set.
You've had two blockbusters with Aishwarya Rai Bachchan. Looking for a hat-trick?
We have had 100 per cent results till now ( Dhoom 2 and Jodha Akbar ). We could be lucky one more time! She is one of my favourite co-actors; our working styles are very similar. One can't foretell what people liked in those films. But, if it's the combination, they won't be disappointed with Guzaarish — it's one of the best love stories ever told.
(Bollywood News Service)